Follow Slashdot blog updates by subscribing to our blog RSS feed


Forgot your password?
Google Media Movies Open Source News

Ars Thinks Google Takes a Step Backwards For Openness 663

An anonymous reader writes "Over at Ars Technica, Peter (not so) Bright gives a long-winded four pages of FUD about how Chrome dropping support for H.264 is a slight against openness. 'The promise of HTML5's video tag was a simple one: to allow web pages to contain embedded video without the need for plugins. With the decision to remove support for the widespread H.264 codec from future versions of Chrome, Google has undermined this widely-anticipated feature. The company is claiming that it wants to support "open codecs" instead, and so from now on will support only two formats: its own WebM codec, and Theora. ... The reason Google has given for this change is that WebM (which pairs VP8 video with Vorbis audio) and Theora are "open codecs" and H.264 apparently isn't. ... H.264 is unambiguously open.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Ars Thinks Google Takes a Step Backwards For Openness

Comments Filter:
  • Summary sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:29AM (#34861212) Homepage Journal

    Peter (not so) Bright gives a long winded, read 4 pages of FUD

    I come to slashdot for the articles but stay for one-sided submission summaries.
    Not that I support Google's move but, come on, this is summary is a troll unto itself.
    • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:34AM (#34861300) Journal

      Peter (not so) Bright gives a long winded, read 4 pages of

        I come to slashdot for the articles but stay for one-sided
      submission summaries.

      Not that I support Google's move but, come on, this is summary is a
      troll unto itself.

      Yeah, completely unprofessional. But think of the possibilities. Billy Poohead Gates. Steve Monkeyboy Balmer. Steve Head Jobs (not to be confused with Richard Head Stallman). And that's just the start. We could give them all silly immature nicknames and ourselves a big pat on the back. All we need to do is lose some brain cells (alcohol will help with that) and act like 12 year olds (no help required)

      • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:39AM (#34861386) Homepage Journal

        I'm waiting for some new virtual reality gimmick to hit when "Web 3.0" comes around in the future.
        Slashdotters with 11 digit UIDs will hear a virtual doorbell, open a virtual door and see a virtual flaming paper bag on the virtual doorstep.

        All the while a real 30 year old virgin in his mom's real basement is hiding in the virtual bushes watching the victim's avatar stomp the virtual bag filled with virtual dog pop.

        Man we're all a bunch of retards.
        • Re:Summary sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:04AM (#34861738) Homepage

          To be fair, while I haven't been around quite as long as you, I have a pretty low UID and I can't remember a time when Slashdot didn't contain it's fair share of immature prattle, tremendously uncreative insults, or pedantry. Remember when half the people here insisted on always referring to Microsoft as M$, or every single post on a mainstream press articles containing the word "hacker" had at least one, probably several, 20-30 comment threads on the difference between "hackers" and "crackers"? Sadly, we've always been retards.

          • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:27AM (#34862116) Homepage Journal

            I recently turned 45 and still post the occasional goatse link. Slashdot has damaged me more than had I been a heroin addict all these years.

            I've given up all hope at recovery and now embrace my slashdot-induced retardedness. It's like a tattered, smallpox infected blanket on a cold day.
            • by tkprit ( 8581 )
              I love the snark ;) "Peter (not so) Bright" != worst I've seen, and after RTFA I could see why an AC would use that moniker. If Google submits webm to ISO, this feels like a non-issue.
      • It works for The Register...
      • Actually alcohol doesn't kill brain cells. []

        I know, I'm much more disappointed in myself knowing that than when I could blame my current lack of brightness on past ethanol-fueled fun.

    • Agreed. There's no call for it and there's nothing served by it. It just sounds like some petulant whiny 14 year old who wants to be a geek. Maybe that's appropriate; the more garbage I read on Slashdot the more I realize the teenagers who are dominating it today are not the teenagers of 20 years ago who were hacking in assembly on their Commodore 64.

