Open letter to Microsoft regarding video on the Web

Dear Microsoft:

I haven't exactly cut you a lot of slack in my blog through the years. I have repeatedly criticized you for the damage I feel that you have done to the Web. But while you have traditionally been known for closed and proprietary solutions, lately you have been speaking more and more frequently and vocally about the importance of interoperability on the Web.

And today you might just have a chance to make up for your past wrongs. You have a unique opportunity to show that you are serious about interoperability and open standards!

As you may know, there is a "war" being waged about video on the Web. Some are promoting the closed, patent-encumbered H.264 codec as the best codec for the Web, while others believe that the basic building blocks of the Web should be free and open, and therefore promote Ogg Theora as the "default" codec for HTML5 VIDEO.

Currently, HTML5-capable browsers with Theora support make up a much bigger share of the market than the browsers that support H.264, but that will change if you release Internet Explorer with support for H.264 rather than Theora.

If you were to support Theora as the video codec of choice in Internet Explorer, it would be a bombshell which would not only give a huge boost for open Web technologies, but you could be seen as a champion of open standards, and an open Web.

I know you are a patent licensor in the MPEG LA, and this would actually make your actions even more powerful and meaningful. You could show just how serious you are about interoperability on the Web by supporting the free and open codec rather than the one that would best suit your short-term interests.

This is a unique opportunity for you to win back the hearts and minds of people who might have otherwise dismissed you as carrying on with "business as usual".

Are you up for it?

-Haavard

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181 thoughts on “Open letter to Microsoft regarding video on the Web

  1. This one seems to be making rounds around the net:

    All video codecs are covered by patents. A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other "open source" codecs now. Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn't mean or guarantee that it doesn't infringe on others patents.http://hugoroy.eu/jobs-os.php

    Because Steve Jobs said it, will it carry more weight than if Apple or Nokia had said it? I wonder what this will mean for Google.

  2. Patent nonsense: Exactly feasible. Mere legal bills alone would spell trouble for a small player like the Theora working group.Paranoia: Well Eugenia is a little goddamn crazy in this piece. The problem with MPEG-LA's posture is that some of their patents may fail on obviousness. There are also precedents against far-reaching EULA's (at least in some countries).

  3. That lady also makes false claims like "Since we know for a fact that x264 is breaking the MPEG-LA license agreements (because their devs didn't license it with MPEG-LA)". Which simply isn't true.

  4. This whole discussion is just sad. Browsers should be able to add additional codecs just like videoplayers can.

  5. The problem is that whole cross-platform thing. Browser makers prefer control over their own HTML5 playback, for reason of player controls and a universal experience. But they should not be hamstrung on the matter of proprietary/non-proprietary. Browser users want it to "just work", and there will be hell when it does not.

  6. Originally posted by hellspork:

    and there will be hell when it does not

    Well, Youtube won't work on Firefox and Opera but Vimeo and Wikipedia media won't work on IE, Safari or Chrome. *predicts a mess*

  7. Vimeo will work on IE, Safari, and Chrome since it uses H.264. In fact, it won't work in Opera or Firefox without flash. Also I don't think people care as much about videos on Wikipedia.

  8. Originally posted by Astrophizz:

    since it uses H.264

    Oops, I messed Vimeo with Dailymotion.

  9. Originally posted by hellspork:

    But they should not be hamstrung on the matter of proprietary/non-proprietary.

    Yes they should. Anyone who is not a complete moron knows that closed crap like H264 will only ruin the web. IE6 all over again.The web is supposed to be FREE and OPEN. If you don't want that, go somewhere else.

  10. Um, huge difference. Microsoft designed private software models for presenting HTML/CSS data. Microsoft then kept those models close to its heart, and tried to sue other software vendors if they managed to render a page that looked "right", because obviously they must have violated algorithmic patents to do so. A brick-stupid, cocked-up idea.h.264 has an openly published specification, reference-coded files to check your compatibility, and a licensing structure that obviates WHATEVER code you've written as long as it works correctly (provided you own a license). On a global scale, h.264 is even a fairly cheap license to acquire. h.264 is a spec that MPEG-LA wants us to use, IE6-compatibility was a weapon that Microsoft used to drive browsers and operating systems out of business. MPEG-LA assumes that even a small business can afford their license if it employs a healthy revenue stream. And in truth, this should be the case. Maybe the h.264 license needs better language in regards to non-profit activity or decode-only software implementations.As to Wikipedia, most people don't even know that there are videos on the site. Also, Chrome seems to support both h.264 and Theora, correct?

  11. Yeah, Chrome has done the smartest thing and just ported in ffmpeg. I think it would be pretty trivial for Opera to do this through their gstreamer architecture but they don't seem interested.

  12. Originally posted by hellspork:

    Um, huge difference.

    No, tiny difference. The difference is that the MPEG-LA gets to dictate the terms at which we experience our own culture. Want to take part in your own culture? Pay the f*ck up!

  13. Er, I think you're talking about companies like Apple and Sony trying to regulate morality in violation of media laws.MPEG-LA really doesn't tell you what h.264 CAN or CAN NOT be used for; they just want compensation if you use their codec to make money. Most free services are only free for personal use. Most services for companies and institutions cost money and come with additional rights.MPEG-LA doesn't care if you compress porn with h.264; they just want a share of the profit. MPEG-LA doesn't care if you recode bullfights, dogfights or cockfights; they just want 20c for every $60 DVD. Companies that pay the maximum $5M distribution royalty should be making money hand-over-fist.An exception for free streaming of personal content over the internet is very reasonable, but there is no reason for MPEG-LA to grant royalty-free rights to anyone for any purpose.

