[whatwg] H.264-in-<video> vs plugin APIs

Mike Shaver mike.shaver at gmail.com
Fri Jun 12 07:02:37 PDT 2009

Apologies for the poor threading, I wasn't subscribed when the message
here was sent.

In http://lists.whatwg.org/htdig.cgi/whatwg-whatwg.org/2009-June/020237.html
Chris DiBona wrote:
> > The incredibly sucky outcome is that Chrome ships patent-encumbered
> > "open web" features, just like Apple. That is reprehensible.
> Reprehensible? Mozilla (and all the rest) supports those same "open
> web" features through its plugin architecture. Why don't you make a
> stand and shut down compatibility with plugins from flash, quicktime
> and others? How long would Firefox last in the market if it were
> incompatible with those? Honestly.

I think that "reprehensible" is excessive, and not helpful, but I
think you're very much missing the point here.

It's true that plugin support is necessary for competitiveness on the
desktop web, because there is a lot of content out there that requires
those plugins, for better or for worse.  And because each plugin has
different API (and often markup requirements), in addition to codec
differences, migration cost is a pain.  This is definitely a problem
for people on iPhones and the Pre and various mobile Linux devices and
platforms, and I gather for Android users as well.

That's not the case for <video>, as far as I can tell.  There is still
proportionately little content on the web that uses it, and as far as
H.264-in-<video> is concerned, basically *all* the content on the web
is Google's!  What legacy-content-compatibility requirement there is
comes from services in the same company!  Anyone else moving to
<video> now from their legacy setups will have much more to worry
about with respect to API changes than a simple transcoding, and the
experiences of DailyMotion and others indicate that the transcoding
works quite well.  (We want it to work better, of course, which is why
we're investing in tools and library development.)

I do not like the situation on the web today, where to use all the
content you need to have a license to Flash, and I'm saddened that
Google is choosing to use its considerable leverage -- especially in
the web video space, where they could be a king-maker if ever there
was one -- to create a _future_ in which one needs an H.264 patent
license to view much of the video content on the web.  Firefox won't
likely have native H.264 support, since we simply can't operate under
those patent restrictions, so by your analogy I suppose we won't last
long in the market -- I very much hope you're wrong about that aspect
as well.  And I hope that those who would follow Google's footsteps in
joining the web browser market don't have to get such a license as
well; that would be an unfortunate blow to the competitiveness of the
current environment, to which Google has contributed and from which it
has benefited.


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