[whatwg] on codecs in a 'video' tag.
mjs at apple.com
Mon Apr 2 11:12:07 PDT 2007
On Apr 2, 2007, at 5:03 AM, Gervase Markham wrote:
> Maciej Stachowiak wrote:
>> Reasons Apple would like MPEG4 + H.264 + AAC to be the preferred
>> codec stack
>> - We already need to support these for video production and
>> consumer electronics (so no extra patent cost to us)
> I don't understand this point. There's no extra patent cost in
> supporting Theora. (See below for submarine patents.)
What I mean is that unlike the case for other browser vendors, it
won't cost us anything in patent license fees.
>> - Every extra codec we ship is incrementally more submarine patent
>> risk (which could cost us hundreds of millions or billions of
> But this is not just true of video codecs. Is Apple planning to
> stop shipping new software and improvements in Mac OS X because
> some of it may be patented?
> If you are concerned about submarine patents, I suggest that "not
> shipping stuff" is not a sustainable strategy to counter them.
Obviously there is a tradeoff. Video codecs are a much more patent-
prone area than many other areas of software.
>> - They are technically superior to Ogg (seekable container format,
>> significantly better bitrate for video)
> > - They are competitive with likely next-generation proprietary video
> > formats
> I'll let others comment on this. But I would note that JPEG2000 is
> technically superior to JPEG, but hasn't been widely implemented
> due to patent issues.
And due to the fact that JPEG is already universally deployed and
good enough for most uses.
>> - They are an open ISO standard (patents notwithstanding)
>> - They are widely available in hardware implementations which we
>> can use in our Consumer Electronics devices
>> - They have been chosen as a standard for 3G mobile devices, HD-
>> DVD, Blu-Ray, HDTV broadcast, etc
> All of which ship in countable units, and (where applicable) don't
> run free software.
>> Reasons Mozilla would like Ogg + Theora + Vorbis to be the
>> preferred codec stack
>> - All known patents are royalty-free, so no need to pay $5 million
>> to MPEG-LA
> The problem is not that it's $5 million, it's that the amount is
> unknown and unmeasurable. They have no "fixed fee above a certain
> number of units" licensing policy. And even if they did, a Mozilla
> license wouldn't cover other members of that community.
Actually, they do have a license cap, and I overestated it. See
<http://www.mpegla.com/m4v/m4v-agreement.cfm>. It's only $1 million
for "Decoders sold to end-users and/or as fully functioning for
PCs." (This document could be out of date.)
It's not immediately clear to me that a Mozilla license would not
cover redistribution, for instance the license fees paid by OS
vendors generally cover redistribution when the OS is bundled with a
PC. I think someone would have to look at the legal language of the
agreement to see if it covers redistribution.
>> - Implementation would clearly be freely redistributable by third
>> parties (the situation might be unclear if only Mozilla paid for a
>> patent license)
>> - No demand for use fees for commercial distribution in this format.
> Let me add other reasons why Mozilla (for whom, again, I am not
> speaking) might want to specify Theora/Dirac:
> - They have a strong commitment to interoperability
I don't think Theora (or Dirac) are inherently more interoperable
than other codecs. There's only one implementation of each so far, so
there's actually less proof of this than for other codecs.
> - They appreciate that there are a wide variety of distribution
> for browsers, and do not want to choose technologies which work only
> for some of those;
Unfortunately, Ogg does not work for some browsers either.
> - If they think a royalty-free patent policy for standards is a good
> idea in one place (the W3C) then they think it's a good idea
The problem is that the main standards bodies for video (such as the
ISO) do not have the same norms about RF vs. RAND patent licensing as
>> We think your reasons are strong and worthy of respect. That is
>> why we are not trying to force our codec preference on you, but
>> rather propose to leave this issue open. We ask you to respect our
>> reasons as well, rather than trying to force us to go along with
>> your codec preference.
>> I think achieving broader interoperability will require us to find
>> ways around this impasse, rather than bludgeoning each other until
>> one side caves.
> So, just to be clear: you believe interoperability is best promoted
> by having no codec specified in the spec?
I think if the spec mandates a single codec, that part of the spec
will be ignored by at least some parties.
>> One possibility would be an open API for codec plugins that will
>> work in <video>/<audio>, then user availability of codecs is not
>> directly tied to browser choice and codecs can compete in the
>> marketplace more freely.
> You and I both know that this would result in dominance for
> whatever codecs got shipped by default on major operating systems.
> Content producers will not choose codecs for 5 or 10% better
> quality or bitrate, they will choose them for user convenience -
> because if their site is harder to use than their competitors,
> they'll fail.
Isn't this basically admitting that Ogg Theora would fail in the
market if not legislated in the spec? Still, I would not be so sure
of your conclusion. The bitrate differences among current codecs have
a range of 2x or 4x, not just 10%. Also, Mozilla supporting Ogg would
probably carry more weight than Safari supporting Mac OS X, since
default or not, it has greater overall use share.
> As codecs are binary components, the site wanting to use foo-codec
> would need to provide versions of it for every operating system
> they planned to support. For Linux, that would be rather
> complicated, to say the least. They might not even bother offering
> it for Mac, or Mac PPC. This would discriminate against operating
> systems with smaller market shares.
>> Another possibility would be to get MPEG-LA to change licensing
>> terms somehow.
> I'm sure that any help Apple would be able to give in this area
> would be much appreciated. How do you suggest we begin?
One good first step might be for someone to obtain a copy of the
existing license terms and determine how they would apply to a freely
>> Yet another possibility is that one codec stack will become so
>> popular that all parties will feel compelled to implement it
>> despite their reasons against.
> You again assume that only recalcitrance prevents some parties
> implementing any particular codec stack. As I understand the
> situation, Firefox would have to stop being free software in order
> to ship an MPEG4 implementation.
I don't think that is true, but it would depend on the details of the
MPEG-LA license agreement. Also, at most the MPEG4 implementation
would not be free software, this would not have to affect the rest of
More information about the whatwg