      • by xaxa ( 988988 )

        the more garbage I read on Slashdot the more I realize the teenagers who are dominating it today are not the teenagers of 20 years ago who were hacking in assembly on their Commodore 64.

        I don't think there's that many teenagers reading Slashdot, compared to a few years ago. Only half the readers here are under 34, and the advertisers don't even bother to give the under-18 figure source [].

        There are plenty of "at my work" or "at my college" posts, but not many "at school" ones.

    • And inaccurate as well, at least insofar as the article having 3 rather than 4 pages.
    • Re:Summary sucks. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by marcello_dl ( 667940 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:46AM (#34862424) Homepage Journal

      There is only one side.
      Bright says the move is against openness because h264 was developed in the open.
      I posit that that's irrelevant if the source is open if patents prevent you to doing anything to it.
      Developing patent encumbered projects in the open is a great idea because: 1. more eyes means more testing. 2. more eyes means that it's easier to sue competitors who might or might not have looked up the source because the source is freely available.

      So software patents, which were born for the main reason of letting big corps use for software market the same tactics they employ in real markets , have the added bonus to make open source more evil than closed source.

      The only questions that matter are: is that software free or encumbered? - If it's encumbered is it worth the hassle?
      In the case of h264 you have:
      - big market share
      - current market share being irrelevant in two years' turnaround time
      - minor advantage in efficiency
      - minor disadvantage in decoding efficiency against theora when dedicated hardware is not present
      - being tied for the rest of your material's life to MPEG LA decisions :"The [street-smart] people at MPEG-LA have made sure that from the moment we use a camera or camcorder to shoot an mpeg2 (e.g. HDV cams) or h.264 video (e.g. digicams, HD dSLRs, AVCHD cams), we owe them royalties, even if the final video distributed was not encoded using their codecs!" source []

      The last point kills it for me, and after SCO trial I think that being paranoid on these issues is not a bad idea. YMMV.

    • Re:Summary sucks. (Score:4, Informative)

      by kangsterizer ( 1698322 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:53AM (#34862536)

      Slashdot is moderated by the users. you can downrank entire stories.
      If many people uprank this story, it means most are ok with the contents.

      Of course you need nice karma to be able to moderate that stuff. But hey. Slashdot is still the best large volume user moderated news site i know by light years. I can't count how many website comment and story moderation process is utterly useless and crappy in comparison. (even if bashing slashdot is normally a karma setter .. on slashdot :P)

    • by TopSpin ( 753 )

      About the worst summary I've seen, and I've seen most of them.

  • I think that the original editorial does have a point in one regard. The height of "openness" and freedom to me is the ability for me, as the user, to CHOOSE whatever format I want to watch or use for myself. Now, I'm sure that there will be some extension for Chrome that allows for H.264 support. But, having said that, I still never feel more "free" when someone REMOVES support for a format.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:32AM (#34861282)

      Be sure to pay your $699 H.264 licensing fee, you cocksmoking teabagger!

      • Be sure to pay your $699 H.264 licensing fee, you cocksmoking teabagger!

        End users don't pay the H.264 licensing fee, and if they did, it's nowhere near $699.

        Perhaps you're confusing MPEG with SCO?

    • by rveldpau ( 1765928 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:42AM (#34861436)
      Although very crudely worded, "Anonymous Coward" is right. H.264 is created to make money. By Google removing support for H.264, it pushes for an actual open standard. If Chrome and Mozilla had support for H.264, and IE only supported H.264, then everyone would have to pay the licensing fee.

      If however, Google and Mozilla remove support for H.264 and only support open codecs, Microsoft will be forced to adopt open standards as well, rather than slamming Google for "imposing a language on the world," as they've tried to do many times in the past.

      This is a step for openness on the server side. Although it looks like it's removing options, it is actually forcing options by forcing Microsoft to play nicely.
      • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:11AM (#34861856)

        Although very crudely worded, "Anonymous Coward" is right. H.264 is created to make money.

        Chrome was created to make money.

