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Mozilla Considers H264 After WebM Fails To Gain Traction

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the both-are-so-euphonic dept.

Google 182

HerculesMO writes with word that "Looks as though Mozilla is considering using H264, one step closer to unification of a single protocol for video encoding. It's a big deal for HTML5 traction, but it still leaves Google holding onto WebM." The article, though a bit harsh on Ogg Theora, offers an interesting look at the way standards are chosen (and adopted by the browser makers).

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182 comments

What is the smiliarity between ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39809583)

Web standards, racism and hybrid cards?

Re:What is the smiliarity between ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39809953)

They all suck?
(BTW, don't you mean hybrid cars?)

Re:What is the smiliarity between ... (1)

tomhuxley (951364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810359)

Perhaps he means greeting cards printed on e-paper that wirelessly stream annoying musical greetings and show choppy washed-out videos of kittens line-dancing?

Re:What is the smiliarity between ... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810497)

So, "They all suck" still applies.

In Other News (4, Funny)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809591)

Word has it that you can't run Flash on the iPhone, either.

Re:In Other News (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810605)

Or on Android.

Re:In Other News (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810713)

Or on Android.

Joke post?
Flash is currently installed on my Nexus One.

Re:In Other News (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810949)

GP said *run*. Installed has nothing to do with it.

Re:In Other News (2)

Elbart (1233584) | more than 2 years ago | (#39811029)

Yes, but it will only be officially supported for up to and including 4.x. After that, Android will be Flash-free, too.

open standard yes, open source no. (0)

noh8rz3 (2593935) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809603)

As discussed many times before, h264 is an open standard, which means anybody can implement it and there's no compentitive advantage / disadvantage by locking people out of the market. like frand patents (cough cough, motorola!). Of course, it's not open source, and anybody who makes money from h264 (over a certain revenue threshold) has to pay a licensing fee. Are there any precedents for this? How about 3g, lte, etc. It seems fair to me and a logical choice for firefox.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (2)

kd4zqe (587495) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809701)

Pity that a licensed tech won, but who can blame people when you have the hardware accelerated decoding in billions of handsets worldwide. I'm not opposed to people making money, but not at the cost of making devices prohibitively expensive.

Here's to hoping that "Fair, Reasonable and Nondiscriminatory" licensing fees stay that way.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810459)

Not only does it have billions of players out there, it's also just plain superior to the alternatives. And there is no guarantee the open codecs don't infringe on patents.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39811149)

I think it's a bit early to call the winner, for the moment. Don't forget that Google holds a big trump card: YouTube. For lots of people YouTube is the only video on the web that they watch, and at least for the moment YouTube's HTML5 player uses WebM.
How do I know? Well, as it turns out Google Chrome is kind of bad at playing back WebM video. Think croaky audio, jittery video. So I looked at the code to figure out the URL to paste into Windows Media Player, which played it just fine with... wait for it... Google's own WebM DirectShow codec. So that's how I know.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (3, Informative)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809851)

There's plenty of open source encoders and decoders available. ffmpeg, x264 (produced for VLC) to start.

The notion that H.264 is not "free" isn't a result of a development methodology, it's because people think that somehow patents make it that way, despite the fact that the software authors have no choice in the matter.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809897)

What other than patents is it?
If we abolished patents how would this not be a free standard?

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810397)

Or if you wait until 2023 or so, all the patents involved will have expired. (I don't know the exact dates; wiki just says it was finalized in 2003.)

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (1)

Stormtrooper42 (1850242) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810905)

I think H.264 will be pretty outdated in 2023.
HEVC [wikipedia.org] is supposed to be twice as good as H.264.
I won't be surprised if HEVC's successor is created before 2023.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (4, Insightful)

mounthood (993037) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810501)

The notion that H.264 is not "free" isn't a result of a development methodology, it's because people think that somehow patents make it that way, despite the fact that the software authors have no choice in the matter.

H.264 is not free-as-in-freedom nor free-as-in-beer, and patents are the reason. IP amounts to copyright, trade secrets and patents, but the first two don't apply here. It's a patent issue.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810627)

What do you mean they have no choice?

