[whatwg] Codecs for <audio> and <video>

Jonas Sicking jonas at sicking.cc
Wed Jul 1 13:06:37 PDT 2009

On Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 12:14 PM, Anne van Kesteren<annevk at opera.com> wrote:
> On Wed, 01 Jul 2009 18:29:17 +0200, Peter Kasting <pkasting at google.com>
> wrote:
>> On Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 2:41 AM, Anne van Kesteren <annevk at opera.com>
>> wrote:
>>> The "vendor consensus" line of argument seems like a very dangerous
>>> slippery slope. It would mean that whenever a vendor refuses to implement
>>> something it has to be taken out of the specification. I.e. giving a single
>>> vendor veto power over the documentation of the Web Platform. Not good at
>>> all in my opinion.
>> I am merely echoing Hixie; from his original email in this thread:
>>>> At the end of the day, the browser vendors have a very effective
>>>> absolute veto on anything in the browser specs,
>>> You mean they have the power to derail a spec?
>> They have the power to not implement the spec, turning the spec from a
>> useful description of implementations into a work of fiction.
>>> That's something I would have considered before the advent of Mozilla
>>> Firefox.
>> Mozilla also has the power of veto here. For example, if we required that
>> the browsers implement H.264, and Mozilla did not, then the spec would be
>> just as equally fictional as it would be if today we required Theora.
> I disagree with the characterization Ian makes here as I believe being
> royalty free is very important for the formats we actively deploy to the Web
> and as such H.264 is not an option.

Agreed. (Has anyone seriously proposed H.264 as a standard for the web?)

The only arguments against Theora has been:
* Too poor quality to be workable.
* Risk of hidden/unknown patents.
* Doesn't have hardware decoders.

I think the first bullet has been demonstrated to be false. The
relative quality between theora and h.264 is still being debated, but
the arguments are over a few percent here or there. Arguments that
theora is simply not good enough seems based on poor or outdated
information at this point.

The second bullet I don't buy. First of all because that argument
applies to absolutely everything we do. While video is particularly
bad, there is simply always a risk of unknown software patents.
Second, two big browser companies, with a third on the way, have at
this point deemed it safe enough to risk implementing, so presumably
they have done some amount of research into existing public patents.
And that's on top of any company that has shipped Theora support in
other contexts than browsers. Submarine patents are of course still a
problem, but no more so for video than for other technologies as far
as I can tell.

The third applies to basically anything other than a very short list
of codecs. As far as I know none of which are interesting for one
reason or another. If that is a requirement then we might pack up and
give up on making video a integral part of the open web. If a codec is
going to have a chance to become popular enough to make hardware
vendors get behind it, we need to take a first step. Hardware vendors
are not going to.

/ Jonas

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