[whatwg] several messages regarding Ogg in HTML5

Jeff McAdams jeffm at iglou.com
Tue Dec 11 14:30:17 PST 2007

Ian Hickson wrote:
> On Tue, 11 Dec 2007, Maik Merten wrote:
>> If keeping the web free of IP licensing horrors and being interoperable 
>> with as many players as possible (commercial and non-commercial 
>> entities, open source or not, free software or not) isn't much of a 
>> reason things are looking cheerless for the web indeed.

> Actually those are pretty much the only reasons being taken into account 
> here. Sadly, Ogg doesn't keep the Web free of IP licensing horrors, due to 
> the submarine patent issue -- as Microsoft experienced with MP3 and 
> with the Eolas patent over the past few years, for instance, even things 
> that seem to have well-understood patent landscapes can be unexpectedly 
> attacked by patent trolls.

Then you need to stop work on a HTML5 spec right now because
*EVERYTHING* has a submarine patent risk to it.

Theora was developed, by all accounts, after as exhaustive of a patent
search as is possible, and designed to not infringe on any patents.
That's as close to being sure that you're patent free as you can get.
This is the least risk option going forward.  Its also the only option
that I see that can hold true to the w3c's ideals of freedom (which I
strongly support).

Apple and Nokia's stated reasons for objecting to Theora are crap...they
don't pass the smell test.  Ian, you're being taken for a ride, here.
Just revert the text and go back to Theora as the codec of choice and
end this charade of trying to look like you're taking everyone's
concerns into account because its clear that you aren't.  Apple and
Nokia are, so far, getting their way, despite the huge public outcry
that you're seeing, and that should tell you something, and tell you
something loud and clear.

Apple and Nokia's reasons for objecting to Theora don't pass the smell
test.  Nokia even called Ogg "proprietary" in their white paper I've
sure you've read as well.  This is so badly wrong as to have become the
butt of jokes.

What are the real reasons that Nokia and Apple object to Theora?
Clearly the reasons that they have stated are a smoke-screen because
they don't even withstand the most basic of scrutiny.

If you want a baseline codec that everyone supports, revert the text and
then s/SHOULD/MUST/ .  Apple and Nokia may not like it, but that's the
only real option if you want a codec that everyone can support.  And,
yes, Apple and Nokia *can* support it, the risk is negligible, and
technically is not hard to do.

>> I don't exactly see why the web should embrace non-free standards just 
>> because the big players made the "mistake" of licensing 
>> definitely-encumbered formats and are unwilling to "take further risks". 
>> (I am aware this is a pretty hard wording and that things aren't quite 
>> that easy.)
> In the absence of IP constraints, there are strong technical reasons to 
> prefer H.264 over Ogg. For a company like Apple, where the MPEG-LA 
> licensing fee cap for H.264 is easily reached, the technical reasons are 
> very compelling.

Except that there are *KNOWN* IP (god how I hate that term) constraints
with H.264.  At least with Theora we can avoid any known ones.  All
codecs have a risk of submarine patents (though with extensive having
been done for Theora, at least that risk is lowered, if not eliminated
completely), so that argument is a wash, its on both sides of the
equation, so it cancels out.

Is H.264 a better codec technically, yeah, ok, and Nokia and Apple are
free to support it if they wish in addition to Theora, or even to
implement all of the HTML5 spec except for Theora support and risk being
called out as non-conformant.

>> The old wording was a SHOULD requirement. No MUST. If the big players 
>> don't want to take the perceived risk (their decision) they'd still be 
>> 100% within the spec. Thus I fail to see why there was need for action.

> The problem is that if the big players don't follow the spec, even the 
> SHOULD requirements, then the spec is basically pointless. What we want 
> isn't that some people support Ogg, what we fundamentally want is that 
> _everyone_ support the same codec, whatever that may be.

Then revert the text and make it a MUST.  As far as I know, there are no
other codecs out there that are not encumbered.  This is the whole
reason for existence of Theora, at least at the time, and I don't know
that this has changed in the few years since it was designed.

If you want a baseline that everyone can implement without being
encumbered, then the answer is Theora.

> Small companies aren't targetted by patent trolls. Only big (really big) 
> companies are. It's a big-company concern, just like "no per-user 
> licensing" is a small-company concern. That's just the reality of the 
> situation, it's not intended to be a bias.

Except that it very clearly is biasing the decision making process so
far.  The language was changed because the big companies weren't
comfortable with it, moving in the direction of screwing the little guy.
 That is bias.

> On Tue, 11 Dec 2007, Manuel Amador (Rudd-O) wrote:
>>> It is intended to be exactly truthful, actually. I apologise if you 
>>> believe this to be fear mongering.
>> Well, the intentions certainly didn't match the actions.

> I am sorry you perceive them this way.