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (1)

diamondmagic (877411) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810919)

If patents really define what makes software "free" or not-free, then no one would be able to chose to make a free H.264 codec.

My point is it's stupid to not support a codec just because of how it was invented. It's still free software.

open standard yes, open source yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39809857)

There is an open source implementation of h.264. It's called jm and is available at http://iphome.hhi.de/suehring/tml/ - and I recall it is also the reference implementation

Syllable you need to have patent licence to use it but that doesn't stop an open source implementation

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809927)

As a web developer you could just use MPEG2 for videos. That will soon be free to use.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810315)

Soon, in this case, is still a few years away. MPEG-2 was published in 1996, so any patents in it are likely to have been filed by at least 1995. This still leaves three more years before they all expire. Amusingly, TFA (which is full of flamebait) seems to think that both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 Part 2 were released in 2002, and that DVDs were first released in 2002. Those DVDs I saw in 1998 containing MPEG-2 video must have come from a time traveller...

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (3, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810537)

Parts of MPEG-2 (AAC, for one) were not published until 1997, and some hardware codec chips might have patents that were filed much later. Similarly, there may be patents on algorithm optimizations that were filed much later, e.g. patents on ways to use pixel shaders to perform some part of the MPEG-2 decoding process. So although the format will ostensibly become free and clear of patents four years from now in its barest reference implementation, that does not necessarily mean that you can't get sued if you write your own implementation. :-)

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810817)

But this is true of any codec. You could patent an optimization for WebM just as easily as you could patent an optimization for H.264.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810997)

Or everybody could support the free and open standard WebM. That could work, too.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (3, Informative)

tomhuxley (951364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810209)

The thresholds for encoders/decoders are based on distribution quantities, not revenue thresholds. Below 100,000 units, there is no royalty fee owed. Between 100,000 and 5 million units, the cost is 20 cents per unit. Above 5 million, the cost is 10 cents per unit.

The maximum royalty fee owed is currently capped at $6.5 million.

Part of the license agreement specifies that the fees can't increase more than 10% per 5 year period (2011-2016 is the current period). The max cap can go up more than 10% per period, but that only affects the biggest distributors.

Mozilla can certainly afford it, the Foundation brings in over $300 million in search engine fees alone. Smaller open source projects would probably fall under the 100,00 units. The ones most affected will be popular projects that lack an income stream like Mozilla Foundation has.

Re:open standard yes, open source no. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810935)

Sure. And if it becomes the dominant codec, I guess we can pray they don't alter the deal further after 2016. Enjoy your clown suit [youtube.com] .

fP (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39809611)

fP

Realmedia codec (4, Interesting)

Spy Handler (822350) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809619)

I remember seeing lots of little Real-encoded videos on websites back in the day... whatever happened to them?

Re:Realmedia codec (4, Informative)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809675)

People figured out that Real (and Realplayer) were utter pieces of garbage and stopped using them?

Same thing I wish would happen to quicktime.

Re:Realmedia codec (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810007)

Quicktime isn't a codec, really.

Maybe you want the Quicktime Player to die, and on Windows maybe it's not needed - the fact that it is necessary for iTunes is merely because it's cross platform and Quicktime is a core component of OS X.

I'm not sure what Apple's goals with Qucktime Player are - version X is a step backwards from version 7 on OS X, and I keep both installed concurrently and prefer to use v7 where possible.

To bring it back to the topic - Quicktime Player can play any codec you have a plugin for, so that would be h.264, webM, wmv, ogg vorbis, mp3, aac etc; and almost any container format (some better than others).

Re:Realmedia codec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810531)

Calling iTunes cross-platform is pretty disingenuous. It brings the entire Mac platform with it in the form of network discovery, USB drivers, media framework, the works. No wonder it sucks so hard.

Re:Realmedia codec (0)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810715)

Sort of like apps that require the X window system on OS X, or Wine apps on OS X or Linux, eh?

Re:Realmedia codec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810559)

Quicktime isn't a codec, really.