        Don't forget that when evaluating Google's stance on this.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:15AM (#34861908) Homepage

        If Microsoft only supports H.264 and Google/Mozilla/Opera only supports WebM, the winner is - beyond a shadow of a doubt - Adobe and flash. There's no need for Microsoft to play nice, the video tag is not established and they can in practice delay it indefinitely.

        • If Microsoft only supports H.264 and Google/Mozilla/Opera only supports WebM, the winner is - beyond a shadow of a doubt - Adobe and flash

          And Google. If Adobe/Flash retain their position as the pre-eminent platform for video, and if Apple continues to block Flash on iOS, then Google will have an advantage over Apple when it comes do displaying video on handheld devices.

      • by znu ( 31198 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:06PM (#34862784)

        Although very crudely worded, "Anonymous Coward" is right. H.264 is created to make money. By Google removing support for H.264, it pushes for an actual open standard.

        This is simply false. (Lifted from a post I just made about this in the Ars forums) MPEG-LA licenses the H.264 standards under RAND (reasonable and non-discriminitory) terms -- they're not playing favorites to give some companies strategic advantage over others. Moreover, if you think about the fact that there are 1000 patents in the H.264 license pool, and no individual company owns more than a few, you quickly realize that nobody who actually implements H.264 is making more money from it than they pay for it. The idea that anyone is supporting H.264 because they want to get rich off of license fees is ludicrous.

        H.264 is a real standard, developed and governed by a multi-party process, recognized by international standards organizations, and extensively documented. WebM is some C code that Google bought and dumped on the public. Other stakeholders had no input into the "specification". There is no formal multi-party governance process; the format is de facto controlled by Google, because they employ the developers. In practice, WebM is defined by Google's code, not by standards documents.

        Oh, and WebM is also technically inferior.

        And as if that weren't enough, it's extremely unclear, given what happened to Microsoft with VC-1, that WebM has actually managed to avoid patent liability. Keep in mind, Google hasn't indemnified anyone, and their strategic interests are served here even if a patent licensing pool does eventually need to be set up for WebM. So they have essentially nothing to lose by pretending its unencumbered, even if it's not.

        • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @01:49PM (#34864694)
          Except that the MPEG-LA patent pool means that it can't be used by Firefox as an included plug in. Remember than in some parts of the world, Firefox is the most popular browser, and even in parts where it's not, they've still got a sizable install base. Same goes for other free browsers, they can't be expected to pay when they aren't charging for their products.
          • by lennier ( 44736 )

            Same goes for other free browsers, they can't be expected to pay when they aren't charging for their products.

            It's not just 'can't be expected to pay'. It's legally obligated by copyright law to NOT pay, if the patent licence cannot be passed on to the user in the same manner that the GPL's rights and freedoms are.

            This is not about being cheap. It's about respecting the law and empowering the user. H.264 is a nasty piece of work because it creates a divide between those who own a patent licence and those who don't. But in the GPL world you cannot create such a divide, either morally or legally. The whole intent of

        • by kripkenstein ( 913150 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @03:36PM (#34866558) Homepage

          H.264 is a real standard, developed and governed by a multi-party process, recognized by international standards organizations, and extensively documented.

          That is all well and good, but, the fact stands that it is impossible to legally create an open source H.264 enabled browser (in countries where patents are valid). Because of that, H.264 is simply not suitable as a standard for the open web - if only closed-source browsers can view the web, it is no longer open.

          To clarify that point: Even if Google or Mozilla paid MPEG-LA royalties for their own browsers, the browsers would not be freely redistributable, which violates a fundamental principle of free and open source software. MPEG-LA's current business model is simply not compatible with open source software and the open web.

          The interesting question would be, what would happen if MPEG-LA made an exception for open source implementations of H.264. Total guess, but I suspect Google approached MPEG-LA with that or something similar, got rebuffed, and went through on their bluff to remove H.264 from Chrome. MPEG-LA's next move will be interesting (remember that they already made H.264's licensing more lenient several times, in response to Google's previous moves of buying On2 and announcing WebM).

        • by Draek ( 916851 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @04:20PM (#34867234)

          H.264's licensing terms are anything but "reasonable", given its context. HTTP is free, HTML is free, FTP is free, every single protocol and format standardized for its use on online communication has been free since the inception of the Internet, demanding now the use of a codec that requires monetary payment to create, distribute and display content using it is outrageous, particularly when valid, Free alternatives exist and have already begun to be put in place.

      • by quetwo ( 1203948 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:51PM (#34863678) Homepage

        Wrong. H.264 was created to create a STANDARD. They roaylities are pooled to pay for existing patents that HAD to be infringed on in order to create the standard. These same patents are expected to be infringed upon in the 'open-source' WebM. H.264 lives in a LOT of places, much more than just the web. Sattelites, Cable TV, Video Cameras, video encoders, hardware decoders, televisions, etc. all have had support for H.264 for a LONG time. By Google removing support for it, for a codec set that they own (remember, it's not free, they still own it), it will force a lot of content to be re-encoded to meet the WebM standard, just to support that browser. Re-Encoding the video just means that you will loose quality, loose productivity (your CPU cycles will have to do the encoding), and just cause a ruckus in the market.

        I wish people would just stop drinking the Google Cool-Aid and think about WHY they are making this move. It's not about the money. it's not about openess. It's about trying to make the standard that they bought the standard for video on the web. Next thing, they will limit the licensing to their competitors so that they can't do everything they are doing with video on the web.

        • Isn't WebM BSD licensed, with an irrevocable patent grant? How can they limit how their competitors use it?
      • by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @01:41PM (#34864530)

        Although very crudely worded, "Anonymous Coward" is right. H.264 is created to make money.

        As if no one has to pay the bill for ongoing R&D at this level.

        But let us begin with a bit of history:

        H.264/MPEG-4 AVC is a block-oriented motion-compensation-based codec standard developed by the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) together with the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG). It was the product of a partnership effort known as the Joint Video Team (JVT). The ITU-T H.264 standard and the ISO/IEC MPEG-4 AVC standard (formally, ISO/IEC 14496-10 - MPEG-4 Part 10, Advanced Video Coding) are jointly maintained so that they have identical technical content.

        The intent of the H.264/AVC project was to create a standard capable of providing good video quality at substantially lower bit rates than previous standards (e.g. half or less the bit rate of MPEG-2, H.263, or MPEG-4 Part 2), without increasing the complexity of design so much that it would be impractical or excessively expensive to implement. An additional goal was to provide enough flexibility to allow the standard to be applied to a wide variety of applications on a wide variety of networks and systems, including low and high bit rates, low and high resolution video, broadcast, DVD storage, RTP/IP packet networks, and ITU-T multimedia telephony systems.
        H.264/MPEG-4 AVC []

        H.264 has never been exclusively a web video codec.

        For a small global sampling of video services and applications based on H.264:

        List of video services using H.264/MPEG-4 AVC []

        A search of Google for "H.264 medical applications" returns about 276,000 hits. A search of Gooogle Images for "H.264," 33 million hits, "WebM," 173,000. A product search of Google Shopping for "H.264," 69,000 hits.

        Consumer products, industrial and commercial security and so on.

        If your employer can't play his internal videos in the browser, he won't be installing Chrome - he won't be transcoding to WebM - and he has one less reason to choose Linux or Android over the iOS, OSX or Windows 7 platforms.

        20% of peak hour network traffic in the states is a Netflix video stream.

        Think of it as five hours each evening without a single penny going to AdSense.

        Licenced, paid for, and content protected video. No one can simply walk away from a market that size and survive.

    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:49AM (#34861534) Homepage

      Yeah, I agree. It's strange to support "freedom" by diminishing choices.

