[whatwg] The issue of interoperability of the <video> element

Ivo Emanuel Gonçalves justivo at gmail.com
Sat Jun 23 10:58:35 PDT 2007

Dear WHATWG members,

It has come to my attention that Apple developers behind the WebKit
platform, which powers the web browser Safari, apparently intend to
support the video element of the HTML 5 spec, section 3.14.7.  It's
all fine and well, but not a victory for web interoperability, as they
do not intend to follow the "User agents should support Theora video
and Vorbis audio, as well as the Ogg container format" part.  In their
own words: "should support in a spec does not denote a requirement.
We could have a perfectly suitable implementation of audio and video
as seen in this draft spec without having theora/vorbis codecs

What this means, in my opinion, is that they will push for QuickTime
video, in spite of the effort of the Opera developers to push Theora
forward as the de facto standard for web video.  Even if Mozilla and
the KDE team prepare their web browsers to support Theora, by choosing
to alienate it, Apple is allowing Microsoft to put WMV support alone
in their Internet Explorer, for if Apple, one of the big players,
shuns Theora, so will Microsoft.  Considering the statistics, Internet
Explorer being currently the web browser with bigger market share, it
will force pretty much every web designer/programmer to stick to WMV

As everyone is aware, WMV is not an open specification, nor a proper
documented video format.  Instead, it is heavily patented and locked
in one single vendor: Microsoft.  This will force vendors to either
pay a license to legaly use WMV in their platforms, or to reverse
engineer support for it, infriging on software patents in certain

This message is mostly an open letter to the Apple developers behind
WebKit and to every other browser/UA developer.  Please, do not shun
Theora, or one of the following two things will happen:
1) either the video element will become unrelevant and non-successful,
which is a shame considering its potential to revolutionize the web,
2) or everyone will be locked in whatever new version of WMV Microsoft
releases in the following years--and expect some of these to be
incompatible between each other.

Best regards,
Ivo Emanuel Gonçalves

[1] http://bugs.webkit.org/show_bug.cgi?id=13708

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