.qt, .mov
Quicktime movies.
It's a codec, your post is like saying "WMV isn't a codec, Windows Media Player can play any codec you have a plugin for." The software and the codec have a similar name. Back when Apple was viciously proprietary about the spread of their QT codec, it would only play in the stupid Quicktime Malware plugins.

Re:Realmedia codec (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810737)

Thing is, no sane person uses the Quicktime codec anymore so talking about it makes no sense. It's like saying you want Real to die, it's already dead, stop beating that damn horse already.

Apple themselves use MPEG-4 almost exclusively, it's pretty much their standard format for video and has been for years.

Re:Realmedia codec (1)

SpryGuy (206254) | more than 2 years ago | (#39811165)

Well, except for the fact that there are still a lot of quicktime movies out there, and that Apple itself forces Quicktime installs on Windows machines when you try and install iTunes.

Quicktime sucks (the app). Thankfully, Win7's Media Player can play Quicktime movies natively. As long as you don't have to install iTunes (and being forced to is the main reason I'm looking to dump my iPhone), you can have a decent OS unpolluted by the utter garbage that is the QuickTime app. Oh yeah, and iTunes is utter garbage on Windows as well.

You're using words you don't understand (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810771)

Quicktime isn't a codec, really.

.qt, .mov
Quicktime movies.
It's a codec, your post is like saying "WMV isn't a codec, Windows Media Player can play any codec you have a plugin for." The software and the codec have a similar name.

You don't understand what you're talking about. Codecs are not the same thing as file extensions. .mov files are container files. They can contain media encoded with a variety of codecs, the vast majority of which have nothing to do with Apple. There is no "QuickTime codec" the way there are Windows Media codecs.

Back when Apple was viciously proprietary about the spread of their QT codec...

And what supposed codec would that be? The only QuickTime codec Apple really developed was the first one, which even Apple never really used. The codecs Apple has endorsed for quicktime lately are MPEG-4 Part 2, and most recently H.264, neither of which is owned by Apple.

Re:Realmedia codec (0)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810793)

Quicktime isn't a codec, really.

.qt, .mov
Quicktime movies.
It's a codec, your post is like saying "WMV isn't a codec, Windows Media Player can play any codec you have a plugin for." The software and the codec have a similar name. Back when Apple was viciously proprietary about the spread of their QT codec, it would only play in the stupid Quicktime Malware plugins.

No, dipshit.
Quicktime is a container. The codec is an implementation of MPEG 4 (a shitty one at that).
Past codecs included MPEG 2, MPEG, and a ton of other old crap no one uses.

Re:Realmedia codec (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810799)

Quicktime isn't a codec, really.

.qt, .mov
Quicktime movies.
It's a codec, your post is like saying "WMV isn't a codec, Windows Media Player can play any codec you have a plugin for." The software and the codec have a similar name. Back when Apple was viciously proprietary about the spread of their QT codec, it would only play in the stupid Quicktime Malware plugins.

You're still wrong, but good attempt at trying to correct me. .mov is a container format that can contain (duh!) any number of different codecs and streams.

Again, "back when Apple was viciously proprietary" the codec of choice inside Quicktime containers (.mov) was probably Sorenson.

Just to be clear: the .mov format is a container. It can contain many different codecs (and has always done, and continues to do).

If I ask you what codec your file uses and you tell me it's a .mov file then I do not have enough information to be sure about what codec I need to install to play it back.

Re:Realmedia codec (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810711)

Quicktime X does have a few advantages over previous versions. The main one being the UI when playing a movie, as long as you don't mouse over the window there are absolutely no window decorations, just the video, which is really useful for those of us with large screens (both in physical size and resolution) who like to tile our windows and keep TV shows or movies running while doing other stuff.

I kind of wish VLC or MPlayer OSX Extended would implement this.

Re:Realmedia codec (1)

ArundelCastle (1581543) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810819)

I kind of wish VLC or MPlayer OSX Extended would implement this.

Try MPlayerX. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. The current version doesn't have a playlist or individual loop feature, but that's really about the only things it doesn't have, IMO. It does a reasonable attempt at detecting episodic files in a folder.

