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Ars Thinks Google Takes a Step Backwards For Openness

CmdrTaco posted more than 3 years ago | from the logic-has-many-letters dept.

Google 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.'"

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Summary sucks. (5, Insightful)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861212)


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.

Re:Summary sucks. (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861300)

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.

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)

Re:Summary sucks. (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861386)


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. (5, Insightful)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861738)

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.

Re:Summary sucks. (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861554)

It works for The Register...

Re:Summary sucks. (0, Redundant)

krou (1027572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861488)

In Slashdot Russia, summaries make your mind up for you.

Re:Summary sucks. (1)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861506)

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.

Re:Summary sucks. (2)

xaxa (988988) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861724)

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 [geek.net] .

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

Re:Summary sucks. (2)

Gorath99 (746654) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861510)

And inaccurate as well, at least insofar as the article having 3 rather than 4 pages.

Re:Summary sucks. (0, Offtopic)

Vectormatic (1759674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861604)

i agree, for me this is a new low in /. editing

FUCK you taco!

Re:Summary sucks. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861660)

Have you seen the way he acts in the forums? There was a big fiasco there a few months ago because of something he said.

Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (2, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861244)

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.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861282)

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

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (1)

VGPowerlord (621254) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861344)

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?

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (0)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861372)

end users dont pay it is it ? and how ? arent you aware that licensing fees as such reflect on the development of applications end users are able to use, and eventually either reduces the proliferation/production of new apps, or raises their prices ?

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (2, Insightful)

Desler (1608317) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861472)

You do realize that the amoritized cost of an H.264 license for any company the size of google is fractions of a cent per customer, right? The royalties, which they don't have to even pay for streaming Youtube videos, is maxed out at a few million dollars which is less than they spend on a month worth of cafeteria costs.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (1)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861522)

And what about companies smaller than google?

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (1)

yakumo.unr (833476) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861536)

That's all fine and well for Google and their endless buckets of cash, but what about other companies, or importantly startups who want to get into the game.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (3, Interesting)

emt377 (610337) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861850)

That's all fine and well for Google and their endless buckets of cash, but what about other companies, or importantly startups who want to get into the game.

H.264 is a standard; not a de-facto, or "industry" standard, but one adopted by an international standards body with wide representation. It publishes specs. If you build a part to do something with H.264 video, as long as it conforms to spec, it will work with others' products. You know, like the way any unlocked GSM phone works on any GSM network that operates on the same frequency band. It's ideal for startups, because you only need expertise in your own narrow product field, not in the entire much broader space. To build say an innovative silicon decoder you don't need to know how to build an encoder, because the elementary stream conforms to the standard. You don't need to know whether it came off a disc or ethernet. And while you occasionally run into interop issues this is positively nothing compared to the alternative of having inhouse expertise for *everything*. Not to mention the cost of dealing with some hacker who thinks they're doing something smart in the encoder, blowing up your taped-out decoder you've sent off to fab!

Compared to other costs, licensing fees are fairly trivial. $100k doesn't even buy a competent engineer for a year.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861516)

as an end-user you _never_ pay for consuming h.264-encoded material, be it delivered to you for free or for pay.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861310)

I think you just hit exactly the difference in viewpoint between the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source movement. (Or, if you like, the GPL and BSD licenses).

To the FSF, you're more free if you fight things that threaten freedom; to the open source movement, you're more free if you can do more.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (0)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861728)

To the FSF, you're more free if you fight things that threaten freedom; to the open source movement, you're more free if you can do more.

FTFY: "To the FSF, you're more free if you do what we tell you to; to the open source movement, you're more free if we don't mandate what you have to do."

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (5, Insightful)

rveldpau (1765928) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (-1, Troll)

Exitar (809068) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861636)

Another option is going back to IE.
I use the browser that gives me more features/performance/whatever (I went years ago from IE to Netscape, then back to IE, then Firefox and finally I'm using Chrome).
If I'll find both FF & Chrome lacking something I "need" in everyday internet surfing, I'll simply switch browser to one that have the missing feature.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861682)

If I'll find both FF & Chrome lacking something I "need" in everyday internet surfing, I'll simply switch browser to one that have the missing feature.

Does IE run in Wine?

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (1)

JackieBrown (987087) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861802)

Another option is going back to IE.
I use the browser that gives me more features/performance/whatever (I went years ago from IE to Netscape, then back to IE, then Firefox and finally I'm using Chrome).
If I'll find both FF & Chrome lacking something I "need" in everyday internet surfing, I'll simply switch browser to one that have the missing feature.

