[whatwg] on codecs in a 'video' tag.

Maciej Stachowiak mjs at apple.com
Fri Mar 30 13:41:01 PDT 2007

On Mar 29, 2007, at 6:32 AM, Gervase Markham wrote:

> Dave Singer wrote:
>> That's an attempt to force the issue by fiat.
> But any specification for anything could be described as "an  
> attempt to force the issue by fiat". That' just loaded language.

Let me frame the conversation a bit differently.

Reasons Apple would like MPEG4 + H.264 + AAC to be the preferred  
codec stack
- We already need to support these for video production and consumer  
electronics (so no extra patent cost to us)
- Every extra codec we ship is incrementally more submarine patent  
risk (which could cost us hundreds of millions or billions of dollars)
- They are technically superior to Ogg (seekable container format,  
significantly better bitrate for video)
- They are competitive with likely next-generation proprietary video  
- They are an open ISO standard (patents notwithstanding)
- They are widely available in hardware implementations which we can  
use in our Consumer Electronics devices
- They have been chosen as a standard for 3G mobile devices, HD-DVD,  
Blu-Ray, HDTV broadcast, etc

Reasons Mozilla would like Ogg + Theora + Vorbis to be the preferred  
codec stack
- All known patents are royalty-free, so no need to pay $5 million to  
- Implementation would clearly be freely redistributable by third  
parties (the situation might be unclear if only Mozilla paid for a  
patent license)
- No demand for use fees for commercial distribution in this format.

We think your reasons are strong and worthy of respect. That is why  
we are not trying to force our codec preference on you, but rather  
propose to leave this issue open. We ask you to respect our reasons  
as well, rather than trying to force us to go along with your codec  

I think achieving broader interoperability will require us to find  
ways around this impasse, rather than bludgeoning each other until  
one side caves.

One possibility would be an open API for codec plugins that will work  
in <video>/<audio>, then user availability of codecs is not directly  
tied to browser choice and codecs can compete in the marketplace more  
freely. Another possibility would be to get MPEG-LA to change  
licensing terms somehow. Yet another possibility is that one codec  
stack will become so popular that all parties will feel compelled to  
implement it despite their reasons against. I have no idea if any of  
these is practical or even desirable, but I think we will need to  
think along these lines rather than trying to bless one format  
without consensus.


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