[whatwg] Codecs (was Re: Apple Proposal for Timed Media Elements)

Robert O'Callahan robert at ocallahan.org
Wed Mar 21 21:14:11 PDT 2007

> - As mentioned above, some devices may have a much harder time
> implementing Ogg than other codecs. Although a SHOULD-level
> requirement would excuse them, I'm not sure it's appropriate to have
> it if it might be invoked often.
> OK, let's assume Theora is a bad format for some devices. If someone wants
to target those devices with a better codec, they can do so, and use Theora
as the fallback. If they don't care, they use Theora and at least the
content is still playable on the devices. What's the problem here? It's
still a net win over the no-standard-codec alternative.

> - Although the Ogg codecs don't have known patents that aren't RF
> licensed, it's not completely clear that none of the patents out
> there on video/audio encoding apply. Often, parties holding a
> submarine patent wait for a company with very deep pockets (like
> Apple, or Microsoft, or Google) to infringe on the patent before they
> sue. On the other hand, MPEG codecs have been implemented by many
> large corporations already, and no patents have appeared besides the
> ones that can be licensed from MPEG-LA for a fee. So, ironically, for
> a large company that has no problem the patent fees, Ogg may carry
> more patent risk than MPEG.
> Just because no patents have appeared against MPEG doesn't mean there
aren't any outside the MPEG-LA pool. Submarines can surface at any time. See

> - Placing requirements on format support would be unprecedented for
> HTML specifications, which generally leave this up to the UA, with de
> facto baseline support being decided by the market.
> Just because previous HTML specifications have been deficient in this
regard doesn't mean we have to repeat the mistake.

I think having a single baseline codec will make <video> immensely more
attractive to authors than it otherwise would be. I also believe from the
point of view of Mozilla (or any other open source project) Theora is vastly
more attractive than MPEG. If we don't ship MPEG and other vendors don't
ship Theora, then the <video> element will be hobbled from the start.

"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred
denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back,
so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"
Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled." "You
have judged correctly," Jesus said. [Luke 7:41-43]
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