It was in the mid-1980s when we purchased our first family computer. We had the first mouse in the neighbourhood and this didn't go unnoticed by our computer whiz neighbour. He excitedly shared with us what we thought were crazy visions about the future: millions of networked computers sharing information about anything and everything.
We connected to the Internet in the early 1990s and it was a strange melodious device that signalled this connection to the outside world. Web pages with images anything larger than a thumbnail took minutes to render completely. I would sometimes begin to load a page, leave the room and come back later after it had time to finish downloading.
When we eventually upgraded from the 14.4kbps to the 56.6kbps version, suddenly not only did a whole world of content become available to us, but the way we consumed this content changed. As technology has progressed we have experienced many of these connection and consumption revelations – the joy and wonder of the Internet reborn again each time: cable modems, ADSL, Broadband, 4G...
One of the most profound changes to consumption patterns has been driven by digital video. Various technologies for video delivery have lived and died over the years, but nothing really took control over video delivery in the early days like Flash. It wasn't great early on, but the change from real-time to progressive download was the first significant improvement, and it meant users could buffer content and consume later, similar to the way I would load images back on my 14.4 modem. This signalled the beginning of the next change.
One of the greatest improvements in video delivery has been the invention of cacheable, segmented formats: HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) and MPEG-DASH. These were created to deliver video over standard HTTP, segmented into chunks so that users only need to download as much of the video as they wish to watch. Add adaptive multi-bitrate switching and a CDN and suddenly you have a massively scalable video delivery solution and a great end user experience.
We are now sufficiently advanced with mobile devices, networks, codecs and formats that high-quality HD video over the Internet is essentially available to anyone on any device. However, how content creators engage this technology to change behaviour is still evolving.
"Second screen" concepts are starting to take shape, but they still have a long way to go. As more and more people move away from consuming free-to-air television to on-demand content online, the content creators are also shifting to make the most of this change. The implications of these developments on end user consumption trends are still emerging, however the "second screen" will likely to eventually be the TV screen on your wall, and not the "primary" screen in your hands delivering the high-quality video content.