[whatwg] several messages regarding Ogg in HTML5

Manuel Amador (Rudd-O) rudd-o at rudd-o.com
Tue Dec 11 15:21:51 PST 2007

> 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.
> This does suggest we need patent reform, but in practice this is out of
> scope for HTML5's development. We can't design our spec on the assumption
> that the patent system will be reformed.

Interesting.  Finally patents have brought free multimedia innovation to a 
standstill.  Two quite long paragraphs to say "we admit defeat".

> 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.

You mean prefer H.264 over Ogg Theora?  Sure, Theora simply can't compress as 
good as 264.  But Theora is free and its related patents have been 
irrevocably granted to the world.

> 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.

Therefore, put Ogg Vorbis/Theora in the spec, and let everyone implement it.  
The two bullies that don't want to implement it simply don't get the content 
delivered to their machines, OR authors who would like to cater to bullies 
could use the JavaScript posted in the News section of Ogg Theora that 
automatically turns standards-conformant VIDEO into legacy crap.  Brilliant 
and gracefully degradable.

> I don't see how this affects Apple's stance here. Today they can get
> significant traction with just H.264 (for example, Google is also moving
> to H.264 and Apple can therefore implement YouTube applications on iPhone
> without using anything but H.264). With Ogg, they get very little
> traction, yet significant financial risk.

That's no reason to NOT SUGGEST Ogg Vorbis / Theora.  No one here is saying 
that HTML5 should forbid proprietary codecs -- all we're claiming for is the 
judicious and well-deserved mention of two free technologies in a document 
that will be read by MILLIONS of people to come.  And you just killed that.

> Small companies aren't targetted by patent trolls. Only big (really big)
> companies are. 

And therefore they're deserving of more protection?  Sounds like a racket to 

> I am sorry you perceive them this way.

Be honest, don't tell me you're sorry because you are not.  You're sorry when 
something personally sad happens to someone you know, not when there's a 
perfectly valid disagreement on an action you took.

> No, but you presumably would avoid living in a house that had matchstick
> walls and a large concrete ceiling. It's a matter of risk management.

Good that my building has walls almost a foot across.  However, not good that 
you're acting as risk manager for special interests.

> > In other words, here we go.  FEAR.
> But it is fear felt by the companies themselves, not fear that they are
> attempting to pass onto the userbase.

Not in HTML5, not in this forum.  But it's undeniably true that the very same 
companies you say are afraid continually spread FUD on cutting-edge, free 

> Indeed, the entire issue here is one of uncertainty.

No, the issue is of an uncertain atmosphere being created by people with 
vested interests in seeing a perfectly good technology, whose authors have 
played *by the rules*, fail.

I don't care much for the content in my own computer, since I encode my things 
in free formats and using free technology, but I will care when I start 
playing videos on my computer and it says to me "you need codec X, which 
unfortunately is not available for your Linux computer".  If you keep the 
section you censored, the likelihood of that happening is much, much lower.

> Yes, the big players here are fearful and doubtful of the uncertain patent
> situation surrounding Ogg. That is in fact the entire problem.

How curious that the Ogg Vorbis authors never felt that fear, uncertainty and 
doubt.  Perhaps they didn't because they actually did their homework and 
researched the patent minefield before stepping on one of those mines, 
instead of saying "it can't be done, we're too afraid"?

> Unfortunately patent portfolios don't help against trolling patent holding
> companies. It's also not clear to me that the companies to which you refer
> are in fact the most supportive of software patents; indeed, as far as I
> can tell most companies involved here have extensive lobbying efforts
> ongoing to encourage patent reform. However, that is quite out of scope
> for the matter at hand, namely the HTML5 specification. As noted above, we
> can't base what we do in the spec on ongoing lobbying efforts whose
> success is as yet highly unpredictable.

No one is asking you to do that.  I'm asking you to restore the paragraph 
where it says that Ogg SHOULD be supported.  With the track record of 
standards compliance of proprietary bullies, it'll be YEARS before they even 
get to "MUST" conformance (how about a dose of Internet Explorer history?), 
and then they can start thinking about implementing SHOULD compliance.

> There can be a guarentee, e.g. with technologies that have outlasted the
> patent lifetime (Motion JPEG, e.g., or, as I understand it, H.261).

Sure.  We will just have to wait till we all have 50 megabits/s at home to 
watch 320x240 videos or something.  Maybe we can convince podcast authors to 
start casting in RIFF WAVE -- I hear it has awesome quality at 8000 Hz mono!

> Hear hear.


> > Watch out, someone may be holding a submarine patent on encoding
> > hypertext.

> Luckily, patents on hypertext have long expired.

Was Vannevar Bush ever entangled in legal trouble for this?

> > 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.

There's also no such thing as a perfect prophylactic, yet people still use 
condoms because they're good enough.  You'd think that seven years and large 
gaming powerhouses would be enough for Vorbis to be considered safe, wouldn't 

> The first person I spoke to upon making the change to the spec was in fact
> from Xiph. They understand the concern, and, as I understand it, agree
> that the current text in the spec is an accurate summary of the issue.

