And the fallout from Google’s decision to drop H.264 support from its Chrome web browser continues to fall. Opera’s Haavard – speaking on his own behalf – slammed the article which appeared on Ars Technica earlier today, while Micrsoft’s Tim Sneath likened Google’s move to the president of the United States banning English in favour of Esperanto. Also within, a rant (there’s no other word for it) about the disrespect displayed by H.264 proponents towards the very open source community that saved and invigorated the web.
We already featured Peter Bright’s article in the news elsewhere column to the right, and I originally planned to write a thorough response to it. In my opinion – and judging by the comments at Ars, I wasn’t alone – it was a very poorly written article, full of disingenuous remarks and blatant twisting of facts. Luckily, thanks to Haavard, I don’t have to.
Then there’s this Tim Sneath, the head of ‘Windows and web evangelism for Microsoft’, whatever that means. He likens Google’s move to the president of the United States banning English in favour of Esperanto, which, of course, makes about as much sense as gobble hikky hikky daf gorot. If this is indeed somewhat reflective of Microsoft’s stance in this matter, than the company is even more out of touch with the web than we already knew.
There are still a few things I’d like to add, most importantly the apparent hypocrisy displayed by many of the more vocal H.264 proponents. My biggest gripe – one that actually slightly infuriates me – is that of the parallel between Internet Explorer 6 and H.264.
When Firefox was gaining popularity, it also faced an uphill battle against Internet Explorer’s popularity. Many people who claimed to be of a practical nature, stated that supporting Firefox was nonsensical, since Internet Explorer was the de-facto standard, and by coding your website to at least work on IE, you’d be covering the web more than enough.
Geeks railed against this mentality. Web standards were important, and IE ignored those to a great degree, while Firefox adhered to them – this way, IE hindered the development of a standards-based web. The people who rallied against coding for Firefox sound suspiciously like the people currently promoting H.264: why code for anything else than H.264 when it is the de-facto standard? Why think of the open source world (which is the very motor of much of the web as you see it today) from which we profited so much?
As anyone reading OSNews regularly can attest, I’m no die-hard open source fanatic. However, die-hard or no, it is undeniable that without the vigour of the open source community, the development of the web would have been a lot slower. Firefox is the single-biggest thing to have happened to the web, and now that the Apples and Microsofts of this world have reaped the benefits of Mozilla’s hard work, we should just kick them to the curb?
To me, demanding they pay up millions of dollars per year just to throw away the very ideals that made the web what it is today feels a lot like breaking the arms of the paramedic who saved your life only moments ago.
I’m rarely this passionate about a subject related to technology. Most of the time, I try to bring a light tone to OSNews’ subjects, to bring some much-needed glitter and unicorns to this rather dry industry. However, when it comes to the web, we’re dealing with so much more than just ones and zeros. The web is probably on the same level of importance to the development of human kind as the printing press before it, and handing over the video aspect of it to a known patent troll is one of the most monumentally stupid things to possibly happen to the web.
The web is changing the very world around us, whether it is as a tool for oppressed people to organise themselves, or for westerners to question and hold accountable their governments. The web is not owned by any one of us – not by governments, not by Apple, not by Google, and most certainly not by the MPEG-LA.
Let’s not forget, Mr Gruber, that without the web and open source, the resurgence of your precious company probably would not have taken place. Let’s not forget, Mr Bright, that without the impact Firefox has had on the web, the site you write for would probably load even slower. It is thanks to the open source Firefox that the web is what it is today, and it’s thanks to the open source khtml that the mobile web is what is today. Do not forget that.
In the end, it appears this discussion will be moot. Within a few months, browsers able to display H.264 video will be in the minority, while browsers able to play WebM will make up the majority. With VP8 support coming to Flash later this year, and YouTube inevitably defaulting to WebM, the open source world and Opera will get HTML5 video with WebM. Internet Explorer and Safari users can either install the WebM codec, or enjoy VP8 wrapped in Flash, which, in the case of Safari, is delightfully ironic (and I’m sure a side-effect Google is not too unhappy with).
The lines have been drawn, and at least on the web, H.264 is going to lose.