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The Ambiguity of "Open" and VP8 Vs. H.264 493

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the devil-in-the-details dept.
An anonymous reader writes "With all the talk about WebM and H.264, how the move might be a step backwards for openness, and Google's intention to add 'plugins' for IE9 and Safari to support WebM, this article attempts to clear misconceptions about the VP8 and H.264 codecs and how browsers render video. Firefox, Opera and Google rely on their own media frameworks to decode video, whereas IE9 and Safari will hand over video processing to the operating system (Windows Media Player or QuickTime), the need for the web to establish a baseline codec for encoding videos, and how the Flash player is proprietary, but implementation and usage remain royalty free."
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The Ambiguity of "Open" and VP8 Vs. H.264

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  • H.264s development was open? I mean really that is just a bit of a reach.

    So I disagree with everything in this but one thing.

    The correct way to implement video is to used the OS provided framework. Support EVERYTHING the OS can support as far as formats goes. It really is the the correct and most flexible way to do things. While I support the idea of WebM it will cause no end to problems if Apple, RIM, Nokia, and Palm/HP do not support it.

    • by Desler (1608317) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:48PM (#34906330)

      H.264s development was open? I mean really that is just a bit of a reach.

      Far more so than VP8's development was until last May. At least with H.264 it was being developed between different companies and industry groups whereas VP8 was a closed-source, proprietary codec developed by a two-bit company that almost no consumer before Google's buy out had every heard of.

      • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:59PM (#34906500) Homepage Journal

        Really? Can you contribute code to H.264? Can you use the spec in your own software and publish it with out a large amount of jumping through hoops?
        Really H.264 may have been public but I would not call it open. WebM is now what I would consider to be open as is Theora and Dirac http://diracvideo.org/ [diracvideo.org] .
        So no I do not feel that H.254 meets the definition of open as far as development goes.
        So yes it really is a bit of a reach IMHO.

        • by Desler (1608317) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:05PM (#34906578)

          Really?

          Yes, really. Before Google opened the code in May of last year, On2 was developing VP8 as a closed-source proprietary codec since 2008. H.264 on the other hand was developed by the ISO standards board and a whole host of companies in it's development. Like all ISO standards one could get access to the full spec. Such a thing was impossible for the first 2.5 years of VP8's life.

          Really H.264 may have been public but I would not call it open.

          Can you use the spec in your own software and publish it with out a large amount of jumping through hoops?

          Sure, x264 developers have been doing so for the better part of 6 years.

          It's no less open than most of the other standards which are called "open".

          So no I do not feel that H.254 meets the definition of open as far as development goes.

          And neither was VP8 until 7 months ago when it was a completely closed-source codec.

          • by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:09PM (#34906646) Homepage Journal

            "And neither was VP8 until 7 months ago when it was a completely closed-source codec."
            Well then this post would have been right 7 months ago. But that was seven months ago and this is now.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Desler (1608317)

              And that's why I said:

              Far more so than VP8's development was until last May

              Secondly, H.264 is no more "closed" than the supposed "open" standards such as ISO C++ with statements like:

              Can you contribute code to H.264?

              To turn it around, can YOU contribute to the C++ ISO standard? Highly unlikely just like it's highly unlikely that most people could contribute to the H.264 ISO standard. So by this logic C++ is also a "closed" standard, no?

              • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:32PM (#34907040)

                The C++ standard I can make a compiler for without paying anyone. It is not a burden to entry like h.264 is.

                The ISO stopped meaning anything the minute they approved the MS "open" formats.

              • by segedunum (883035)

                Secondly, H.264 is no more "closed" than the supposed "open" standards such as ISO C++ with statements like:

                I fail to understand the comparison, unless my C++ program is going to be royalty encumbered because I've used it?

                I can't believe people are being this thick after all the dicussion on the matter.