      By being so quick to take sides in these arguments, I think some people miss that this just *is* a problem. Everyone wants to say, "why don't we just do this?" and seem oblivious to the problems that might be caused. h264 is open, but it also has patent issues, but on the other hand it's widely used and widely supported. Flash isn't going away until content owners settle on some kind of DRM for HTML5 streaming. WebM is new, isn't widely supported yet, and may (or may not) have some patent issues down the line.

      And what's a bit silly is that everyone wants to talk about this like it's a technical issue-- an issue of which format is "better". It's really a confluence of technical, legal, economic, and social issues, and I don't think it'll be wrapped up without some drastic changes in how we deal with content.

  • Rarrr!!! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jugalator ( 259273 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:32AM (#34861270) Journal

    RARRR WTF, so much FUD blah blah blah... (continue raging in the way that the submitter is hoping for)

  • definitions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:36AM (#34861342) Homepage Journal

    The stupid ad hominem attacks by the anonymous submitter aside, Peter Bright isn't really that far off the mark. He is quite correct in the claims he makes, which essentially boild down to two points: One, H.264 is an open standard, where "open" needs to be read in the context of standards, and none of the other are (though they are "open" in other senses of the word). And two, the move is more about having a free-as-in-beer standard than a free-as-in-speech one.

    I don't really think that Google is the least bit worried about a few million bucks, so I am doubtful of his 2nd argument as far as it regards Chrome. But there are a couple good points in his first argument, especially when it comes to the question of control.

    • It seems to me some OSS types get a little hypocritical in that they talk about OSS being all about openness as in source. They claim that the idea is that you can share improvements and so on. It isn't about money, it is about information.

      Well, H.264 is open in that way. It is a standard open to anyone that wishes to implement it under fixed terms. The x264 project is a great example. If you want to see a working H.264 implementation, and try your hand at improving it, well then have at it. The code is the

      • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:24AM (#34862046)
        From a free software perspective, H.264's license structure is completely incompatible with the philosophy. Examples:
        • The license for H.264 makes a distinction between software that is distributed for incorporation into an OS, and software that is not; libre software frequently falls into both categories, or even into a middle ground as part of a repository system.
        • A distinction is made between videos that are distributed at no cost; the free software movement has never made such a distinction for either software or for the output of software.
        • The license structure is royalty free only if less than 100000 "units" are shipped; free software licenses place no limit on how many copies of a program may be redistributed, and novel distribution methods like BitTorrent would turn H.264 royalty payments into a nightmare.

        The problem is that H.264's license structure is based around traditional producer-consumer relationships, which is not compatible with the concept behind free software. Royalty payments are inherently incompatible with the free software model, because it prevents people from liberally copying and sharing software. Note that royalties are the problem; other payment models are perfectly fine (I can, for example, charge you money for copies of Debian -- prior to widely available broadband connections, this sort of thing was not so uncommon).

      • wrong, you're only thinking of the client side. If I have to pay to use the server side, it isn't open it's encumbered. I don't have freedom. It isn't open.

      • by NoSig ( 1919688 )
        The fact is that OSS organizations can't just pay for a patent once and be in the clear because then it ceases being open source in that other people can't legally redistribute their own versions of the software without them themselves paying the enormous patent fees. However, It's not just about the money. It's the fact that someone else owns you if you use anything covered by their patents - at any point they can withdraw the offer to license their patents to any more people, and then suddenly your softwa
      • by cr_nucleus ( 518205 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @01:58PM (#34864830)

        You're completely missing the point.

        Nobody cares about a single codec. Someone makes a good proprietary codec ? Good for them !

        The problem arises when it becomes a required base part of the web.

        Remember the GIF debacle ? Remember that many open source image editor did not have the capability to save gif images ? That's exactly what is at stake here.
        Have one company control a base standard of the web makes it control who can or cannot create the tools to create web content. Of course big players like Google or Mozilla have the funds to pay royalties, but what about that guy who made a simple command line tool to split/merge h264 videos ?

        You can argue that the MPEG-LA has made the codec royalty free but truth is they can instantly make it illegal to open source any software using h264.

