[whatwg] Chipset support is a good argument

Joshua Cranmer Pidgeot18 at verizon.net
Mon Jul 6 16:30:05 PDT 2009

Kartikaya Gupta wrote:
> I'm not sure whether specs can create demand, and frankly, I find it somewhat irrelevant to the point at hand. The fact is there is already demand for a single encoding format that will be compatible with as many browsers as possible. The only question is what that format will be. In this case, the spec doesn't need to create demand for anything, it just needs to tell people what that format is.
The key point I think you've missed is that putting Theora (or H.264) as 
THE format in a specification won't make it so. One or the other codec 
is completely untenable under present circumstances to at least one 
major browser vendor. It is better that the specification reflect 
reality--that there is no such format, and there will not be one in the 
foreseeable future, than that it reflects a mythical utopia.

Perhaps what could break the deadlock would be Apple conceding to 
implementing Theora, or Mozilla conceding to implementing H.264. In 
either case, the decision to implement would most likely be a result of 
market pressure, not some arcane specification. Browser vendors can and 
will ignore specifications if the burden of implementation does not 
match the value of having it.
> A lot of those authors (not major publishers like YouTube, but the long tail that includes everybody else) will not bother to read the details of the decision; they will simply assume that since it is in the standard it will soon be supported by all the major browsers, and they will make their choices and start publishing content with that in mind.
I think you have a misconceived notion of the world here, too. Most of 
the HTML is not manually written by authors, it is automatically 
generated from programs, be it a Wiki-style generator, or a discrete 
utility like Dreamweaver. For the most part, those who write these 
programs--the people who will truly be writing and using the <video> 
tags--will be driven by what works in practice, not a statement in a 
specification that everyone ignores.
> 1) Do you agree with my view that specifying Theora for the video element would result in a self-fulfilling prophecy?
In short, no.
> 2) Do you think that it is better to sit on the fence and not specify anything, thereby forcing authors to either (a) be incompatible with some browsers or (b) re-encode their content in multiple formats? Or do you think it is better to pick a side that has a good shot at winning, even if it means that some vendors may be non-compliant with the spec?
Well, pursuant to the answer to question 1, the choice is either between 
lying about the reality in claiming something works when it does not or 
admitting that there is no right answer. Since one of the intents of 
HTML 5 is to codify the status quo, I think it would be living up to its 
goal in following the latter steps.

Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it. -- Donald E. Knuth

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