Re:Realmedia codec (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810999)

I'm not sure what Apple's goals with Qucktime Player are - version X is a step backwards from version 7 on OS X, and I keep both installed concurrently and prefer to use v7 where possible.

Easy - it's time for a rewrite. QuickTime, like Final Cut Pro and Logic before it, was getting somewhat crufty and time to start anew. Apple generally likes to introduce a stable brand new version of the software first, then re-add back missing features (we see this happening with Final Cut). OS X was another such "victim" - 10.0/10.1 were pretty featureless compared to Classic (OS 9) back in the day - hell, things like DVD Player only were on OS 9 (and didn't work in Classic mode on OS X). Eventually Apple started fixing things up until it was usable for day to day work and booting into OS 9 was reserved for the oddball compatibility thing that couldn't be handled with Classic.

So Apple ships v7 with QT X for that reason - QT X doesn't have all the features of 7. (Too bad they didn't do this with Final Cut, but you can buy it over the phone still).

Of course, having said that, it's time for iTunes X. A full rewrite.

The QuickTime format will live on even if you don't use QuickTime. The MP4 container format is a subset of QuickTime's MOV container. 3GP is a more limited version of MP4. There's not much more to MOV that a proper MP4 container parser couldn't implement and handle all three formats. Heck, most of the time you can just rename them (if the container splitter is braindead) and it'll work.

Though, I haven't really run into MOVs all that often anymore - the h.264 ones are all MP4s anyhow.

As for WebM - the problem was Mozilla did not wait long enough. Google acquired WebM only a couple of years ago and specs for it were released then. It takes YEARS before it'll start to come out.with hardware decoders. (I remember dealing with h.264 encoded files back in what, 2004? When practically nothing played it, and DivX was the popular codec of the day). WebM in hardware will probably start happening around 2013-2014 at the earliest (as in - you can buy devices with webm support).

Re:Realmedia codec (1)

tomhuxley (951364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810433)

If you're hoping for it to disappear completely it won't happen anytime soon, the official MP4 container format is based on the Quicktime format.

Re:Realmedia codec (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810521)

My quick fix is to change the extension. Rename .mov to .mp4 and BAM over 90% of files suddenly work on the other players I have.

Re:Realmedia codec (5, Funny)

the_fat_kid (1094399) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809693)

they are all still buffering...

Re:Realmedia codec (1)

man_of_mr_e (217855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810477)

People got sick of Real invading their OS's, and burrowing so deep into them it was impossible to remove without reformatting.

Re:Realmedia codec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810541)

When YouTube launched, they decided to standardize on Flash video rather than Real. Real faded into irrelevance after Flash video became far more popular.

Excellent (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39809627)

Excellent! Another card in Microsoft's FUD-deck.
Soon Linux will be, depending on context, "that operating system that can't play videos on the web and doesn't support standards", or "that operating system where everyone infringes patents, so it would be crazy to use it in a business".

Re:Excellent (2)

tomhuxley (951364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810287)

Not necessarily, the decoder/encoder royalty fees are pretty cheap and could be sold at a good profit as an add-on for less than a buck.

Re:Excellent (1)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810419)

There does appear to be a certain haphazard logic there, you must admit...

Re:Excellent (1)

marcello_dl (667940) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810825)

I bet a debian desktop will still be free from patented stuff by default, so business will have workstations that can't play videos unless explicitly authorized. A win - win scenario, if you ask me, but then, I can't stand web browsing with flash enabled and all those inane animations.

Lol editors (4, Informative)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809639)

Yes, you already posted the story [slashdot.org] about this in March. Which is the same month when the linked article is from. Good to see timithy is still at the top of his game!

Re:Lol editors (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809699)

Better than samzenpus, like yesterday! Timothy, at least, tries.

HLS/ MPEG2 patent status? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39809659)

Even if Apple is blamed to be a big h264 pusher
they choose parts of MPEG 2 for Http Live Streaming,
maybe Apple made the good patent decisions?

Will HLS become free before the other solutions?