        That's what the fuss is all about, not just throwing two bucks at a video codec.

  • The specifications are fully open for anyone to -freely- implement both coding and decoding for. The specifications were fully open in the sense that not a single commercial entity was responsible for drafting and controlling it, but any company that wanted to partake; so-called open participation. These are undisputable facts about the MPEG codecs. The problem here isn't that H.264 isn't as open as Google wants it to be - the problem is that it isn't as FREE as they want it to be. In order to make use of t
    • the licensing fees eventually reflect on the end users through development costs and proliferation rate of applications/services. free, is good for me, the end user.
    • by jgagnon ( 1663075 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:49AM (#34861538)

      I'm with others on this one... I don't think Google cares if it has to pay or not. Money is not exactly something Google has a shortage of.

      They do, however, want to be able to freely make and distribute products to others that can, in turn, use them to make other products... without having to worry about their customers being sued into the ground, as is happening now.

      Google wants Android to succeed, make no mistake. And "freely implementing" H.264 in Android does not allow their customers to freely USE Android without coughing up money for the rights. This is all about protecting Google's interests, not its bottom line.

      Google thrives by providing free stuff to people that allows them to better understand them and thereby feeding them ads that meet their needs and wants. Having other companies sue the users of their products doesn't exactly help Google.

    • by TheGreek ( 2403 )

      The problem here isn't that H.264 isn't as open as Google wants it to be - the problem is that it isn't as FREE as they want it to be.

      1) How free and/or open is the Flash runtime browser plugin that Google ships (and updates) with Chrome?

      2) When will Google, in the interest of adopting only open standards vs. closed standards, stop including said plugin with Chrome?

    • I think in this case it really is not about the money. I am reasonable sure that they would have paid less to license h264 than they did to buy VP8 and open it.
  • Licensing fees (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:37AM (#34861352) Journal

    I just don't understand the bit of reasoning Peter Bright made about why Google dropping H.264 is a bad thing because they may incur licensing fees. Especially this last bit:

    It's not as if Google can't afford the $6.5 million a year, and by paying that money the company would enable web users to view open, standards-compliant, H.264 video.

    What, just because a company can afford the licensing fees means that it MUST pay the licensing fees, especially in the face of other open source alternatives that doesn't require them?

    • Re:Licensing fees (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:46AM (#34861482) Journal

      And besides, if you want to start writing your own browser to compete with the big guys, do you want to pay $6.5 million? Or even $1,000? This would effectively cut out grassroots development of anything that could compete with the big boys, wouldn't it? That alone is worth not having the "feature".

      • except that creating a browser that can PLAY h264 video doesn't mean you have to pay the licensing fees.

        The fees are paid by the content CREATORS.

        • by arose ( 644256 )
          That is bullshit, you absolutely have to pay to distribute binary decoders on any scale. Then again, I'm sure you can pull a source out of where-ever you pulled that claim. And that is all without even going into the fact that openness on all sides is important for competition to flourish.
      • And besides, if you want to start writing your own browser to compete with the big guys, do you want to pay $6.5 million? Or even $1,000? This would effectively cut out grassroots development of anything that could compete with the big boys, wouldn't it? That alone is worth not having the "feature".

        The licensing isn't as simple as that for the guys writing their "own browser" as they are not forced to simply fork over any monies, it by no means cuts out grass roots development and shouldn't scare anyone away. As a small "grassroots" company I spent a bit of time digging into it and called MPEG-LA, they were actually more reasonable then even my best guess and told us to toss the licensing fees we thought we might pay for H.264 decoding as they aren't required due to our implementation.

    • No, I think he's got it exactly right. Google can also afford to pay me $1m/year to not do anything, and because they can afford to they are morally obliged to.
    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 )

      What's more, what would it do to small start-ups if H.264 became ubiquitous and unchallenged? When MPEG decides to stop with the free licensing time extensions, it could mean the death knoll for a lot of small businesses. I'm sorry but if the choice is between having a Damocles sword hovering above constantly and not having one, I don't see it as a choice really. I don't even see what exactly we lose from Google's move, if anything.

