Flashback: Online Video Before YouTube


Today, over 100 hours of video is uploaded to YouTube every minute. Every minute. And videos account for 78 percent of all internet traffic (and that number is expected to hit 84 percent by 2018). It’s hard to believe just how hard it was to do online video less than two decades ago… and how bad it was.

YouTube will turn 10 years old next week, as it launched on Valentine’s Day 2005 and grew so quickly it was bought by Google in October 2006. With internet speeds rising and video camera hardware prices falling, it only got easier and easier to share video online.

But I remember the dark ages. Ten years prior, dial-up internet was still common (Oceanic’s RoadRunner cable-based internet service wouldn’t even launch until 2008).while I’d been putting content on the web since 1994, that content was mostly text. I remember getting excited when a company called RealNetworks found a way to put streaming audio on the web, and they launched a video streaming system in 1997. RealVideo appeared more than five years before Flash-based video caught on, and although it wasn’t easy to use, I dove right in.

Well, I waded in, at least. Because video files were huge compared to HTML web pages. A 30 second video could be 200 to 800 kilobytes in size! Longer videos, over a megabyte! They took forever to encode, and they took forever to upload. To keep my sanity, I scaled down the video to 160 by 120 pixels. That’s about two inches by one and a half inches… so no, it’s not an exaggeration to say early web video was the size of a postage stamp.

I posted some RealVideo files to the website I set up for my baby daughter. I posted some RealVideo files to my online journal (which ran from 1997 to 2006, ultimately suffocating to death under the weight of this blog). I then forget all about those RealVideo files for ten years, moving on to my old videoblog (which documents the messy transition from QuickTime files to Flash players) and finally YouTube.

When my daughter turned 17 last month, I thought it’d be fun to go back and watch the old videos I posted of her early years. But I realized that there was no easy way to open a RealVideo file anymore. The last time the technology was updated was 2008, and whatever RealPlayer Cloud is, it didn’t know what to do with an .ra or .rm file.

It was only today, using Smart Converter by Shedworx, that I was able to open and re-encode these video files from so long ago. And even though they’re blurry as hell (the best resolution I got to with RealVideo was 320 by 240), I’m thrilled to be able to see anything at all.

Here’s a compilation of video clips featuring my daughter, who is absolutely mortified that I’m doing this:

And while those videos were what I was mostly after, I found a couple of other clips I’d saved. Here’s a KHON feature on blogging and my HawaiiStories.com community weblog from 2003. I love how Leslie Wilcox and Jai Cunningham have a little trouble wrapping their mouths around the word “blogger.”

Here’s a KHON feature by my UH classmate Kirk Fernandez on geocaching from later that same year. I love seeing the old KHON 2 News title sequence, and Jai Cunningham and Ramsay Wharton at the anchor desk.

Finally, since I embarrassed my daughter, I might as well share this KITV feature on the “LOST” podcast I did with my wife Jennifer. This piece from November 10, 2005 was by the eternally elegant Mahealani Richardson, with Dan Meisenzahl joining her at the anchor desk.

3 Responses

  1. Your daughter. says:


  2. Mokihana says:

    Ryan, I absolutely loved watching these old videos! Thanks so much for posting them. Loved Katie crawling, and the newscasters stumbling over the word “blogger”, loved watching you and Jen doing the “Lost” podcast. Good fun all the way around.

    If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t be a blogger today, and I’ll be forever grateful that you got me started.

    (Mortifying our kids is okay when they’re so cute!)

  3. Faith says:

    This makes me so happy! I’m still trying to figure out ways to transfer my old 3/4″ tapes to digital files.

Discover more from Hawaii Blog

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading