Netflix has changed how we watch TV and also put a lot of strain on your internet service provider. The answer, of course, is for the service to just upgrade their aging networks already, but when contacted for comment, they complained that that’s hard, and costs money, and it’s not fair. So, Netflix is doing the next best thing: Re-encoding every episode, movie, and short in their library by hand.
A quick overview of the tech, here: Everything you watch on Netflix is run through what are called encoding standards, which among other things dictate how big a file is, which in turn dictates how much bandwidth you need to stream it. The more complex a movie is, visually, the bigger the file and, by necessity, the more bandwidth you need to stream it. This is why your Netflix can stutter; if your bandwidth is low, and you’re streaming a huge file, bottlenecks form. So, what Netflix did, before, was just find the encoding that gave everything an acceptable stream quality and slapped that on everything that came through the door.
Now, they’re going back and looking at how they encode everything. For example, an episode of Archer will look great with a smaller data stream, but, say, 2001: A Space Odyssey will look like crap. So, each will be optimized to look their best while eating up to 20 percent less data.
That’s not a minor issue: At peak hours, Netflix accounts for more than a third of all Internet traffic in the U.S. So, anything that reduces that flood of data is welcome for Netflix, the networks it streams over, and the users who will get the same quality streams at a faster rate. In fact, because they’re using less data, it means fewer people will have their streams kicked down to 720p or otherwise lose streaming quality.
The only downside is that there will probably be whiny people on the Internet who insist they can tell the difference between bit-rates. Just nod, smile, pat them on the head, and introduce them to that friend who insists vinyl is better.
(via The Verge)