  • You Can Argue ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:37AM (#34861360)
    You can argue that it is a step backwards for "openness", or, you can argue that Google is digging their feet in to ensure that their own 'truly open' video format will become the standard. Both POV's have validity but WebM is probably better for consumers in the long run.
  • by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:37AM (#34861364)
    H264 is not open, it is patent encumbered, it will not be open until all relevant (a word which has become very stretched recently) patents have expired. The Ars article tries to address this by claiming that there are no royalties that need to be paid for videos that can be accessed without a paywall; yet the document they cite says this is only for "0 - 100,000 units" which clearly creates a problem for libre software that has millions of users. Furthermore, the line that the licensing terms draws for "(a)" and "(b)" sublicensing is artificial and wholly incompatible with free software licensing.
    • by mbone ( 558574 )

      Different kind of open. H.264 is without question an open standard, which is not the same as open source.

  • WebM is an open 'proprietary' implementation. It can easily be retroactively declared a standard, or achieve defacto standard status, but it is a technology championed by a single company without a standards body overseeing it. This is not necessarily a bad thing (and can even be a good thing, standards bodies frequently mess things up). It is unarguably open, but it isn't standard.

    One could make the case that h264 is not 'open', because of the royalties, but it *is* a standard because the work was done

  • Just come out with one standard codec or include all codecs to every browser...problem solved.
  • by gbrandt ( 113294 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @10:42AM (#34861434)


  • so there is nothing left to talk about. i am creeped out like any one else about google's increasing ability to know everything about our lives, but in this case, google did the right thing in the name of openness by denying H.264

    good job google, thank you. ignore the paid prostitutes howling about not including H.264. we who have genuine opinions, not opinions derived from corporate pay, are on your side, and support your decision. thank you

    • by Anonymous Coward

      H.264 is an open, international standard. Indeed, there is nothing left to talk about.

      Free != "open"
      Open source != "open" (in this context)

      This has nothing to do with "paid prostitutes". The reason H.264 costs money is that there is a shitload of patents that all have been dealt with as part of the patent pool. WebM may be encumbered, it may not — but we don't know. It's it's most certainly not an open standard in the same way the MPEG family of international standards are.

  • This is more bastardization of the term "open". Refer to []

    • Surprisingly, the open source movement doesn't get to define words for the rest of the world.
    • it is precisely as thus - ars technica is redefining 'open', in order to make it not open, despite being called open, so that proprietary sources can retain custody of standards, mooching money off of it to the detriment of end users and internet proliferation by raising costs as thus.

      no, i dont have the moral obligation to pay any third party for anything i do on the web, while open standards are available, neither as a startup, nor as an end users to which costs are reflecting on indirectly. and if a
  • If he wants to pay Chrome's licensing fees for H.264, then he can have his support back.

  • Dear anonymous, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cogneato ( 600584 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:07AM (#34861796) Homepage

    While others focus on the definition of "open", I want to focus on the definitions of bright, long-winded and FUD. In defining these terms, I think you are a bit confused. You seem to be using the "bright" to imply having a reasonable amount of information or insight. After reading Mr. Bright's article, I learned a handful of things that I didn't know before, so I guess I would have to consider him at least a little bright. I imagine the rolling of your eyes while reading his article made you a bit dizzy, preventing you from having a similar experience. Or maybe you just know a lot more than I do.

    When you define FUD, perhaps you mean that he has a different opinion than you. No matter which side of this argument a person is on, I think that it is easy to agree that this is going to make implementation of the video tag by web developers more difficult and less likely to happen in the next couple of years.

    When you define long-winded, perhaps you mean "taking the time to build his position". Clearly from your submission, you are a man of few words. I can admire someone like you that doesn't let information get in the way of expression. I can only wish that life was that easy for me. I keep getting bogged down in considering positions other than my own.