              • by Lehk228 (705449)
                h.264 is open as in "open your damn wallet"
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by m50d (797211)
              Even if you had a time machine, you still couldn't contribute anything to the VP8 "standard" - it was developed entirely by that single company, and now the bitstream has been fixed and google are not accepting improvements or even obvious bugfixes. Wheras h264 was a real ISO standard - everyone was welcome to speak (though of course not necessarily be listened to) in the standardization discussions, and every country got to vote.
          • H.264 - I think you could use the word "transparent" in relation to its development process, or "consensus" in regards to the attitudes from different companies regarding it (at least, until VP8 came to town), but "open"? I don't think it stands up to any of the FOSS definitions of "open".
            VP8 - maybe it wasn't open 7 months ago, but it is now.

            • by Desler (1608317) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:16PM (#34906760)

              I don't think it stands up to any of the FOSS definitions of "open".

              And the same could be said about the C++ and ODF standards yet those are called "open" standards by the same people talking about how H.264 is "closed".

              VP8 - maybe it wasn't open 7 months ago, but it is now.

              Is it really? Can any individual really have any meaningful say in the direction of how the VP8 codec is developed unless you work at Google? Sure they've given the source out but you'll have no more say in how the spec develops than you would for the H.264 standard.

              • by Xtifr (1323)

                And the same could be said about the C++ and ODF standards yet those are called "open" standards by the same people talking about how H.264 is "closed".

                That's because those standards aren't patent-encumbered. I mean, duh!

                Is it really? Can any individual really have any meaningful say in the direction of how the VP8 codec is developed unless you work at Google?

                Probably. Why not? You might as well complain that Apache is under the control of the Apache Foundation or GCC is under the control of the Free Software Foundation. Or X11 under the control of Xfree86--oh wait.... Try contributing to Linux without the help and stewardship of the current maintainers and see how far you get.

                At the moment, everyone (including, e.g. Debian) uses Google's implementation, but if Google stumbles, there's abso

          • by Nemyst (1383049) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:30PM (#34907014) Homepage

            We are talking about now, though. I agree that H.264 is an open standard and VP8 was a closed one, but WebM is an open standard now and this is what should really matter at this point.

            The critical difference between the two formats now is that one is royalty free and one is temporarily royalty free - in other words, we have no idea how H.264 could evolve. Maybe it'll stay royalty free forever, which would make it an interesting alternative. Maybe it will not, though, and that could be a potential disaster for video on the web - or just a thorn in the side of Google and other big video sites.

            The big debate therefore is: do we stay with a widely adopted, high performance format that may behave like a Damocles sword, or do we switch now for what is currently an inferior but safer alternative?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Kalriath (849904)

              The critical difference between the two formats now is that one is royalty free and one is temporarily royalty free - in other words, we have no idea how H.264 could evolve. Maybe it'll stay royalty free forever, which would make it an interesting alternative. Maybe it will not, though, and that could be a potential disaster for video on the web - or just a thorn in the side of Google and other big video sites.

              The problem, of course, is we don't know whether VP8 will stay royalty free either with the patent threats hanging over it. And with Google refusing to indemnify users of the spec, and refusing to take legal action to get a legal opinion (from a court - what are those called?) that it violates no patents, one can't be sure whether MPEG-LA's rumbling has any basis in fact.

              • by msauve (701917) on Monday January 17, 2011 @04:06PM (#34908330)
                Likewise, there's no assurance that if you license H.264, you won't have to pay additional patent royalties in the future. And, you get no patent indemnification from MPEG-LA, either. Would you rather pay to take a risk, or not pay to take a risk?

                Q: Are all AVC essential patents included?
                A: No assurance is or can be made that the License includes every essential patent. The purpose of the License is to offer a convenient licensing alternative to everyone on the same terms and to include as much essential intellectual property as possible for their convenience. Participation in the License is voluntary on the part of essential patent holders, however.

                - AVC/H.264 FAQ [mpegla.com]

              • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Monday January 17, 2011 @04:08PM (#34908364)

                The problem, of course, is we don't know whether VP8 will stay royalty free either with the patent threats hanging over it.

                Which specific patent threats? I'm not talking bullshit random "there might be a patent threat somewhere hiding under the wardrobe" patent threats. I'm talking threats with a patent number and a "you are infringing, pay up or else" letter attached to them.

