[whatwg] OGG in HTML5

Geoffrey Sneddon foolistbar at googlemail.com
Tue Dec 11 10:12:41 PST 2007

On 11 Dec 2007, at 16:20, alex wrote:

> I am a webdeveloper and a fierce supporter of opensource. I was  
> under the impression the standards were being designed in the same  
> opensource spirit, but I may have been wrong.

Standards are developed inline with the policies of the organisations  
they are developed by. <http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Process/>  
describes the W3C process document. The issue here is that the chairs  
think the reasons given for not publishing a working draft are strong  
enough (i.e., it is the strength of the arguments, not the number in  
favour of the arguments that is important).

> Setting OGG as the de facto standard is the best idea i've heard in  
> a long time,

How can you set a de-facto standard? By the very meaning of de-facto,  
you cannot. We can set a de-jure standard, but not a de-facto one.

> and now it's all coming down because a few companies (some of which  
> are known for their vendor lock-in tactics) want to keep their empire.

No, it is coming down because a few companies don't want to take the  
risk of being sued for submarine patents which might exist for Ogg/ 
Vorbis/Theora. Do you want to pick up the bill for patent  
infringement? MS has to pay 1.52 billion USD for (submarine) patent  
infringement covering MP3. Unsurprisingly, major companies don't want  
to take such a risk on a codec that has few advantages over current  
standards such as MPEG-4.

But why, then, are they happy to support MPEG standards? They already  
do: it had/has clear technical advantages to prior de-facto formats  
(the same cannot be said for Theora, which is less efficient than  
MPEG-4). They have already taken the risk to support it, and people  
have already had the chance to sue them, and that has not yet  
happened. In the case of MS and Apple, they already support video  
formats at the OS level, and don't re-implement them within the  
browser (and have already therefore paid patent charges). Finally, the  
risk of supporting both is greater than supporting just one. There are  
already widespread de-facto standards, so that is what they will  
choose to support, not a container/codec combination that has  
(comparatively) very little content.

> I am not saying that ogg should be enforced onto anyone, if nokia  
> wishes to keep using a different format, no problem, but by making  
> it a standard, we at least know that ogg will be supported by all  
> (standards-compatible) browsers, and as such it can be deployed by  
> those who are opposed to vendor lock-in or monopoly positions.

It won't be supported by all (currently) standards-compatible  
browsers. Apple, a major browser vendor, has said they don't intend to  
implement Ogg/Vorbis/Theora just because the spec requires it (i.e.,  
if you can get a critical mass of web content using it, you may well  
be able to get them to support it).

> OGG is the choice of freedom, enabling that freedom for all  
> webdevelopers is a must in my opinion, although in the same spirit,  
> it can not be enforced upon anyone, therefor the original text  
> stating it "should" instead of it "must" is probably the best way to  
> go.

If it is a MUST, then the spec is irrelevant: it will be ignored by  
major companies. We must settle at a compromise between the two POVs  
to get the spec implemented at all; we otherwise run the risk of major  
companies not implementing any part of the spec whatsoever, leaving us  
far worse off that we would be otherwise.

Also, if it a MUST everyone in the WG would be issuing a RF license  
covering any patents they hold covering Ogg/Vorbis/Theora to everyone  
else in the WG (as per <http://www.w3.org/Consortium/Patent-Policy-20040205/#def-essential 
 >), which companies such as MS and Nokia have said they are unwilling  
to do.

As far as compromises go, there are several viable solutions,  
including MJPEG and H.261 (the latter is only slightly worse than  
Theora, and is so old (as of next year, even the revision to it will  
be 20 years old) that any and all patents have either expired or are  
invalid). This still leaves questions open regarding container format  
and audio (which I know less about, and won't comment so much on).

If you truly do want make no compromises yourself, you may be able to  
get the major browser manufacturers that are currently unwilling to  
implement Ogg/Vorbis/Theora to implement them by getting a critical  
mass of content out there. Bear in mind, though, that MS still does  
not support MPEG-4 out of the box (except for Zune), despite the huge  
amount of MPEG-4 content already out there.

Geoffrey Sneddon

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