John Gruber’s fundamental misunderstanding

John Gruber seems to be really upset about WebM. Really, really, really upset.

In fact, in his last post, he seems to be trying to ridicule the FSF for supporting WebM, and allegedly misunderstanding the difference between standards and freedom. …

But I think it is John Gruber, not the FSF, whose stance represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue.

A lot of Apple supporters and fans are quick to conflate open standards and open source. This is not about the source code, but about the fundamentals of the web. The web is built on open standards, and an open web standard is royalty-free.

The FSF knows this, and while they are obviously happy about the implications for free software, as they call it, they correctly point out that the vision of the web is one where it is not dragged down by patents and other fees to make use of the fundamentals of the web. Even if the FSF and Opera disagree on application licenses, we can still agree on the necessity of an open web.

So I see no misunderstanding here on part of the FSF. I see an organization which is perfectly aware that open standards are fundamental to the web, and this is the case whether you write open-source or closed-source software. Being happy about the implications for free software does not change the fact that their position on open web standards is correct!

John Gruber, on the other hand, does not seem to realize that the web depends on open standards. That is, standards that are not patent-encumbered, but that are accessible to all for unlimited royalty-free use.

The fundamental freedom of participation on the web depends on royalty-free, open, standards. Standards are not "freedom", and the FSF did not say that they are. But standards can guarantee freedom, as they do on the web. This is something John Gruber does not seem to understand.

And because of this, H.264 can never become an open web standard, and it can never become part of HTML5.

It is simply not open enough for the web, and therefore, open web advocates must reject it.


7 thoughts on “John Gruber’s fundamental misunderstanding

  1. And because of this, H.264 can never become an open web standard, and it can never become part of HTML5. It is simply not open enough for the web, and therefore, open web advocates must reject it.

    Apple person here, tho h.264 is not for everyone as it has quaity but feesWebM is much more open and does not have the same fees, and has support in a lot of popular media player programs now, Opera has it right now, Chrome soon and Firefox in version 4

  2. Originally posted by Dan Alexandru:

    In a world where Apple and Microsoft play HTML5 WebM content, who wouldn't like a beard ‽

    As long as it's a well-maintained one it shouldn't be too bad. :right:

  3. Originally posted by Chas4:

    Opera has it right now, Chrome soon and Firefox in version 4

    Chrome supports vp8 and vorbis, they've supported them for a while now.

  4. I'd just as soon prefer Theora being accepted over VP8 for now, and a touched-up VP9 replacing Theora in about five years time.

  5. I'm an Apple user, and I like many of Apple's products. However, unlike John Gruber is at times I'm no strawman for them (or anyone for that matter). I found this article by him rather weird. It's obvious he's torn up on this issue and is from my standpoint on the wrong side of the argument, but the entire language of it is just rather unlike him. He regularly derides Paul Thurrott for these sort of posts where instead of constructive criticism or a well-thought out disagreement with a particular topic he resorts to outright insults just like Gruber's doing in the post you linked to. He's doing nothing more than making himself out to be a complete idiot. It's especially funny because Apple hasn't said a single word about it, and I very much doubt they will until something forces their hand to. He (and others like him) just completely miss the point.I pretty much think if WebM were to become the standard for video that Microsoft and Apple would support it — at least I'd certainly hope so. I very much doubt they're holding out because they've got some fucked up idea about standards like Gruber does. At least on Apple's end it's pragmatism. They've been on board with these industry standard formats for a couple of decades now, and even if they end up adding support for WebM they'll still support them because they'll continue to be the formats the professionals use.Seriously, as a graphic artist I don't do my artwork and save them as JPEGs, PNGs, or SVGs. They're saved only to Web formats when to be used on the Web. They're typically PSDs, AIs, and EPSes. All three of these formats are industry standards (albeit de facto industry standards not governed by any standards body) like H.264, but we don't see them used on the Web. The same could happen with WebM (maybe WebP, too), and like the JPEG and PNG formats (if WebM becomes the standard) cameras will end up supporting it. Just because there's no widespread support for something today doesn't mean there won't be any in the future. The formats we all use today at one time didn't exist at all.

  6. @Dustin, agreed.Haavard's very professional in his explanation about WebM and "open standards" so it's really weird to read Gruber's twisted logic, given his usual insight.I've been quite impressed with WebM video via Opera at YouTube (if you turn-ON On-Demand Plugins in PREFS) and the WebM switch. More tweaking of the codec, hardware acceleration…I think it'll open up web video businesses for billions around the world. The beauty of open standards that Haavard alludes to…is that we don't know what's going to happen, but we know it'll be cool and innovative, as the young history of the web has already proved. 😉

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