Full Motion RLE should be unencumbered (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39809679)

*ducks*

Dupe, old news, vanity link (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39809685)

Dupe:
http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/03/13/2027215/mozilla-debates-supporting-h264-in-firefox-via-system-codecs
http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/03/20/1742209/mozilla-to-support-h264

Old news:
March 13th, 2012 -> This particular blog's story is March 16th, 2012 -> Today is April 26th, 2012

Vanity link:
It's a link to AppleInsider--why on earth would AppleInsider be a novel or interesting source about internal Mozilla strategy?

Dear editors: wake the hell up.

Kind of serves them right really (4, Insightful)

DrXym (126579) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809687)

h264 is ubquitous. It's really stupid to deny the reality that people want to use it because of politics which is what it boils down to.

Mozilla wouldn't even have to taint itself by supporting it. Just hook the video tag to the media framework in the host OS - Quicktime, DirectShow, gstreamer etc. and invoke the default h264 codec if its present and suitable or point the user at a way to obtain it if it isn't. They could still ship Theora with the browser if they wanted.

Re:Kind of serves them right really (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810027)

Just hook the video tag to the media framework in the host OS

Browsers have been able to do that for years and years and it still doesn't work properly.

Re:Kind of serves them right really (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810815)

Just hook the video tag to the media framework in the host OS

Browsers have been able to do that for years and years and it still doesn't work properly.

Horseshit. <embed> worked a decade ago and it works today.

Re:Kind of serves them right really (1)

skynexus (778600) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810337)

h264 is ubquitous.

And so was Gif, and we know how that went...

It's really stupid to deny the reality that people want to use it because of politics which is what it boils down to.

In the long run, yes. But since they are obviously not denying the "reality", I guess it isn't stupid afterall?

I recall that one of Mozilla's mission is to promote an open Web, in which case it would be stupid to adopt h264. Well, they tried, but at this point, it would be more stupid not to adopt it.

To sum it up, h264 adoption, or lack thereof, is just "stupid".

Re:Kind of serves them right really (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810813)

And so was Gif, and we know how that went...

"Still used all over the web"?

Re:Kind of serves them right really (5, Insightful)

Cow Jones (615566) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810379)

h264 is ubquitous. It's really stupid to deny the reality that people want to use it because of politics which is what it boils down to.

The aren't denying reality, they were trying to shape it.
And I'm glad they tried, even if they didn't win this time.

Harsh? (-1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809813)

Ogg Theora and WebM are no better in quality than MPEG3 (i.e. halfway between crappy MPEG2 and the newer MPEG4).

I wish ATSC used MPEG4 cause I'm tired of seeing blocks/mosquitos on my television screen. Oh well... the ATSC arrived too soon (1998).

Re:Harsh? (0)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810265)

Ogg Theora and WebM are no better in quality than MPEG3

You're comparing video codecs to an audio codec? Besides, VP8 is actually more-or-less equal to H.264 in quality and compression, you can easily verify that yourself with libvpx and x264. If you're comparing Theora to VP8 and claiming they're of the same quality then you're only displaying your ignorance on the subject and/or that you're trying to troll.

Re:Harsh? (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810399)

There's no such thing as "MPEG3". It's MPEG audio Layer 3.

Re:Harsh? (1)

BronsCon (927697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810453)

You're thinking MP3, MPEG-1, Layer 3.

Re:Harsh? (1)

nabsltd (1313397) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810599)

Ogg Theora and WebM are no better in quality than MPEG3

You're comparing video codecs to an audio codec?

MPEG-3 was the brief name for high-bitrate video and audio that was eventually rolled into MPEG-2. It should not be confused with MP3 [wikipedia.org] , which is really MPEG-1 or MPEG-2, layer 3 audio.

So basically, both you and the GP are confused, although Theora isn't anywhere close to H.264, especially when implemented with a good encoder like x264. VP8 is used so little that it's hard to say what the quality is like over a wide variety of content.

Also, WebM is technically the name of the container for VP8 video with Orbis audio, but in theory, the container could hold any audio and video formats.

Re:Harsh? (1)

Chuckstar (799005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810859)

I interpreted that comments as "Ogg Theora and WebM are no better in quality than what MPEG3 might have been if there had been a codec between MPEG2 and MPEG4".

