[whatwg] The truth about Nokias claims

Shannon shannon at arc.net.au
Fri Dec 14 01:26:48 PST 2007

I've been misquoted on this list several times now so I want to make my 
position clear. I believe that the current draft, which was changed 
without open discussion, gives a green light for the status quo. The 
status quo is that Flash, Quicktime and WMV will remain the 'standards' 
for web video. I know this because I implement video on websites as a 
web developer.

What concerns me is that the removed OGG recommendation (specified as 
SHOULD rather than MUST) was a step forward to the adoption (however 
reluctantly) by corporations and governments of a set of formats that 
require no royalties to encode, decode, reverse-engineer or distribute. 
None of the status quo formats can make that claim.

Several people on this list have claimed that recommending OGG would 
have legal implications for vendors. It does not.  Those who feel 
threatened have the option to not implement it - without affecting 
compliance. In nearly all cases  the end-user would have been subject to 
the minor inconvenience of finding an alternate source of OGG support. 
What concerns me most is that the people making contrary claims know 
this yet argue anyway. Their motives and affilations, to me, are suspect.

OGG Theora is not the most compressed video format, nor is it the least. 
It is however in the public domain and at least equivalent to MP3 and 
XVID, which are both popular streaming formats. While submarine patents 
may one day undermine this there is no current evidence that OGG 
contains patented technology and there is plenty of legal opinion that 
it does not. Either way it is not possible to remove this risk 
altogether by maintaining the status quo or recommending (or demanding) 
any other format.

Supporting OGG now in no way prevents a better option (such as Matroska 
and/or Dirac) being added in the future. Nor does it prevent SHOULD 
being changed to MUST.

The loudest objectors to OGG are also, in my opinion, the most 
encumbered by commercial support for an existing licensed format. This 
is not paranoia or fandom, just observation of this list.

There is no evidence that recommending  optional OGG support will affect 
companies adoption (or not) of the rest of the HTML5 standard. We only 
have Ian's word for that and I don't believe it anyway. HTML5 is likely 
to be adopted by all major browsers (in full or in part).

MPEG2/3/4 are NOT unencumbered formats. There are too many patent 
holders for that to ever be the case. None will give up their rights 
while they remain defacto standards.

Some claim that recommending no baseline format is neutral ground. The 
amount of outrage this triggered proves that is false. The claim that we 
have not reached a decision is true (my opponents use this claim to 
support their 'neutrality'). Yet it is clear to me that NOT setting a 
standard is as influential in this case as setting one. Indecision with 
no reasonable grounds for ending it leads to the status quo as I have 
said. Is it not the purpose (and within the powers of) of a standards 
body to steer the status quo? Is it not in the public interest that this 

HTML4 advocated GIF, JPG and PNG even if the wording made it seem 
optional. The result was full support for 2 of these formats and partial 
support of the third. There is no reason to believe that putting a 
SHOULD recommendation in the text wouldn't result in most browsers 
supporting OGG (except IE). This in turn would give public, non-profit 
and non-aligned (with MPEG-LA) organizations justification to release 
materials in this format rather than Flash, WMV or MOV (all of which 
require commercial plugins and restrictive licenses).

Some claim pro-OGG supporters started this debate. It was Nokia who made 
this a headline issue.

Objectors claim they are working towards a resolution that defines a 
MUST video format and is accepted by 'all parties'. I don't believe that 
because they know this is impossible and it WILL affect HTML5 adoption. 
There is no format that can satisfy their unreasonable expectations. 
There never will be. We live in a world where companies claim patents on 
'double-clicking' and 'moving pictures on a screen'. How then can any 
format ever meet their demands?

I hope I have made my position clear. I hope my position represents the 
public interest. I am not here just to nag (I have been on this list for 
over two years and have only intervened once before). I am writing in 
the hope that proper discussion takes place and that future decisions of 
this magnitude are not made without public consultation - in the 
interests of entrenched cabals. I would like to say I believe all those 
opposing OGG have our best interests at heart - but that would be a lie. 
I am too old to believe companies and their spokespeople are altruistic 
(sorry Dave).


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