                Let me make a patent "threat". There might be a secret H.264 patent that which I might have heard of which which will maybe suddenly come to life next year. If you don't pay me a million Euros for every device you have I might not use my (possibly existing or possibly not existing) influence to divert this threat that may (or may not) appear later.

                Anybody can do that. If you fail to specifically notify someone who has put a public implementation out for free, what they have done wrong you aren't fulfilling your duties as a patent holder wanting to collect royalties.

                And with Google refusing to indemnify users of the spec, and refusing to take legal action to get a legal opinion (from a court - what are those called?) that it violates no patents, one can't be sure whether MPEG-LA's rumbling has any basis in fact.

                Strangely enough the MPEG-LA also provides no indemnification and has failed to "legal action to get a legal opinion". What Google provides, for free, is a license for all patents known to be used in the WebM standard, exactly the same as the MPEG-LA charges for.

                What is interesting is; what is the source for your ideas? Where did you even get the idea that Google is "refusing to take legal action"? It's impossible to prove a negative and it's impossible to take action against widespread innuenduo. No judge will grant an open statement that "no patents are infringed". At best they could act to say "patent number XYZ was not infringed. You should look over that source agan and see if it's not trying to mislead you over a bunch of other things.

          • by HermMunster (972336) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:36PM (#34907096)

            He was being rhetorical when he asked "really?".

            I think h.264 has done a great job for the web. It's provided us with high quality video on demand. It's helped ensure our hardware also has high quality video.

            VP8 on the other hand, regardless of its' roots is meant to help break a lock on the industry, a lock that h.264 has gained. It's a lock that must be broken. Having choice is really all that matters even if it sets things back once in a while. Often times industries take 2 steps forward and 1 step back.

            Technically, this is not a huge change. It isn't an instant change. If the industry can implement this in the web and other software products, as well as hardware, then so be it. If both need to be supported then so be it. It's not unheard of and not altogether uncommon.

            The goal is to give choice and to ensure that the consumer isn't locked into one product, that, in being so, denies them choice and increases their costs.

            So, so be it. Nothing we do here in debate will change the reality of the situation. Google's made a choice that it feels is best to ensure that things are open and inexpensive.

            Time to move forward.

        • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:20PM (#34906828) Journal

          Can you contribute code to H.264?

          The question does not make sense. It's like asking 'can you contribute code to HTML?' H.264 is a standard, not an implementation. The license of various implementations is independent of the way in which the standard was developed.

          H.264 was developed jointly the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) and the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). These groups solicited contributions from anyone. If you wanted to contribute something to the spec, you could. There was a lot of political stuff as well, with a few things being added to the spec just so that companies could get one of their patents in.

          In contrast, VP8 was developed in private by On2 and dumped on the public by Google. The x.264 developers raised some issues with the spec, but were told that the format was frozen and would not be modified. Theora and Dirac are both frozen now, but they had an open development process and modified the bitstream format several times based on feedback from external groups.

          So, when you are talking about the process for developing the spec, Theora, Dirac, and H.264 were all open. When you are talking about using the spec, Theora, Dirac, and VP8 are all open.

          • by Desler (1608317) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:23PM (#34906888)

            Thank you. Someone finally understands what I'm saying. The problem is that so many other standards that work in the exact same way that H.264 did are referred to as "open" yet H.264 is demonized as being "closed" despite there being little to no difference in the way both standards were developed.

            • by Fiduciary (1605801) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:46PM (#34907258)

              I would say the difference between them is patent encumbrance. Sure you can use h.264 if you're a smelly basement dwelling open source fanatic, but commercial usage is limited by patent licensing and royalties.

              • by vijayiyer (728590) on Monday January 17, 2011 @05:15PM (#34908994)

                Yet, oddly, it is the smelly basement dwelling open source fanatics who are complaining most about H.264. The others out there who really have a product to sell realize the licensing fees are really minimal.

              • by toriver (11308) on Monday January 17, 2011 @05:20PM (#34909036)

                Patents also encumber USB and HDMI, I haven't seen Google on the barricades against those technologies used in Android phones and Google TVs respectively.

                • by butlerm (3112)

                  Patents also encumber USB and HDMI

                  No software patents, apparently. Is USB support in the Linux kernel patent encumbered? Is Intel or any other USB Implementers Forum member threatening to sue?