Maybe I'm just giving the poster too much benefit of the doubt?

H.264 is a terrible solution (5, Informative)

ctime (755868) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809881)

The fact that one company owns the license to this technology and makes no guarantees to _not_ increase licensing costs means that once h.264 support is the be-all end-all solution to web video, this one company has a monopoly on the sole video technology that drives the web. Most people running windows/mac have probably indirectly paid for licensing fees for h.264 multiple times. Nice racket they've got there and nobody is complaining, yet.

Here's a pretty good article:
http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/a-closer-look-at-the-costs-and-fine-print-of-h264-licenses/2884 [zdnet.com]
from the article:
To use and distribute H.264, browser and OS vendors, hardware manufacturers, and publishers who charge for content must pay significant royalties—with no guarantee the fees won’t increase in the future. To companies like Google, the license fees may not be material, but to the next great video startup and those in emerging markets these fees stifle innovation. []

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (5, Insightful)

SurfsUp (11523) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810005)

The article is an Apple troll.

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810015)

This company did not raise prices for their older MPEG1, MPEG2, or MP3 standards, so why do you think they'll suddenly turn evil?

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (2)

Guppy (12314) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810197)

This company did not raise prices for their older MPEG1, MPEG2, or MP3 standards, so why do you think they'll suddenly turn evil?

"..."

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (1)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810031)

The fact that one company owns the license to this technology and makes no guarantees to _not_ increase licensing costs means that once h.264 support is the be-all end-all solution to web video, this one company has a monopoly on the sole video technology that drives the web. Most people running windows/mac have probably indirectly paid for licensing fees for h.264 multiple times. Nice racket they've got there and nobody is complaining, yet.

Here's a pretty good article:

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/a-closer-look-at-the-costs-and-fine-print-of-h264-licenses/2884 [zdnet.com]

from the article:

To use and distribute H.264, browser and OS vendors, hardware manufacturers, and publishers who charge for content must pay significant royalties—with no guarantee the fees won’t increase in the future. To companies like Google, the license fees may not be material, but to the next great video startup and those in emerging markets these fees stifle innovation. []

This is why Mozilla will just pass H.264 along to whatever decoder the OS has available and not bundle H.264 into Firefox at all. This position makes the most sense for them and the users. Every device I use already has a H.264 decoder with hardware support. I just need Firefox to get out of the way.

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (1)

tomhuxley (951364) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810051)

Perhaps they aren't complaining because the guarantees do exist. You didn't read the second page of Bott's article you link to.

There he explains that the agreement includes guarantees that the per unit fee will not be increased more than 10% at each 5 year renewal of the agreement. So the maximum increase for royalty fees is 10% every 5 years, which is a pretty reasonable increase.

The only "loophole" is that the maximum royalty fee cap isn't covered by that guarantee. However only the largest distributors would be affected by that cap limit.

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810133)

That smacks a little of FUD.

The purpose of the royalties are to provide a continuing and stable revenue stream to those who have put resources into developing it and thus the goal is to ensure wide adoption of the standard so that it gains traction and ubiquity. Punitive fees that "might increase in the future! oooh scary!" runs counter to that goal. If people stop using the format because it is expensive and difficult to implement then the revenue stops flowing in.

Just because it is a licenced standard with royalties does not automatically make it part of an evil scheme to make everyone pay exorbitant fees - it's merely a business model that depends on wide use of the standard to recoup the development costs. It doesn't mean that they're going to wait until you are comfortable in your property and then jack up the rent with an evil laugh - you'd simply move out and then their regular income stream is gone.

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810297)

Once the format is the only one used, and is burned into all hardware, good luck migrating off of that anytime soon. So they could make a lot of money by increasing licensing fees a couple of orders of magnitude, and that's exactly what they will do if they think they can make more money that way.

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (1)

jo_ham (604554) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810471)

Once the format is the only one used, and is burned into all hardware, good luck migrating off of that anytime soon. So they could make a lot of money by increasing licensing fees a couple of orders of magnitude, and that's exactly what they will do if they think they can make more money that way.

...and then all future devices will drop it for an alternative. With the speed that hardware turns over presently it would be foolish to assume you had total control and that your users had nowhere to go.

