[whatwg] So called "pre-exising use by large companies"

Jerason Banes jbanes at gmail.com
Wed Dec 12 07:32:40 PST 2007

Here's a rundown of the major media players and their support:

Windows Media - Requires third party plugin<http://www.illiminable.com/ogg/>
Quicktime 7 - Requires Xiph.org plugin <http://xiph.org/quicktime/>
Real Player - Requires Helix plugin<https://helixcommunity.org/frs/?group_id=7>

In effect, no major media player supports Theora out of the box. It's
interesting to note that MPEG, H.263, and MPEG4/H.264 are far more
"standard" across media players. Which, I think, means that the spec should
recommend support for these formats.

However, a variety of good points were raised in a thread a few months back.
What you effectively have here is if you choose a free format that anyone
can implement, you alienate the commercial implementations due to their
due-diligence fears.

(Which, as an aside, are justified when it comes to media technology. This
stuff is so mired in patents, it isn't even funny. H.263 was intended to be
an "open" spec that anyone could implement at no cost. It didn't take long
for patents to start coming out of the woodwork and effectively close the
format off.)

On the other hand, if you choose commercially supported formats like
MPEG/MPEG4, you run into the issue that the "free software" camp is afraid
of being unable to produce a GPL-compliant version FFMPEG exists, but
distros are not legally able to ship it. The user has to download and
install it after the fact, in a psuedo-legal workaround.

Both sides argue that users can download a simple plugin which will make
either possible standard work. Which is true, but it ignores the fact that
Flash ships with the H.263 codec by default and is kicking everyone's sorry
asses in the online video space. As long as Flash has a consistent video
format that everyone can use and HTML 5 doesn't, Flash is going to be the
defacto standard.

I don't think there are any easy answers here. About the best solution I can
come up with is to provide browser detection of media formats. That way web
developers can do a runtime test for a media format and tell the user "Hey,
you need to install a plugin" if the format chosen by the website is not
available. Since the vast majority of computers have MPEG4 support, that
will likely become the resulting "standard" like JPGs and GIFs.

If enough people push long enough and hard enough for Theora, it will become
a new standard alongside these existing formats, much like PNG. Especially
if a few major web browsers ship Theora support long enough to assuage fears
over its unknown patent status.

Jerason Banes

On Dec 12, 2007 6:00 AM, Sanghyeon Seo <sanxiyn at gmail.com> wrote:

> >From what I read, it is argued, that "pre-existing use by large
> companies" is a good indication of less risk for submarine patents.
> It is also argued, that Theora has not much "pre-exsting use by large
> companies", and among others, H.264 does.
> Is this really true? I have a hard time believing that no "large
> companies" shipped Theora decoder ever. And how large is large? I
> would appreciate any information on this matter.
> --
> Seo Sanghyeon
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