Online video players do exactly what their name suggests -- they play videos. Flash players work on any computer while wmv (windows media), quicktime or real player files may not necessily work on as many computers. But not all video display systems are equal. Some online video player systems can cost as much as $6000/year, or even more depending on how much a middleman marks up the cost, while others are free.
From Brightcove to Delve to Bitcast to Vimeo, YouTube and Blip.tv. There is a tradeoff in quality, control, ad presence, and tracking capabilities (understanding who is watching)... but the feature differences and pricing disparity are shrinking as the player market is commodotized.
In addition to quality another vital lens for considering players is privacy. Is your video for an internal network only (company network) or is your goal to spread the message everywhere? If you want to control who watches the network and cost is not your premiere criteria, think about Brightcove, Blip or Limelight.
The advantage to going to the more popular players such as Facebook or Vimeo.... search and popularity. The Google tie-in to Facebook is key because, let's face it, it's somewhat likely a YouTube posted video will come out higher in a Google search than a non-YouTube posted video.
Here are two free ones that I like. Interesting that both players offer HD hosting. Vimeo offers an upgraded version with premium features for relatively small money. Don't let some 'web video expert' sell you a costly bill of goods that's largely centered on their markup of a player you don't need!
YouTube is the best known, but the quality of most of the video you see there is not so great. But don't forget, putting junk video in the system means you will only play junk on the out side.
Brightcove is now offering different tiers of service to its users. Their prices are now reasonable enough to recomemnd taking a look at their offerings, even if you are a small business. I have added a player below allowing you to examine their player.
This is Blip.tv's video player.
This is Vimeo's player.
Here's the Brightcove player. Brightcove offers you a lot of varied controls of the playback environment that you can't see here so that you can design a whole page with a number of video players on the page.
As always, if you are looking for more information on players, shoot us an email at email@example.com. We want to help you.