This attitude is why IE6 was around so long with almost no competition. It is the same rational people use to use against firefox - "why use firefox when site x does not work on it." Fortunately for all us of - including IE users since competition forced microsoft to start developing their browser again - a lot of other people did not follow your way of thinking.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (1)

Alrescha (50745) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861780)

"If Chrome and Mozilla had support for H.264, and IE only supported H.264, then everyone would have to pay the licensing fee"

Yes, the ten cent licensing fee. The horror.

A.

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861462)

So every website will have to encode in every format so each user can decide?

"Stop oppressing your end users!"

Re:Putting the snideness of the summary aside... (3, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861534)

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!!! (3, Insightful)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861270)

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

Re:Rarrr!!! (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861400)

You really need to work on your anger management. You're really not angry enough yet.

So, h264 is (0)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861290)

not open but, its open ?

Re:So, h264 is (1)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861416)

It's open and free like a franchise is open and free.

Re:So, h264 is (1, Informative)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861542)

so, its not free, and open.

Re:So, h264 is (4, Informative)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861568)

The standard is open, and there are open source encoders and decoders. So in that sense, it's open: Everything is fully and publicly documented. However, it is also covered by hundreds of patents, which means you can't actually use any of that information without getting a licence from the patent holders. One of whome is Microsoft, who stands to make a lot of money from it. Others include Sony and Apple, who stand to make a lot too. So far the consortium that administers the patent pool has been quite reasonable about terms - free for noncommercial use, low costs even for commercial - but there is a fear that if x264 were to become so established it were impossible to do without it then there would be a temptation for them to start milking more money from those patents.

Re:So, h264 is (2, Insightful)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861698)

The alternative is WebM, which is owned by Google. Google also owns YouTube, Google Video Search, and Chrome, and is leveraging the fact that YouTube, Video Search, and Chrome are popular to try to force everyone to adopt their owned product WebM, without providing any kind of financial assurances to people who do that there are, in fact, no encumbering patents. See a problem here?

Re:So, h264 is (5, Informative)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861810)

WebM and Chrome are both open sourced under public licenses. To say Google "owns" them is to not understand how these open licenses work. Also, the patents behind VP8 have been released, irrevocably, to the public.

well (0)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861750)

One of whome is Microsoft, who stands to make a lot of money from it.

that explains it all for me.

Re:So, h264 is (1)

Flambergius (55153) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861800)

Very concise and accurate summary. Please mod the parent up.

Re:So, h264 is (1)

DaMattster (977781) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861836)

I guess we could all argue semantics but the definition of Free/Open Source really needs to be expanded to specifically exclude patent-encumbered technologies that do not grant unlimited, royalty-free use in both commercial and non-commercial uses alike. Also, I think if x264 should become so established, the MPEG-LA will start milking ridiculous fees.

Re:So, h264 is (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861616)

h.264 is about as open as you can get. 'Open' never meant 'free', they are separate topics. In this case however 'Open' is 'Free' for how all of you use h.264 as MPEG-LA has already stated. At least h.264 has undergone, and continues to go through the 'open' review process for the hidden cost of patent infringement. The source code for h.264 is readily available, there are multiple projects out there working to improve h.264, and at this point, it clearly outperform WebM. I am not sure how anyone can consider h.264 to be 'not open' since it is probably the most transparent codec development process the community has ever seen. WebM on the other hand was a closed source development process that stole, seemingly at will from open source projects and implemented those ideas poorly. Bad decisions aside, the single most important reason to not use WebM is that it has absolutely -zero- support from the professional community. It isn't used in production, there is no hardware support, it isn't used anywhere, period. More importantly, it isn't likely to be used anywhere as it lacks the fundamental technical support of advanced containers. MKV folks, is a no substitute for the way that TS, MP4, and MXF, all open standards, are used today. You also have to consider that the CE companies (sony, panasonic, microsoft, apple, etc) all have a vested interest in h.264, for all the right reasons. They chose a codec technology that is open, highly advanced, and can be used nearly transparently from professional studio production to broadcast to consumer distribution. There are many flavors (levels and profiles) of h.264 and each has their place in the food chain. There is only one WebM, and guess what, its a consumer technology, implemented poorly although it is improving under the care of google, and there is no desire to drive it upmarket where it can be used in the professional applications. So on the one hand you have Google and WebM, an untested (deep patent waters), under supported, and non-professional codec, and on the other hand you have every single CE company (read the bulk of the wealth in technology) as well as every single studio/broadcast/telco/cable operator who has already made a commitment to h.264. And yes, while their are issues in the patent portfolio for h.264, at least they are being dealt with and we can move forward. This doesn't even begin to touch the rest of the ecosystem that is part of the video distribution technology portfolio (AAC/MP4/AC-3/DTS/AMR/etc, etc, etc) for all of which there is a working, in use solution that works alongside of, and in tandem with, h.264. WebM is the new Real, don't believe everything you read here, and this is one case where I think Google is doing the world a disservice.