  14. Originally posted by hellspork:

    MPEG-LA really doesn't tell you what h.264 CAN or CAN NOT be used for; they just want compensation if you use their codec to make money.

    Actually, they want to own the video market. And that is highly dangerous. It puts our entire culture at risk of being hijacked by a cabal of corporations with no other goal than to close the world as much as possible.

  15. Originally posted by prd3:

    Actually, they want to own the video market. And that is highly dangerous. It puts our entire culture at risk of being hijacked by a cabal of corporations with no other goal than to close the world as much as possible.

    If you live in a capitalistic country then you should rather care about getting starved by evil big food corporations.Stop your FUD campaign and state examples where the Mpeg LA threatened customers, they already had enough chances to make their evil worth with the mp3 and mpeg2 codec. The reality is that such actions would lock them out of future business (h265 is coming 2012), videos can be reencoded, its not like anyones life depends on it.Mpeg LA paid for the development of the codec, so they are allowed to gain back their investment. Thats what the idea behind patents are, as bad as the state of the patent-system is in reality.

  16. WANTS to own the video market? Not quite.DOES own the video market. And what is the state of things?Business as usual.

  17. Originally posted by prd3:

    MPEG-LA-owned Patent Troll Sues Smartphone MakersThere should be no doubt what kind of organization the MPEG-LA is. They are actively engaging in shady activities, including FUD and threats.

    Ironically, exactly this is what the Mpeg LA tries to prevent by setting up a patent pool, it would be even worse without that. Note that the affected companies are part of the MpegLA, the suit doesnt cover anything from the offered patent-pools as then there would be no ground to sue, and it doesnt affect end-users (shouldda been more specific than customers).Patent-trolls existed before the Mpeg-LA and wont go away until the patent-system gets significantly restructured or killed altogether. And theres no way to be sure there arent patents covering theora, so your worst-case-scenary you claim as certain would be quite similar. submarine patents wont surface until there is alot of potential money involved (which currently isnt).The only certain thing by using theora would be a big step backwards in quality/bitrate, hardware adoption and specs maturity.

  18. Originally posted by NRage:

    Stop your FUD campaign and state examples where the Mpeg LA threatened customers

    MPEG-LA-owned Patent Troll Sues Smartphone MakersThere should be no doubt what kind of organization the MPEG-LA is. They are actively engaging in shady activities, including FUD and threats.

    Mpeg LA paid for the development of the codec, so they are allowed to gain back their investment.

    Not just ROI. They want to make lots and lots of money. By locking in the market. Which is why H264 must be rejected. But as is clear by now, the MPEG-LA will go after other codecs to prevent competition against H264. This just shows why we need to destroy H264, and the MPEG-LA.

  19. The inflammatory article about an IP-holding shellcorp does not have anything to do with video on the web. Rather, it tries to draw a link on the basis of one figurehead. Even certain Opera staff and directors own their own companies. Opera however is not in the business of coasting on patent rights for survival.Unfortunately, the troll-against-trolls quoted reasonable statements. 1) The suits are initiated by a non MPEG-LA corporation, which owns the patents being litigated. 2) The suits have nothing to do with any patents handled in trust by the MPEG-LA. 3) The man who works in both of these bodies is a patent expert by profession, and he will authorize litigation within the domain of his employers' charters.So blame the legal system first, even Apple can be sued if it does not pay for something. The business of patents is a web of protection rackets. Everyone pays everyone else to keep the lawyers away. Welcome to big business, same as it's been for hundreds of years.

  20. Originally posted by hellspork:

    The inflammatory article about an IP-holding shellcorp does not have anything to do with video on the web.

    Yes it does, because it shows what kind of people are running the MPEG-LA. Combine that with FUD and threats from the very same MPEG-LA officials, and you have the current mess.

  21. Originally posted by NRage:

    Patent-trolls existed before the Mpeg-LA and wont go away until the patent-system gets significantly restructured or killed altogether.

    Something for which there are people campaigning ardently for, thankfully. That kind of reform is not something that happens overnight though – we're relatively lucky here in Europe in comparison to the insane software patent system people in the US have to live with, but until change happens the best you can do is to avoid and actively campaign against people who abuse the existing system, like MPEG-LA.Originally posted by NRage:

    And theres no way to be sure there arent patents covering theora, so your worst-case-scenary you claim as certain would be quite similar. submarine patents wont surface until there is alot of potential money involved (which currently isnt).

    Now who's spreading FUD. The submarine patent fear has been well and truly debunked plenty of times at this stage – submarine patents are a part of the archaic US system that has, thankfully, been reformed of late – so any potential submarines would have to be over 15 years old (pre-system reform) to be only surfacing now – still a possibility of course, but a serious one?

  22. This is not the time to nip at the heels of giants. Be practical: we can have free H.264 for the next four years, long enough for Theora/Vp8 to show their strength and gain device support. With Google dollars, of course. Nothing this big can be done without someone to pay for it.

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