                  Hardware patents, while perhaps counterproductive, are a much less serious threat to open standards than software patents are. For one thing, they tend to be orders of magnitude less vague. For another, hardware cannot economically be distributed for free. Third, the entire structure of the open Internet does not dep

            • by CastrTroy (595695)
              I think the only problem with H.264 is that I even though I can access the open spec, I can't go and write my own encoder/decoder and sell it without paying royalties to someone. The same can't be said for HTML, C++ and all the other examples mentioned in the comments. Sure, there are some open source implementation of H.264, but they are either illegal (in some jurisdictions), or in a legal grey area, depending on who you talk to. I personally would prefer to be using H.264, because it is a superior form
      • by Carewolf (581105)

        Far more so than VP8's development

        It is just another example of doublespeak. You are redefining words but focusing on an irrelevant part of the definition.

        You might as well argue that Monarchy is more open than Democracy, because how the "election" is made is more open in how public and predicable it is, everyone can access the result in advance, where the the democratic process is done in secret in small boxes and is unpredictable.

        While you could technically be right, you are still distorting the truth, an

        • by Desler (1608317)

          It is just another example of doublespeak. You are redefining words but focusing on an irrelevant part of the definition.

          I'm not redefining anything. You've just quote mined my post to attack it. Up until Google open source VP8 it was a proprietary, closed sourced standard. H.264 was an "open" ISO standard in the same vein as how C++ is an "open" ISO standard.

          While you could technically be right, you are still distorting the truth, and that, to me, is bad part of lying.

          What part of the truth am I distorting? H.264 was developed during the ISO process by the input of lots of companies and industry people and had an openly published spec. VP8 had no public spec, was completely closed source and had all development driven by one comp

          • by Carewolf (581105) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:26PM (#34906938) Homepage

            But that is in the past, by focusing on it now, you are making it look like (in fact making the argument) that H.264 is more open, through focus on and old irrelevant fact, but ignoring another definition of the word open where WebM is much more open than H.264 will ever be.

            Let's take this:
            * According to one aspect H.264 was once more open, but this aspect applies to the past.
            * According to another aspect WebM is much more open, and this applies today.

            I am not saying you are wrong, you are in fact right, but you are distorting the debate through pedantic and irrelevant details.

            Now you didn't start this doublespeak, but I can only think the person who did, was either doing so deliberately or is in serious denial.

            • by Desler (1608317)

              But that is in the past, by focusing on it now, you are making it look like (in fact making the argument) that H.264 is more open,

              In many ways it still is. H.264 is an ISO standard in which more than one company has say in how the spec is managed. VP8 is still highly controlled by Google.

              through focus on and old irrelevant fact, but ignoring another definition of the word open where WebM is much more open than H.264 will ever be.

              It's not all that irrelevant since if one is to call H.264 "closed" by the very same standard one has to call C++ "closed" as well.

              * According to one aspect H.264 was once more open, but this aspect applies to the past.

              No, H.264 is still an open ISO standard. This has not changed.

              * According to another aspect WebM is much more open, and this applies today.

              It's more "open" with respects to patents, but the development is still highly centralized within Google so in many cases it is still far more "closed".

              I am not saying you are wrong, you are in fact right, but you are distorting the debate through pedantic and irrelevant details.

              I'm n

            • by Dahamma (304068) on Monday January 17, 2011 @04:05PM (#34908320)

              You are confusing the standards with their implementations.

              All of these standards are now frozen, so no one can contribute to them. H.264 was open during its design, and VP8 was closed (and suggestions for improvement were ignored when the spec and reference implementation was made available). Since they are both frozen, I'd say H.264 spec was and is more open *as a standard*.

              Now, as far as implementations go, it's a different story (though still not as cut and dried as people claim). VP8/WebM is now open source, great And x264 is a GPL implementation of H.264, so it is just as "open". The difference all comes down to licensing - a number of patents are required to implement the H.264 standard, so anyone who implements it and wants to use it in a country that recognizes those patents has to pay licensing fees or risk being sued.

