06 July 2009

HTML 5 <video>

There’s some brouhaha over the decision that the HTML 5 standard (a work in progress) will not require browsers to support any specific codec(s) for the <video> tag. So...my 2¢...

Submarine patents: Really? You’re paying the licensing fees to implement the heavily patent encumbered H.264 codec, but you absolutely refuse to implement (or just take advantage of the open source code for) Ogg Theora because you’re afraid it may be discovered to infringe a patent? Despite the known patents covering H.264, isn’t it just as likely to be a victim of an as-yet-unknown submarine patent? It doesn’t look like the licensing future of H.264 is all that clear either. It’s hard for me to believe that Ogg Theora is any bigger a risk than anyone who has implemented H.264 has already assumed. I think Apple can weather any submarine patents better than Mozilla.

Quality: What does it matter whether Ogg Theora isn’t as good as H.264? Implementing Ogg Theora doesn’t prevent you from also providing H.264 as well. This is not an argument for opposing Ogg Theora being required by the standard or for refusing to implement it. Does iTunes refuse to play mp3 files because AAC are higher quality? Does Safari refuse to play mp3 files?

I don’t buy that HTML 5 should only codify what the browsers do. (Would there even be a <video> element to be debated if that were really the case?) A standard—backed by pressure from actual customers and implemented by competitors always looking for another bullet point—can and has convinced implementors to do things they wouldn’t otherwise.

That being said, I fully respect Ian Hickman’s decision as editor. It was a good decision, whether I might nitpick it or not.

And really, I haven’t been following HTML 5 as closely as I probably should be. Not to mention that, as interested (although that word seems entirely inappropriate) as I am in intellectual property law, I’m far from an expert on it. And my knowledge of video codecs is only having implemented some old codecs. (^_^)

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