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

Kevin Marks kevinmarks at gmail.com
Sat Mar 24 11:31:08 PDT 2007

On 3/23/07, Christian F.K. Schaller <christian at fluendo.com> wrote:
> On Fri, 2007-03-23 at 08:12 -0700, Kevin Calhoun wrote:
> > On Mar 23, 2007, at 2:56 AM, Maik Merten wrote:
> >
> > > MPEG4 adoption to the web has been poor from my point of view. Today
> > > I'd
> > > guess the absolute king in marketshare is Flash video, then following
> > > Windows Media, then followed by QuickTime (that may carry MPEG4... but
> > > the container is not MPEG) and perhaps a bit of RealVideo in between.

Are you talking container or codecs here? AVI is a significant container
format, with some variant of MPEG4 codecs in.

> Just a quick correction here: QuickTime does support the MPEG-4
> > container format.
> Yes, but that is the opposite of the stated issue. The issue is that
> the .mov files out there are actually not valid MPEG4 files. Which means
> that with a MPEG4 compliant demuxer one would not be able to demux a
> Quicktime file. So Maik's claim still stand, MPEG4 has almost no
> adoption on the web. Apple could have solved this of course by making
> sure .mov was MPEG4 compliant, which would have been a natural step
> after pushing so hard to make the quicktime container format the basis
> for the MPEG4 container format, but I guess the temptation of
> proprietary lock-in was to big.

This is entirely backwards. the QT file format is not proprietary, it is
openly documented. There is a patent issue around hint tracks that Apple
could resolve, but other than that case (and it is a very marginal one,
designed only to be read by streaming serves for stored content which is
outside the scope for user agents anyway).

MPEG4 defines a subset of codecs and support levels. QT allows arbitrary
codecs to be contained. So Apple could not make QT files MPEG4 compliant
retrospectively without a time machine.
What Apple have done is support export to compliant MPEG4 files from all
their editing products, and default to them in many cases (the .m4a files
iTunes makes, the m4v ones that iMovie makes, and the audio with chapters
and visual frames in that GarageBand makes are all mpeg4). All of these are
played by iPods as well as clients Apple freely distributes for Mac and
Windows (iTunes), and browser plugins, paying the encoding and decoding
license fees.

This is muddied by the iTunes store DRM that IS designed to be proprietary
and prevent interoperability, but as Steve Jobs said recently, this is a
very small fraction of media files.

Now, if you want a fallback standard that is genuinely widely interoperating
without patent issues, you could pick QuickTime with JPEG video frames and
uncompressed audio. Millions of digital cameras support this format already,
as do all quicktime implementations back to 1990, as well as WMP and
RealPlayer and all the open source players.
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