definitions (2, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861342)

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.

excuse me (-1, Troll)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861380)

cut bullshit. a standard that is not open, and subject to licensing fees, is NOT open. you cant redefine open.

Re:excuse me (1)

sproketboy (608031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861452)

That doesn't make any sense it IS AN OPEN STANDARD. It's just not free as in beer.

Re:excuse me (-1, Troll)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861560)

no, its not an open standard. because, some party retains the ownership of that standard, so they can collect fees from it. that relegates the ownership of that standard to that party. that means, that party can do anything with that standard at any given point in time, and you cant object to it.

that is NOWHERE near the definition of 'open'.

Re:excuse me (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861672)

It seems the new-speak has redefined "open". Remember the good ole days when "open" meant fully documented?

Re:excuse me (1, Funny)

Merk42 (1906718) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861838)

So if I make a proprietary door with no documentation, it won't function because I've made a door that can't be open...

Re:excuse me (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861526)

Published and usable under reasonable and nondiscriminatory terms is a very common definition of an open standard. See most ISO standards. The requirement to be free to implement is a relatively new addition to the definition (within the last 10-15 years).

Re:excuse me (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861648)

Time to define "open" like we did "free." There is free speech, and free beer, and that is now clear... So lets go with the code is open, the standard is open, the store is open. Clear now?

Re:excuse me (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861786)

Well, personally I think it's a huge difference between the proprietary only-for-licensed-parties "standards" like say BD+ for BluRays and standards that are made by a major standards organization and is published, open for all to participate and under RAND licensing - on a scale of open to closed they're much more open. Like for example there's a huge difference that for H.264 you have x264, while trying to reverse engineer proprietary formats is pure hell. I think you're far too optimistic as to how uniquely "open" or "open stanadard" is defined.

The dictionary lists 23 uses of open, many of which apply to that. And the expression itself is no clearer, from Wikipedia:

For example, the rules for standards published by the major internationally recognized standards bodies such as the IETF, ISO, IEC, and ITU-T permit their standards to contain specifications whose implementation will require payment of patent licensing fees. Among these organizations, only the IETF and ITU-T explicitly refer to their standards as "open standards", while the others refer only to producing "standards".

Re:definitions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861442)

But H.264 isn't "free-as-in-beer" by any stretch of the imagination.
Every legal implementation of it is paid for.

Re:definitions (0)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861494)

"One more thing... get a life!" - William Shatner
By the year 2020 people will still be using MPEG4, and 99% of them won't give a fuck, just as now they don't give a fuck that their TVs use MPEG2, and iPods use MPEG1-part 3 (MP3). The average person just doesn't give a damn, but they WILL care if they download a WebM movie off google/youtube, and their iPod or TV refuses to play it.

I do think people need to understand that (2, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861768)

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 there for the taking. Of course if you then wish to make use of it in certain contexts, like implementing it in video editing software, you'll need to pay licensing fees. It isn't free, however it is open.

However it seems that the OSS types then get mad that any money is being charged. All of a sudden openness isn't what it is about. It is no longer a matter of "free as in speech" it is "free as in I want to sleep on your couch for a year." Only things which cost nothing are acceptable, for some reason "open but not zero cost," isn't ok anymore.

In the case of browser H.264 support I think Google is wrong to force WebM. I'm not at all unhappy that there is the WebM standard, I think it is great that a completely free format is out there because face it, we can't all pay royalties. However H.264 is superior in terms of quality per bit and thus has a reason to be used. So the option should be offered.

If it is an issue of money, which I can accept since Chrome is free (though you are right it isn't a big deal to Google) then all they should do is use the system's H.264 codec, if it has one. Windows 7 and OS-X ship with an H.264 decoder, and you can get H.264 decoders for older versions of Windows and I presume for Linux. So just use them if present, and don't play it if not.

