The problem with video on the web

Sure, there are some issues with HTML and CSS compatibility, but at least developers and users are aware of the problem and working on it.

However, in the case of internet video, we are far from a solution. There is even an alarming lack of awareness about what is wrong. Even in communities that should know better.

Some time ago, before the dawn of youtube, there were three options available for internet video: Quicktime, Real Player and Windows Media. And the problem then was that all of those were incompatible with each other. So eventually you needed to install all of them to be able to view most videos on the web. Imagine if you would need to install Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox and Apple Safari Browser to view all webpages available.

So, fast forward to today. Youtube uses flash for video playback, as does everyone else. Flash is available for almost all computers, problem solved, everyone is happy.

Everyone? No, flash is controlled by one company (Adobe) and 3rd party implementations are sparse and incomplete. If you want to implement or improve flash for some kind of mobile device like a smart phone, you have to beg adobe for help and permission, you cannot just do it on your own.

Adobe however, is not the sole offender here, quite on the contrary, since it happened to adopt the h264 video format for its latest edition of flash. And h264 is a recognized standard, with a number of implementations. Even Quicktime does h264.

So now everyone is happy?

No! There is quite a vocal crowd in the open source and free software community, that continues to rub your nose on the fact that ogg vorbis/theora is the one true way to internet video, and that everything else is pure evil.

While those claims have their merits, they also lack a clear vision and strategy of how this will solve our current problems of interoperability. At least I haven’t found any kind of strategy in those claims.

Ok, back to h264. It is a nice, high quality format. It is widely adopted and there are fine open source implementations available. It is the ideal format for internet video. Except that it is considered to be NOT royalty free. This is a major show stopper. There is a certain consortium or whatever that demands protection money from you as soon as you are big enough, so that they will not sue you.

I can deliver as much HTML, CSS, JPEGs, PNGs over HTTP, TCP and IP as I want to, and for video in h264, I suddenly have to pay? I have to pay if I deliver a product that does h264?

How is this fair? They did not even write the code of the available open source implementations like x264, but they want the money.

What kind of a fucked up situation is this?

To FREE video on the web, we need a situation where charging royalty fees on protocols and standards is simple unacceptably and unnecessary. And where diverse implementations prove interoperability. (This is what I like about HTML, CSS, HTTP, TCP, IP!)

Spread the word, and help make it happen.


5 Responses to “The problem with video on the web”

  1. J. Cramer Says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Flash itself has been pissing me off for awhile. Whatever happened to the web standards that were adopted by w3?? SVG and some of those other ones I forget (for doing slideshows and simple animations).

    I believe the web needs standards for content. If a company wants to make money, I am not against that as long as they’re providing a worthwhile contribution. Let them sell their proprietary tools to create content for the standards, but please give me the choice! We need standards that will function perfectly regardless of the OS/browser choice, and they should be open so that the communities can fix shit properly. I still have issues with Flash in the 64-bit Ubuntu that I run. After awhile of using Firefox, all the flash stuff loads as a blank white box and I have to reboot to get it back. If Flash was open, I’m sure this bug would have been fixed within a week!

    On a positive note, I think OME is an awesome project. We have been sorely needing a decent video editor for a loooooong time. Thank you very much for your contribution and I wish you well as things progress!

  2. Flamekebab Says:

    I quite like flash, I know it’s not perfect, but it’ll do for now, compared to what we had. I see videos embedded in pages sometimes and they use Quicktime or similar and I wonder what the page maintainer is playing at. A great deal of the time, even with the correct plug-ins installed, those don’t work.

    Weren’t they discussing making Theora part of a new specification?

    Either way, it’s a problem that needs addressing. Oh and like J. Cramer, I’d like to express my thanks that someone has produced a decent video editor for linux. All the other projects I’ve tried have been massively lacking in at least some respect. OME seems to be doing the job nicely.

  3. zmjjmz Says:

    If I remember correctly, the latest FF3.1 nightlies support the tag in the HTML 5 spec.

    Actually, here is a link.

  4. oracle Says:

    Yeah, I really appreciate that decision by the firefox makers. :-) :-)


  5. Brian Says:

    I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment of this article. We need an open source and FREE as in freedom option, to what is currently available. I think this point is so fundamental, it needs to be addressed and a solution found BEFORE the OS community can reasonably expect to produce a video editing app, that organizations are going to get behind (for example).

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