As witnessed by the large influx of people on the list that you
referenced (admittedly including myself) that are expressing very strong
similar opinions, perhaps you should reconsider whether this is merely a
perception.  I think its very clear that its not just perception.  I
think you're being played, Ian.  Revert the text and be done with this.

If you really want this to be a baseline codec that everyone can
implement, revert the text and then change it to MUST.

>> Fact: Vorbis is the *only* codec whose patent status has been widely 
>> researched, nearly to exhaustion.

> Sadly there's really no such thing as an exhaustive patent search.

No, but that there was an extensive attempt made make Vorbis and Theora
much safer than the alternatives.

>> Let me rephrase your statement to be worded in a more *honest* way.  
>> Vorbis provides the perfect escape for proprietary audio prisons.  
>> Apple and Nokia are having problems with consumers and authors actually 
>> waking up and using free, non-patent-encumbered, widely available, 
>> unrestricted, non-proprietary technology.  Since Vorbis directly 
>> threatens their ability to sell traps, they are extorting your 
>> compliance with threats of not supporting the HTML5 spec.

> I don't know what you base your conclusions on, but I assure you that to 
> the best of my knowledge, that's not the current situation. I have been in 
> this business a long time, and I've been played for a fool many times 
> before. This particular issue does not have the tell-tale signs of players 
> acting in bad faith. Indeed, Apple employees have probably done more to 
> resolve this issue than anyone else so far.

Really?  And Nokia calling Ogg "proprietary" doesn't raise any red
flags?  (merely an example)  Perhaps you should take a vacation from
this, Ian, clearly your bovine excrement meter is broken.

> and that is not an additional submarine patent risk for large 
> companies.

You've created the bias in the premise.  By including the word
"additional", there, you have artificially limited the field to codecs
which are already implemented by the large companies.  That is not
progress, that is one great big, huge, gigantic step backward.

That is untenable, and is a large part of the basis for the outrage from
the public that you're currently on the receiving end of.

> The whole point of the change was to make the point that we need something 
> that will not screw you. Ogg isn't a solution, as it won't be implemented 
> by Apple and Microsoft. If we require Ogg, then what will happen is the 
> big players will support something else, then that will become the 
> de-facto standard, and you will get screwed. What we _want_ is for 
> everyone to support the same codec. We don't get that by having a 
> SHOULD-level requirement for Ogg.

Then make it a MUST-level requirement.  There is no other solution.  If
we give in to the big companies trying to screw us during the spec
design, then we're surely screwed, by design.  At least, if we make the
spec MUST-level for Theora, we can bring pressure to bear on Microsoft,
Apple, Nokia, and whoever else by shining a spotlight on their
non-conformance to the spec.

If we change the spec to acceed to their need to screw the end users,
then the end users will, shockingly, be screwed for sure.

>> 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.

> We know that all standards-compatible browsers will support the standards, 
> but what about all the other browsers? Surely what we want isn't just for 
> a small set of browsers to support a codec but for _all_ the browsers to 
> suppor the same codec.

But since we're in a standards setting venue, non-standards-compliant
browsers (now or future) and, by definition out of scope.  There will
always be non-conformant implementations, we can't avoid that.  The spec
should hold true to the goals that the spec sets out to bring about.
One of those goals, from the w3c, is freedom and openness.  Theora is
the only realistic choice for that.

Theora *is* the baseline for free and open video, full stop.  Everything
else reasonable is encumbered (at least to my knowledge).  Assuming I'm
right, discussion over.

>> 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.
>> Freedom for those who choose, the alternative for the rest.

> Ogg is _a_ choice, which provides freedom for some but not everyone. We 
> need a codec that works for everyone.

Then you might as well give up on HTML5 right now.

>> Maybe Nokia would be as good as to point out which codec is better? wmv? 
>> divx? mov?

> Sadly today there are no codecs that address all the needs of everyone 
> involved; if there was, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

If this is true, and I don't believe it is, then the HTML5 spec can
never have what you're looking for, a codec that everyone can and will
support.  Theora is as close as you're gonna get.  Make it part of the
spec, and I would say make it a MUST and yell loud and long at Apple,
MS, Nokia and others when they claim conformance to HTML5 and don't
implement it.

>> My argument in favour of a "free" codec is that all browsers could ship 
>> with it, without fear of being sued, this would allow users to 
>> watch/listen to clips/movies/music out of the box without scouring the 
>> Internet for codec XYZ for a once off use.

> I think that's what everyone wants. The problem is that Ogg is not such a 
> codec -- Apple, for instance, can't implement Ogg without fear of being 
> sued.

Pardon me, but the sanitized version just isn't strong enough, here.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

Like I said, let's hear what the real reason Apple doesn't want to
support this, because this reason doesn't pass the smell test.

> I assure you that the change was made in good faith; I (sadly) received no 
> money for the change. I really wish I had.

Then you got played.  Congratulations.

Jeff McAdams
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a
little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
                                       -- Benjamin Franklin

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