              That last bit definitely makes VP8 more attractive to people who don't want to pay license fees. So, call it "more expensive to use", "patent encumbered", or some other more descriptive term. But just throwing around the vague concept of "open" without the real context doesn't help the discussion...

      • Far more so than VP8's development was until last May. At least with H.264 it was being developed between different companies and industry groups whereas VP8 was a closed-source, proprietary codec developed by a two-bit company that almost no consumer before Google's buy out had every heard of.

        I beg to differ.. On2 Technologies was at the very least an 8bit company and probably even a 16 and 32 bit company at times.. thank you very much..

    • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:53PM (#34906394)

      Unfortunately, that means you don't get H.264 on Linux as its a proprietary codec that requires some form of (paid) licencing.

      I mean, Firefox doesn't support H.264, but Microsoft will happily provide you with the capability of playing H.264 in firefox using a driver that leverages the OS capability... as long as you're running it on Windows.

      I think you're partly right though, all the codecs should be implemented as drivers (or similar) and then you are technically using the OS-provided capability, once the correct codec is installed. But its not like the OS is providing the drivers directly, you'll haver to go get them from somewhere. As WebM is free, codecs for it will be freely available for all OSs.

      I guess the problem comes for those OSs that are locked down, but then you'er always on to a loser - if Apple only supports H.264 on iPhone and Microsoft only supports (say) H.265 on WP7, and neither allows you to upgrade the video support, then you will never get a video to play universally.

      At least there's no excuse for not supporting WebM by all manufacturers, and any who try to give one will quickly be found out by consumers.

      As an analogy - look at the non-free 'internets', Microsoft tried to lock you into MSN, and AOL tried similarly. Look where they are now.

      • by Desler (1608317)

        Microsoft only supports (say) H.265 on WP7, and neither allows you to upgrade the video support, then you will never get a video to play universally.

        Wrong. IE9 natively supports only H.264 but will support playing back videos using other codecs by using the OS multimedia framework and installed codecs. This will allow it to play VP8, Theora, etc.

        • by jgagnon (1663075)

          But isn't that whole "native support" issue what caused this whole thing to explode? Google dropped "native" (in the browser) support for H.264.

          • by Desler (1608317)

            Yes, because Chrome doesn't go to the OS's multimedia framework to play codecs it doesn't support natively. IE9, on the other hand, will.

    • by poetmatt (793785)

      framework support only works for that OS.

      that is the wrong way to do it, for that exact reason.

      can you do the same things in firefox/chrome on every OS? yes, you can. that's the point.

      • by Desler (1608317)

        framework support only works for that OS.

        Sure, in the world in which cross-platform multimedia frameworks don't exist. Fortunately we don't live in such a world.

  • by basotl (808388) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:46PM (#34906294)
    "Firefox, Opera and Chrome" Since it appears that sentence was directed at browsers.
  • What I care about (Score:5, Insightful)

    by magamiako1 (1026318) on Monday January 17, 2011 @01:49PM (#34906342)
    The only thing that concerns me about the web video format is that it needs to be unencumbered by royalties or other licensing. If I want to make a video, encode it, sell it, make ads off of a website, get 100 or 100,000 visitors, I should damn well be able to do that without having to pay a dime to anyone for the ability to make my own god damn videos--unless I optionally choose.

    By using h.264, you pretty much guarantee that *someone* *somewhere* is paying for it. Could you imagine if say, the "David After Dentist" kid had to pay tons and tons of royalties to the MPAA for a video they created simply because they used the h.264 container format? To even conceive such a thing is such bullshit that this should absolutely be a non-issue.

    Though this will never happen, the US government should claim eminent domain on all patents involving the h.264 technology, and then dare the large companies to make a move. After all, we're the ones with the guns.
    • by Kenshin (43036)

      I care if it has hardware-based acceleration, because I don't do everything on a beefy desktop. H.264 is supported in hardware on billions of devices. WebM is supported on absolutely no devices.

      • If VP8 became the dominant codec used on the internet, the hardware acceleration will follow very quickly.
        • by Desler (1608317)

          If VP8 became the dominant codec used on the internet, the hardware acceleration will follow very quickly.

