[whatwg] The political and legal status of WHATWG

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis bhawkeslewis at googlemail.com
Sat Dec 15 03:03:14 PST 2007

Shannon wrote:

> Yes, requirements that CANNOT be met. Ever. Period.
> The current placeholder text proposes two main conditions that are 
> expected to be met before vendors will 'move forward' and 'progress' 
> will happen. It isn't a rule but there is certainly an implication that 
> leaves a lot to be desired:
> a.) 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.
> b.) That is not an additional submarine patent risk for large companies.
> The first statement is reasonable, however I personally know of only 1 
> video codec (Theora) , and 2 audio codecs (Vorbis and FLAC) that meet it.
> The second statement, combined with the first is a logical trap (a 
> paradox). All vendors who do not *currently* support the chosen format 
> will incur 'an additional submarine patent risk'.
> Can you see the trap? The ONLY way to meet the second requirement is to 
> *currently* meet the first. If all the whatwg members already did that 
> then this wouldn't be a issue. Those claiming to want a better codec 
> cannot possibly implement it and meet the second requirement. If it 
> doesn't exist then how can it NOT be an additional patent risk?

It's not a logical paradox.

You're assuming that the /only/ reason why vendors would implement a 
free codec is because the HTML5 specification says they SHOULD.

You're ignoring the possibility that before 2012, the same vendors 
implement a free codec anyway. They might have various reasons for doing 
so, for example:

a) Someone might invent free codecs that outperform other codecs.

b) Management might decide that adopting free codecs would be good for 
the web and their business, and take on the legal risk anyhow.

c) They might need to implement free codecs to prevent users start 
switching to other vendors' offerings because they support free codecs. 
This, I think, is what Ian means by "compelling content": not content he 
(or we) find interesting or significant (like Wikipedia videos), but 
content that drives users en masse to rival browsers (and, in Apple's 
and Nokia's case, rival phones).

If vendors vulnerable to patent trolls did implement free codecs, then 
following WHATWG's recommendation would not involve additional submarine 
patent risks and both requirements would be met.

NB I call this a "possibility" not a "probability".

Benjamin Hawkes-Lewis

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