Really I think that's the right way for browsers to do HTML 5 video period. Simply pass the request on to the OS's media layer. That way any format the OS knows how to play, you play.

H.264 _is_ open; just not free (2)

carlhaagen (1021273) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861346)

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 the MPEG "technology" in a _commercial_ context, you need to pay, and Google does not want to pay.

no, i dont want to pay. (2, Insightful)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861402)

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.

Re:H.264 _is_ open; just not free (5, Insightful)

jgagnon (1663075) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:H.264 _is_ open; just not free (1)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861766)

Considering Google's recent history with Java, I think Google's strategy is not to save money but to exert some power from being the new 800 lb gorilla.

Google doesn't make any money in the H.264 consortium therefore they will work against it. Not saying this is a terribly bad thing, but beware of the corporation willing to give you the shirt of their back.

Re:H.264 _is_ open; just not free (1)

TheGreek (2403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861676)

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?

Re:H.264 _is_ open; just not free (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861680)

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 (4, Insightful)

Sonny Yatsen (603655) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861352)

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 (4, Insightful)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861482)

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".

Re:Licensing fees (1)

initdeep (1073290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861664)

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.

Re:Licensing fees (1)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861726)

No, you could use the OS video decoding APIs, which use whichever codecs are installed at the OS level (just like printing uses the printer drivers installed at the OS level). And guess what? The vast majority of consumer OSs come with H.264 codecs (pretty damn good ones at that) preinstalled.

Re:Licensing fees (2)

Padrino121 (320846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861770)

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.

Re:Licensing fees (1)

Celarent Darii (1561999) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861496)

Open Source doesn't necessary imply that the programmer's time is free.

It might just cost more time and money to implement an open format that it is to pay the fees.

I see no advantage for Google in this at all, nor for the web in general.

huh ? (1)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861650)

what kind of bullshit you are smoking ?

so, its better to pay for a closed proprietary standard AND also pay the development fees ? are you aware of the issues and problems flash generates in video formats, browsers, content delivery, for example ?

with proprietary standard, you have to wait for the owner to come up with solutions. with an open standard, your developer, who you are paying for its time, can do anything you want.

if you see no advantage in this for web anything 'in general', quit your i.t. job and start selling real estate or something.

Re:Licensing fees (1)

kiwix (1810960) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861772)

It might just cost more time and money to implement an open format that it is to pay the fees.

But it has to be done only once.

If Google or Mozilla releases a nice Open Source browser with video support, and I want to add some feature for my personal needs, or to port it to some fancy hardware or Operating System, I don't need to reimplement the open video format. However if there are licensing fees involved, I will probably have to pay.

Re:Licensing fees (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861548)

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.

Re:Licensing fees (1)

Nemyst (1383049) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861606)

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 ... (4, Insightful)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Unambiguously patented (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Unambiguously patented (1)

Khue (625846) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861588)

I didn't think H.264 was open either. Head over to Wikipedia and on their H.264 article there is a very brief explanation of what part MPEG LA plays in the patenting of H.264 technology. Is MPEG LA just another patent troll company?

Re:Unambiguously patented (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861626)

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

Re:Unambiguously patented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861788)

We don't agree with your definition of open standard. If it is patent encumbered and and the reference implementation requires licensing costs, it is not open.

Summary sucks big time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861368)

This must be the most biggoted summary ever!

Regardless... Google's decision is BAD plain and simple: You support openness by ADDING, not REMOVING.

Who put Google on the position to tell us right from wrong, open from closed? Can't we have a say? They are obviously leveraging Chrome's rising popularity to enforce whatever they think is open, which somehow happens to be the best for their PROFITS.

Re:Summary sucks big time! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861778)

You're confusing openness with capability. By your logic, adding a bunch of proprietary closed-source codecs means you support "openness".

Can you freely create/give-away h.264 apps to millions of users? That's what it means to be a closed technology. If you, or your end users, have to make a deal with anyone - you're less open.

If you don't absolutely dislike patent-encumbered software, and don't even want to think about how they artificially limit your options and innovation, you probably own stock in Microsoft or Apple (or are blinded as a fanboy to one or the other).

Miking up 'open' and 'standard' (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861378)

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 with the standards bodies to make it so.