          So basically everyone will be forced to upgrade their phones and computers because Google wants to force ANOTHER codec on the web?

          • Not that I know the specifics, but I would imagine that in the mean time there could be some wrappers created that would at least offer some hardware acceleration benefit to the format. With the upgrade momentum of smartphones, I suspect this would be a non-issue.

            Let me put it in plain terms here: We've all been through this before--many times. It's nothing new, and won't stop with h.264 or any other codec. When a new technology comes out, you'll eventually need to upgrade.
      • by hitmark (640295)

        And H264 needs hardware acceleration because the math involved taxes even a high end CPU...

    • by Tharsman (1364603)

      The only thing that concerns me about the web video format is that it needs to be unencumbered by royalties or other licensing. If I want to make a video, encode it, sell it, make ads off of a website, get 100 or 100,000 visitors, I should damn well be able to do that without having to pay a dime to anyone for the ability to make my own god damn videos--unless I optionally choose.

      By killing h.264 support all together, though, you are killing the "choose" keyword. Google announced they are going to release WebM plugins for Safari and IE, that is a good way to go. But killing h.264 in their product as a mean of strong-arm the entire industry to go their way... well, its something Microsoft would had done in the late 90's. Give choice, dont force. No matter how noble the intentions, forcing a choice is never a noble act.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kilrah_il (1692978)

      You don't have the right to use a technology developed by someone else (e.g. H.264) without paying. It's nice if you have such an option and I understand why you would prefer it, but there is no inherent right to it.
      Arguments like yours are what sometimes weaken the FOSS movement. People who do not understand what FOSS is all about think it is full of whiny people who want to get everything for free. Guess what? You (me, everybody) don't deserve to get a video codec for free. There are some things that we d

      • by jedidiah (1196) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:35PM (#34907078) Homepage

        > You don't have the right to use a technology developed by someone else (e.g. H.264) without paying.

        Well then, put a fork in it because it's done. Google has the right idea.

        h264 should be officially killed as a web standard because it is payware.

        Find something else to standardize on or get the relevant patents nullified.

        The whole lot of them should be emminent domained over this sort of rambus nonsense.

      • Re:What I care about (Score:5, Interesting)

        by cgenman (325138) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:57PM (#34907408) Homepage

        I think you missed the part where he said "unless I optionally choose." When someone buys a camera, and buys a software system that supports it, they expect that they own the chain and what they create with it. Since we're talking about the standardization of the tag in HTML 5 to H.264, we are talking about essentially forcing people into a royalty-based production chain. Already, there is the problem of H.264 being standard on many video cameras, and requiring undisclosed (at the time of purchase) royalty payments for wedding videographers, garage music video makers, and other semi-pro video producers.

        It's an unexpected tax. If we're creating a web standard for an open and widely available internet, it should also be as unexpected-tax free as possible.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by debrain (29228)

        You don't have the right to use a technology developed by someone else (e.g. H.264) without paying. It's nice if you have such an option and I understand why you would prefer it, but there is no inherent right to it.
        Arguments like yours are what sometimes weaken the FOSS movement. People who do not understand what FOSS is all about think it is full of whiny people who want to get everything for free. Guess what? You (me, everybody) don't deserve to get a video codec for free. There are some things that we deserve to get for free, but video codecs are not one of them.

        Sir —

        To preface, I suggest you may wish to read Lawrence Lessig's Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity [wikipedia.org], which I believe supports the following statements.

        With respect, your statements that one does not have an inherent right to use a technology as the starting point for an analysis is not correct, from a legal and policy perspective, in a free and democratic society.

        In a free culture everyone has an inherent right to do anything, subject to the restrictions imposed and enforced by way of

        • Sir,
          Thank you very much for your enlightening response. I do not think your point was pedantic, and I very much enjoyed reading what you bothered to write.
          I agree that in a way, I have mixed up the concepts. Yes, we have a right to do whatever we want, with those liberties restricted by laws enacted by our ruling body (be it a dictatorship, an elected congress or whatnot).
          Perhaps my opinion should have been better phrased this way: By joining a society (e.g. USA), we have agreed to relinquish several rights

      • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday January 17, 2011 @03:09PM (#34907592)

        You don't have the right to use a technology developed by someone else (e.g. H.264) without paying. It's nice if you have such an option and I understand why you would prefer it, but there is no inherent right to it.

