Linked by Moochman on Mon 10th May 2010 22:54 UTC
Internet & Networking A lot of articles lately have been focused on why Apple and Microsoft are the bad guys by supporting H.264 and not Theora. Well, yes, they are bad guys, but there really is not much point whining to them. It will in all likelihood fall on deaf ears, simply because they are acting in their own best interests--as MPEG stakeholders and commercial, DRM-encouraging, royalty-loving, proprietary-operating-system-hawking corporations. But that could all change--if the HTML5 spec didn't allow H.264.
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RE: fire with fire?
by hazydave on Tue 11th May 2010 07:09 UTC in reply to "fire with fire?"
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The W3C isn't supporting H.264 or not supporting H.264. They simply support the VIDEO tag, and leave the format out of the discussion.

Of course, it would be much better to make this work like DVD or Blu-Ray... every browser must support all "primary" video types. And they tried this.. the FOSS people, Opera, and some others on the W3C committee tried to get Ogg Theora installed as a must-carry CODEC. It was blocked by folks like Microsoft and Apple.

No, it's not all set in stone yet, from the W3C's point of view. From Apple's, from Microsoft's, it pretty much is -- they already have what they want.

This isn't a simple preference, it's a plan. Apple's demand for and support of only H.264 is part of the same long-term vision behind their attack on Flash. Microsoft is going exactly the same thing, for exactly the same reasons... they have already announced no Flash support in IE9.

And it's not really about Flash. Flash video is either VP6 or H.264... it's not inherently slower than any other flavor of H.264. It is on the Mac, but that's Apple's fault for not have open video acceleration APIs.

But Flash doesn't lock down H.264.. they could improve it in the future, and offer VP8 or something else. Microsoft and Apple want H.264 and only H.264, because that makes video work on smartphones and other devices, on existing video acceleration hardware. The main reason for this good video, in both cases, is making it acceptable for them to not support Flash. Apple only talks video in reference to Flash -- they're directing the discussion their way.

The other big reason is control over pay video, in both cases. Flash also supports DRM, DRM enables pay video. Apple wants to kick out Flash so that all pay video sales have to go through iTunes store... there's no DRM for HTML5. Microsoft does likewise.. they'll have Silverlight in their browser, in their devices, on the XBox, etc. They can sell you video via the Silverlight DRM, no need to pay Adobe. Sure, MS licenses Silverlight... but that's part of their strategy to make it a viable proprietary web standard. On big push -- you need it for the latest Netflix stuff.

So while Apple likes to call Adobe and flash proprietary, they're not any more proprietary than H.264. Apple likes to say "open", but what they really mean is closed. And closed to choice, too... they're not simply content with the idea that Flash will fail on its own -- which would certainly be the case if Apple was truthful about their claims of Flash horrors. They're not content to allow Theora, even if the performance might be less.. they want complete control.

And there are the side benefits. Apple is so vested in H.264 anyway (they have always used it for iPod video), they don't care about increased fees. But they're happy to see the FOSS people, small companies like Opera, etc. react in a bad way and claim they'll do Theora-only in their browsers. After all, that's just as much a limit on my personal choices as H.264-only... they should stick to their beliefs and allow free software to succeed if it's really better.

In all of this, only Google seems to be addressing the real need: mine. The end user is getting the squeeze here, and it's likely to fragment the net, at least for awhile. Google's supporting H.264, they're supporting Theora, they're even actively supporting Flash. As an end user, that's really what I care about. As a video author, let me decide.

The other important thing about the VIDEO tag being format agnostic is that it's format agnostic. Which means we're not necessarily locked in to Theora or H.264 for the forseeable forever. Innovations are critical; PNG is a very useful graphic format, which wouldn't exist if not for GIF being in the IMG tag first.

Specifically, VP8. I haven't seen much VP8 yet, but On2 (and now Google) is claiming 40-60% better coding efficiency on low-bitrate video than H.264. If true, this is important. You and I could put VP8 videos online, but we'll only get complaints. But if Google decides just to encode all top-quality stuff on YouTube in VP8, that'll force a big change on the desktop, if not the handheld. So they do that, then release a version of Chrome that comes bundled with VP8. Good for Google, that'll help their installed base for Chrome, and bundling that full CODEC, I'll be able to create VP8 videos that same day in my favorite video NLE.

They're big enough to push for something better. This would help the FOSS people, if VP8 is really open sourced at Google I/O soon, and really not patent entangled. I mean, just knowing how Apple and MS will hate that should be incentive enough at Google.

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