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Open Movie Editor News » 2008 » June

Archive for June, 2008

The problem with video on the web

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

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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.