He does point out the obvious that the rhetoric of 'we believe in open' is really better read as 'we are too cheap for licensing decoders for a free browser', but that one sentence was really all that needed to be said on the matter and most people immediately realized that.

but.... h.264 IS OPEN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861410)

the specs can be implemented in software by anyone, without paying a dime, as long as the resulting product is non-commercial. you just can't bundle "h.264 technology" in a commercial application without paying for it. google's problem is just that. they don't want to pay a dime.

What about x.264? (1)

grub (11606) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861418)


Summary rant aside, how would it affect x.264? Isn't that an open-standard of the h264 spec? If not, just use x264.

Re:What about x.264? (1)

klingens (147173) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861540)

If you were to include x264 into any product for sale, MPEG-LA will come knocking to your door, demand (and get) licensing fees. x264 is an open _implementation_ of h264 but the patents still apply.

codec nightmare (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861428)

Just come out with one standard codec or include all codecs to every browser...problem solved.

Re:codec nightmare (1)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861596)

Just come out with one standard codec or include all codecs to every browser...problem solved.

Heathen! You must join the Church of Open Source and support Google/WebM and hate hate hate MPEG/h264, or be censored!!!
(Reaches for the mod button : -1 Troll for digitalDC)

/end sarcasm

Re:codec nightmare (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861646)

Seriously?! Why didn't anyone think of this before? Google needs to hire people like you who think outside the box!

I'm glad Mods can't mod (-1) Censored (-1, Offtopic)

theaveng (1243528) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861430)

I'm glad Mods can't give summaries or the arstechnica.com website a (-1) Troll like they did to my posts (yesterday) saying I disagree with removing MPEG4 from Chrome.

They probably would mod Ars Technica (-1) censored if they could get away with it, simply because Ars opposes Google's decision.

4 pages of FUD (3, Funny)

gbrandt (113294) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861434)

I SEE THREE PAGES!

Re:4 pages of FUD (0)

arikol (728226) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861512)

duhhh.... he's counting his own summary with it....

Re:4 pages of FUD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861640)

... of FUD

H.264 is unambiguously NOT open (4, Insightful)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861456)

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

H.264 IS unambiguously open (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34861742)

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.

Look up the definition. (2)

mathemaniac (61325) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861480)

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

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Source_Definition [wikipedia.org]

Re:Look up the definition. (1)

Joehonkie (665142) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861582)

Surprisingly, the open source movement doesn't get to define words for the rest of the world.

well said. (2)

unity100 (970058) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861708)

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 anyone tries to redefine open, like the moron in ars technica does, i will take that person not only as 'not bright', but also an enemy of my freedom and interest as a citizen.

open is open. if any party retains custody of something in the form of ownership, then it means that thing is NOT OPEN. actually the anonymous submitter was quite level headed in his inflammatory summary. i would have directly labeled someone who tried to redefine open, for supporting private interests, as a paid whore.

Screw Bright (1)

naasking (94116) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861586)

If he wants to pay Chrome's licensing fees for H.264, then he can have his support back.

Open as in beer (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861730)

Just as free as in speech is not the same as free as in beer, open as in standards is not the same
as open as in source.

Dear anonymous, (5, Insightful)

Cogneato (600584) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861796)

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.

I agree with Peter (1)

fruitbane (454488) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861834)

I have to agree with Peter on this. I certainly don't begrudge Google creating and supporting the WebM standard. I think WebM is a good thing, and will foster further open source video codec advancements. But h264 is a solid video standard. I don't like the royalty/patent burden, but that it has already been embraced by many browsers makes it the incumbent codec. I support choice for video encoders and viewers alike, and that means more options rather than fewer. In cutting out the largest codec Google will be limiting choice and eliminating the only standardized codec. Google controls WebM development, whereas h264 is controlled by a standards body, not by any one technology patent holder.

standard = open and free, or none at all (0)

markhahn (122033) | more than 3 years ago | (#34861852)

this sort of discussion, especially given the mental limitations of websites, media outlets and media consumers, always gets bogged down in the morass of non-free vs defacto vs dejure vs license pools, etc.

the fact is that when we talk about "standard" in a good sense, it is open _and_ free, or not at all. for instance TCP/IP is a real standard precisely because it is both open and free. HTTP/HTML. javascript is, but java isn't. linux is and windows isn't. you get the idea.

in a meaningful sense, GNU caused part of the problem, because it conflates RMS's ideology with this basically simple "standard=open+free" model. (and before any RMSista object: GPL is popular as a flag of convenience - operating under GPL does not mean allegiance to RMS's politics...)

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