        No, actually, it is the other way around: there is no inherent right to demand payment for your ideas. Patents are nothing more than a legal construct designed to encourage innovation, and patents expire for that very reason: they are artificial and deprive people of the natural right to implement what they know (i.e. the patented the material, which they may read). Furthermore, mathematics cannot be patented, and the legal basis for software patents (which amount to patents on mathematics, like it or not) is extremely shaky, and yes, you do have a right to use someone's mathematical discoveries without paying them (unless they call it an algorithm and get a patent on it, in which case you cannot exercise your right for 20 years).

        Seriously, this bizarre notion that you have a natural right to forbid other people from using your ideas needs to be dropped. Patents are not a natural right; if they were, they could not expire, any more than your rights to live or speak freely can expire.

    • Re:What I care about (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:09PM (#34906642)

      MPEG-LA has a real quandary here. Imagine, for a moment, that you're running the MPEG-LA business, and think about the devices that code and (more importantly) decode video. Your job is to create as many revenue streams as possible. In order to do this, you want your encoder used by all content producers, but more importantly, the content producers need an audience, so you want your *decoder* used by all consumers.

      Furthermore, you're smart enough to realize that you want royalties on every *hardware* device (think cellphones, DVD players, etc.) that is shipped with h.264, and perhaps every copy of OS X and Windows. You also realize that there is zero money to be made from including h.264 n Firefox/etc, because Firefox generates no revenue. In fact, you *want* h.264 used in Firefox, Chrome, etc., just because it increases the audience size. So you sit down to rewrite the royalty/licensing structures to specifically allow free browsers to implement h.264 for free, but then you stop. Why? Because you've just realized that these little hardware devices (or even DVD players, these days) can incorporate Firefox/Chrome/etc. into their software stack and thereby skirt any royalty structure you've just set up for your hardware devices.

      Maybe it's because I'm not a lawyer, but I can't conceive of any legal language that would allow MPEG-LA to distinguish between browser+h.264 on computer vs. browser+h.264 on cellphones/DVD players/whatever devices comes along in the future.

    • by terjeber (856226)

      the US government should claim eminent domain on all patents involving the h.264 technology

      But Mr. Stalin, I thought you were dead. Apparently not.

      • Last time I checked, this is a right granted in the US Constitution.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eminent_domain

        In this case, if the US government were to seize the h.264 property and providing just compensation (I would imagine would be somewhat less the cost of what we're spending on these wars) to the creators, then put it into the public use--then we very well can do it.
  • It's frustrating that only the OS-provided solutions (Safari and IE) are doing this right by handing it off to the OS. The notion that your browser needs to reimplement everything, including video rendering, is what leads to the bloatware we have today. The whole point of having an OS is to have a common framework and API layer that all applications hosted on it can access. Instead, Firefox, Chrome and Opera are all re-developing their own video rendering, for each platform they exist on, AND each one needs to write its own video-card accelerator layers for each platform it exists on.

    • by Carewolf (581105)

      The QtWebkit based browsers and KHTML also hands it off the OS (through Phonon and/or GStreamer).

    • So basically what you're saying is that having one supported format that web developers can rely on being supported, regardless of platform, is a bad thing?
    • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7 @ c o rnell.edu> on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:18PM (#34906796) Homepage

      A good point here - Google has a lot of "green" initiatives (reduced-power computing, huge solar cell farms on their roof, etc.)

      This approach is NOT a "green" approach - a "green" approach is one that makes use of the large amount of hardware acceleration infrastructure now deployed for the existing standard codecs.

      WebM/VP8 will force a non-accelerated CPU-only rendering path on ALL existing hardware. This eats power compared to hardware acceleration. (Look at how well most Android devices handle H.264 thanks to hardware accelerated decoding.)