It'd be fantastic if someone from Xiph pronounced himself on the matter in 
this forum.

> Vorbis isn't really the problem. The real issue is video codecs (Theora).

Then restore the paragraph, remove just Theora and keep Vorbis.  You could 
have nuked only one word instead of one crucial paragraph.

> > 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.

Tactics change over time.  Anyway, it's not our duty to concern ourselves with 
the *intentions* of the players (though I did shine some light on the issue 
because it's good to know what the players want). But it is our duty to 
reflect over the lasting consequences of our actions.

> > It doesn't.  The effort that would most effectively address these issues
> > would be a "patch -r" on the related spec revision, combined with a
> > polite mail: "no, Nokia, no, Apple, we're very sorry but you are wrong
> > and we're not going to let you break the spec's legs before it's even
> > born".
> The spec is pointless if we don't have interoperability. The goal here
> isn't to support Ogg, or H.264, or anything else. The goal is to get a
> baseline video codec that everyone can use and implement, and that will
> work in all browsers.

Stalling Ogg for a pie-in-the-sky nonexistent solution is not the answer.  Ogg 
is already working in many browsers (both Vorbis and Theora).  Despite 
continued and persistent assertions by bullies (backed on NOTHING but hot 
air), Ogg is still the best answer.

Let me be humorous for a moment.  This whole discussion (which is actually NOT 
representative of the interests of the anti-Ogg bullies) could be summarized 

- Apple: the neighborhood punk is out to get us
- Nokia: yeah
- MS: indeed
- (WHATWG): OK let's just not go out of our house

> For that, we need a codec that is known to not 
> require per-unit or per-distributor licensing, that is compatible with the
> open source development model, that is of sufficient quality as to be
> usable, and that is not an additional submarine patent risk for large
> companies.


> 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.

Honestly, if Apple and Microsoft don't implement Ogg, it will *GUARANTEED* not 
screw me.  If you put it in the spec, they will have to implement it or -- 
failing that -- there are simple JS-based fallback solutions that are 
perfectly degradable.  So there is NO excuse.

But let's not kid ourselves.  It's not that Apple and MS won't implement it.  
You're afraid that they will activelly work against moving HTML5 into a state 
of recommendation.

> 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.

Well, tough luck, you can't.  The next-best option is Ogg, that favors small 
independent content producers.  But no-siree, we can't have that, can we?

> We know that all standards-compatible browsers will support the standards,
> but what about all the other browsers?

Haha, did you just covertly say "all the not Internet Explorer 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.

Well, you can't have that because all the big players are aiming their guns at 
each other with their own tech bets.  And now they've collectively aimed a 
third gun each at Ogg.  Note that Ogg has no guns.

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

Ogg is _a_ choice that provides freedom to the majority of the populace in the 
world.  We need a codec that works for the majority, not for the lucky 1% of 
the population.

> 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.

But the other 99% of the world can.

> At the end of the day, the browser vendors
> have a very effective absolute veto on anything in the browser specs,

You mean they have the power to derail a spec?  That's something I would have 
considered before the advent of Mozilla Firefox.

> > Really if *anyone* should have any sway here (and I personally think
> > that no 1 or 2 companies should) it should be Google lets face it they
> > are the largest power on the Internet whether you love em/hate em/dont
> > know who they are..
> I work for Google. :-)

I fully agree with the statement of the grandparent.  I'm also addressing this 
letter to you because you *work at Google* and I have the utmost respect for 
their technical decisions and prowess, plus I still have confidence that 
they're both large and honest enough to be able to overcome this politicking.  
I'm really sorry that you have to be the one addressing this conundrum, but 
it is a matter worth discussing.

> > The difference with the "should" is that the browsers who support
> > standards will support ogg natively. The fact that big companies like
> > nokia etc don't actually use OGG is less my concern, it's more about the
> > free developers knowing that ogg will be supported at the users' end.
> But they won't know that, if Apple, for instance, refuse to implement it.

I'd implement it on my Web page.  I'm sure thousand Web developers would 
implement it.  If Apple refuses to implement the video tag (I highly doubt 
they'll refuse the ENTIRE spec because it's good, and it would be nonsensical 
to reject it) I can just include a small JS snippet and it'll prompt the user 
to download an Ogg runtime.  Apple doesn't need to implement it on WebKit  -- 
if I remember correctly most of the work is already done, but I might be 

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

I'm absolutely certain you didn't receive any sort of bribes (now that would 
be a bit unbecoming, wouldn't it?).  I also know that Nokia and Apple have 
vowed not to implement part of or the whole HTML5 spec.  Carrot and stick.  
You got no carrot, but you're still getting the stick.

> I hope this addresses most of the concerns that are raised. I understand
> that some people will see a conspiracy here; naturally I can't really
> reassure you that there isn't one, that's the nature of conspiracies.

For the record: I don't see a conspiracy.  All I see is big interests clearly 
colluding in the open to further restrict choice for the rest of us.


	Manuel Amador (Rudd-O) <rudd-o at rudd-o.com>
	Rudd-O.com - http://rudd-o.com/
	GPG key ID 0xC8D28B92 at http://wwwkeys.pgp.net/
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