    One thing I can say that Mr. Bright has on you though... he was willing to put his name on his position. For all the effort you put into adding your own brand of color to your submission, I just can't understand why you wouldn't want to take full credit.

  • by mdarksbane ( 587589 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @11:28AM (#34862134)

    And most of the rhetoric only mentions one, and open means too many things.

    There is standard versus nonstandard (.doc vs appleworks).
    There is open versus proprietary (C++ versus Java).
    There is open source versus closed source (x264 versus apple's H.264 coder)
    There is unencumbered versus encumbered by patents and license fees.

    We have formats across all forms that are varying degrees of all of these. The thing that the h.264 people are saying is look - h.264 is the better half in almost all of those cases! It is a standard that was agreed upon by a standards board, not by a single company. The spec is out there and available for everyone to implement, not controlled by a single company. It is free to license for most uses! And it is supported by everyone and everything.

    From all business perspectives outside of the open source mindset, it is a *great* standard. You don't have to worry about Apple, Microsoft, or Adobe changing it, or wait on them to make their decoder not suck. It is attached to so many different businesses that there is a huge incentive to keep licensing fees from becoming ridiculous. And it works everywhere.

    Do people remember .mov and .wmv files? Do you remember real media's proprietary standards? From a *use* standpoint and a consumer standpoint, h.264 is a great and "open" standard.

    The problem is when you run up against the open source concerns about infrastructure. It *is* controlled by somebody. It does have patents, so if you don't have money you can't make a business out of it. It is not "free" - either as beer or speech.

    I think the argument the article makes is that perfect is the enemy of good. H.264 is *vastly* more open, consumer, and business friendly than that which it replaces - proprietary, nonstandard, closed video players from Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, and Real. Going to it as a web standard would be a huge boon for consumers and businesses, and it already has real momentum to do that.

    WebM would be better, from a "free" perspective... but, argues the author, it's much less likely to succeed, as it isn't a standard, and it isn't ubiquitous. And so we should go with something that is already a huge improvement over the status quo instead of hoping for some "perfect" free solution. Getting to an open standard is already a major victory for nearly everyone involved. Or is installing a plugin to add h.264 support so much more odious than already installing one for flash? At least you can have your choice of which h.264 implementation you want to use.

  • by qmaqdk ( 522323 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:02PM (#34862692)

    The browser market share in Europe [] is FF 38.11%, Chrome 14.58%, Opera 4.57%, all of which either support or will support WebM. That's 57% of the browser market, and if YouTube goes WebM IE and Safari will have no choice but to support it as well.

    Also since FF cannot include H.264 that means encoding your video in H.264 instead of WebM costs you nearly 40% of users.

  • by ndvaughan ( 576319 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @12:20PM (#34863088)

    Video distributors wanting to support both Flash and HTML5 users will have to encode twice; once in H.264, for Flash users, and again in WebM, for HTML5 users. This doubles the computational cost, doubles the storage requirements, and as an added bonus will tend to hurt quality. This is inconvenient for a small site with one or two videos; for sites like SmugMug it's an enormous headache. They can either suffer the doubled costs and complexity, or ignore HTML5 altogether and stick with Flash (emphasis mine)

    This is what the outcome will be - arguments for removing support for H.264 fall flat since Google knows this is what will eventually happen (especially now that Chrome has become much more popular). The end result will be that fewer web sites will be iOS-compatible thereby strengthening Android, since it does support Flash. This is Google playing corporate BS games using "openness" as a guise, plain and simple... Guess they took some lessons from Apple.

  • by dalmor ( 231338 ) on Thursday January 13, 2011 @01:21PM (#34864178)

    Most people don't know that in order to support EVERY video format for HTML5, you still have to encode a video 3 different times. But this site has a great explanation on which browsers support what, this history of the video formats, and even describes the history of licensing HTML5(i.e. went from paying for encoders, players, AND transmitting to just paying for encoders to players). []

FORTUNE'S FUN FACTS TO KNOW AND TELL: A giant panda bear is really a member of the racoon family.