Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A brief history of podcasting

In the spring of 2005, podcasting was beginning to get attention in the press and growing in popularity on the Internet. Podcasting lets ordinary people create their own Internet “radio” shows that can be download and listened to at any time. Unlike earlier Internet radio trends, podcasting provided a model for shows to be created, published to the web, and the listened to at any time in the future. Podcasting removed the need to listen to the live stream that Internet radio typically required.

Podcasting was a new medium that allowed anyone to publish audio programming to the Internet. The buzz regarding podcasting was that like blogging before it, podcasting would a massively popular way for ordinary people to share do-it-yourself media on the Web.

A common question for most people interested in podcasting was “how do I do it myself?”. There was no shortage of answers to that question. Unfortunately, most of the answers at the time followed a complex pattern like:

  • download and install Audacity (Audacity is an excellent open source audio editing application)

  • get a microphone for your computer (and sometimes a mixer or USB sound card)

  • record your audio program using Audacity

  • use Audacity to edit your audio program and mix in music and sound effects

  • download and install LAME (Lame is an open source audio compression library)

  • use Audacity and LAME to compress your audio into an MP3 file

  • use your media player application to edit the ID3 tags of your MP3 file (or download one of many ID3 tag editing programs)

  • sign up for a web hosting account that provides storage and posting capabilities (later, blog packages like WordPress were enhanced to directly support podcasts)
  • Create an RSS file (Early on, this step required that you used a text editor program and created a complex data file in a format known as XML. Later, many tools were available that would create this file for you.)

  • download and install an FTP program (FTP is a common application protocol used to transfer files on the Internet).

  • use the FTP program to copy your MP3 file and your RSS file to your web host

  • register the URL for your RSS file at a podcast directory site
These steps were great fun for technical folks who love to explore any new technologies on the Internet, but for most people they made podcasting impractical, if not impossible.

We thought podcasting was a great idea and an exciting new medium. However, when we looked at the daunting steps required for people to create and publish a podcast, it was clear to us that there had to be a better way.

In the 1990s, when web publishing was new, it was very difficult for individuals to create and publish web sites or web pages. Tools like FrontPage, PageMill, and Dreamweaver were created to make it easy for people to create and publish content without needing to know or understand the inner workings of HTML and Internet protocols. Hosted services, especially blogs, provided easy to use content management and publishing systems for ordinary web users.

When we set out to create WildVoice® Studio and WildVoice.com, it was our expectation that the podcasting would follow a similar trend. We firmly believed that once the right tools and hosting services were available to allow people to easily create and publish podcasts, podcasting would become as popular as blogging.

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