      Google is being hypocritical and inconsistent here. Great summary at http://daringfireball.net/2011/01/simple_questions [daringfireball.net] - Key here is, HTML5 was supposed to at least partially break Adobe's stranglehold on the web by moving some content away from Flash. Google just killed any hope of that - They talk about supporting open codecs, but they still bundle Adobe Flash (which includes H.264 support) with Chrome?

      As a result of this mess, content providers are starting to shy away from HTML5 and stick with what "just works" (for the most part) - SmugMug was starting to consider HTML5, but Google's latest decision has them moving back to Flash.

      • They're comming (Score:4, Insightful)

        by pavon (30274) on Monday January 17, 2011 @05:23PM (#34909076)

        Over 20 hardware manufacturers are working on WebM hardware implementations, including Broadcom and Qualcomm, the two biggest chipset makers for mobile devices. When H.264 was standardized, all computer implementations were done in software as well. The hardware acceleration came later. Three years ago, HD-DVD and BluRay war was still undecided, and smartphones that played streaming video all but non-existent. Who knows how much inroads WebM could make in the next three years.

        SmugMug was starting to consider HTML5, but Google's latest decision has them moving back to Flash.

        Firefox and Opera don't support H.264 either, and they have much greater market share than Google. So if this announcement changes anyone's plans, they obviously hadn't thought them through very well to begin with. Either you support two formats for the next several years until everything is sorted out, or you exclude a large portion of your audience. This is a draft standard we are talking about. You should expect early adopter issues.

      • by butlerm (3112)

        WebM/VP8 will force a non-accelerated CPU-only rendering path on ALL existing hardware

        So what? Tomorrow this will change. The future of the open Internet is of somewhat more consequence than battery usage over the next thirty six months, especially considering we are talking about a HTML tag for which support isn't yet widely deployed in the first place.

        If battery usage is such a consideration, just stick with "evil empire" codecs like H.264 and pseudo standards like Flash in the interim. As has been ment

  • by mbone (558574) on Monday January 17, 2011 @02:02PM (#34906542)

    There are open standards, and open source, and they are not the same. The IETF, for example (subject to yesterdays Birthday Article [slashdot.org]) deals with open standards. Linux, by contrast, is open source.

    An open standard means that no one party controls the generation of the standard, and that the standard is openly available. Generally, open standards are developed by SDOs (Standards Defining Organizations, such as the IETF or the W3C). As a general rule "anyone" can participate in their creation (but this may require that you or your company be a member of some organization or have some other qualifications). Many open standards have patent encumbrances. Typically, SDOs seek RAND [wikipedia.org] (Reasonable and NonDiscriminatory) licensing terms; some even require a particular patent licensing policy as a condition for participation. The IETF, however, requires disclosure [ietf.org] and seeks, but does not strictly require, RAND terms. While an open standard may have some code associated with it, typically the entire point of an open standard is to allow you to go off and write your own code, generally under whatever code license you want. This is how the Internet was developed.

    Open source means that the source is licensed by GPL [opensource.org] or BSD> [opensource.org] or some similar licensing. Now, generally open source means that the code is available, but in practice many open source projects are more or less closed to outside participation, and they frequently do not provide documentation sufficient to replicate what they are doing.

    • by ceeam (39911)

      And generally speaking Open Standards are even more important than Open Source. Especially in the long run.

  • Spawning up some WMP or Quicktime in the browser sounds like fun..not.
  • For years Slashdot seems to have yearned for a wider adoption of Vorbis and Theora. Theora didn't quite cut it, so Google replaced it with VP8, and has thrown its weight (and its patent portfolio) behind Vorbis as well. But since it's Google, now Slashdot seems to support a royalty and patent encumbered h264 instead of pining for WebM (which is VP8 + Vorbis wrapped into a Matroska container) to win, for which there's a non-exclusive, perpetual, royalty free license on everything, including fucking _ASIC des

    • I suspect the people responding right now are the same trolls that are starting to learn to use the internet in recent years. We've seen more and more of them on other sites I visit, and they don't understand what's really going on.
  • Yeah I'd totally hit some of that hot piece of ass Apple is flaunting in Main road.

    Oh wait I got confused. They are utilising an upgraded processor in their upcoming iPhone refresh.

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