Fencing and Tollgating the Internet

Filed under
Software
Web

This story about yet another attempt to raise a tollgate on the Internet deserves having some extra attention called to it.

"The players from Google and Vimeo do present a pretty serious problem, though. Each of these require a proprietary H.264 codec to be able to view them. These codecs aren't compatible with the royalty-free web standards that the rest of the web is built on. The fact that they are being so unabashedly hyped along with the new darling of the web - HTML5 - means that most people don't understand that something very dangerous is taking place behind the scenes...

"Remember, this is still very early in H.264's history so the licensing is very friendly, just like it used to be for MP3.

The author, Christopher Blizzard, works for Mozilla. He has done his homework and gone far beyond the tech press in analyzing the issue. In fact, the tech press have totally missed this, and instead joined in cheerleading H.264. What journalists are missing out on is that H.264 is a patented codec, and that the patent holders expect to collect royalties.

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Firefox, YouTube, Video and the Ethics of Codecs?

htmlgoodies.com: Lately there has been a lot of controversy over the recent announcements by Mozilla, YouTube and Vimeo about their support of HTML5 video. The controversy lies in the codec used to display that video, and how supporting one codec over another could unravel the fabric the web is made of.

To get to the point, it all boils down to licensing rights. YouTube announced that they were using the H.264 video codec to support HTML5 video. This was soon followed by an announcement by Vimeo, another video site, that they will also support HTML5 using the H.264 codec. Apple's Safari is also using the H.264 codec. Dailymotion and Wikipedia have gone with support for Ogg Theora, an open source video codec. Mozilla hasn't settled on which codec they will support, and Google's Chrome supports both codecs.

By supporting H.264, YouTube, Vimeo and Safari are solidifying the use of H.264's in HTML5 video. The Unisys debacle will pale in comparison to the issues that will arrise if this happens with HTML5 video.

While it may be okay to use the H.264 video codec for the time being, at some point companies will have to start licensing the H.264 codec from the industry group that owns the MPEG-LA codec, and this will mean big bucks. Huge, gigantic bucks. And that spells trouble for the web.

There are two sides to this argument:

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