That's the whole point. You want to make it affordable and attractive so that you maintain your revenue stream. Assuming you're in a position of dominance you don't try to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Then you have a dead goose and no more eggs in the future.

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (2)

Lunix Nutcase (1092239) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810239)

One company doesn't own the license. The MPEG-LA is a 3rd party clearinghouse for people to set up patent pools. They don't own H.264 or the patents. H.264 is 'owned' by the ISO/MPEG standard boards and the companies that hold the essential patents.

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810853)

This post is chock full of errors, and moderated "Informative". Good job, Slashdot.

Re:H.264 is a terrible solution (1)

Anubis IV (1279820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810955)

...with no guarantee the fees won't increase in the future

That's rather misleading. There actually are guarantees that the rates won't increase before the end of 2015 (they're even spelled out in the article you linked, as well as the original Terms Summary [mpegla.com] provided by the MPEG-LA). In addition to those guarantees, there are also guarantees that when they set new rates for the five-year period starting in 2016, the new rates will be no more than 10% above the current ones. Besides that, previous major standards the MPEG-LA have controlled haven't been abused in the way that everyone seems to be worrying h.264 will be abused. So unless you're suggesting that the company suddenly changed the way it does business and will start to show their true face in 2015, that particular argument is not one I'd try to stand on.

The justification for WebM (5, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39809981)

The justification for WebM is that it would allow people to freely share videos using your own infrastructure without charge and without additional cost.

It's not about the consequence for the consumer, it's about the chilling effect it has on free culture.

It has HUGE consequences. Mozilla knew that, that's why they tried to play hardball.

Re:The justification for WebM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810401)

There's no chilling effect. If you don't want to license the MPEG LA pool you can always distribute uncompressed video and not pay anyone a cent. Or develop your own video encoding technology that isn't based on those ideas.

Re:The justification for WebM (3, Interesting)

SeaFox (739806) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810463)

Is there any reason they have to choose a side?

No seriously, why can't they have both h264 and WebM support and let the market decide which one gets used more?

Re:The justification for WebM (1)

ifrag (984323) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810939)

No seriously, why can't they have both h264 and WebM support and let the market decide which one gets used more?

The market has already decided that, hence the decision. If WebM is removed from official builds then anyone should still be free to re-include it in their own builds. Doesn't really seem like an issue either way.

Let's Face It (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810327)

O.G.G. has had it's day.

Does anyone even use V.O.R.B.I.S. anymore? MP3 has long overtaken it. I can't see T.H.E.O.R.A. gaining traction when even Google hasn't managed to push WebM.

Dup? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810387)

This story is from last month, and was widely covered by Streaming Media [streamingmedia.com] and others. It was probably posted to /. at that time, too.

Alternative? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810443)

Non-troll question: Is there actually an open-source codec which equals or even surpasses H264 in quality? I find it hard to believe the math is so arcane and long-winded that nobody can beat it in quality for a given file size and compress/decompress speed.

Re:Alternative? (0)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810611)

I suspect the bigger problem is that there are so many patents on video codecs that any better open source alternative would infringe on at least one of those patents.

Re:Alternative? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810699)

Even if that were true, and the math was exhausted, surely many people would try to beat it for sheer fun?

Re:Alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810617)

It's not that nobody can beat it, it's that there's really only so many ways to do something like this, mathematically, and all those ways are patented.

I was always told that you can't patent math, but I guess judges aren't familiar with the Church-Turing thesis.

Re:Alternative? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810765)

If run on a true RISC processing system, maybe. In the real world, no.

h264 benefits from many standardized hardware shortcuts to speed up the calculations. I don't know if they were put on the chips just to support this format, or if it's just a portion of the latest instruction set extension that h264 benefits significantly from.

The other question is, "is the difference enough to notice?" And the answer to that has to be "depends on the hardware," An h264 optimized cell phone will notice a more significant difference than an h264 optimized gaming tower.

Re:Alternative? (2)

Goaway (82658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810879)

It's not that it's arcane, it's that it's boring. It's a whole lot of very, very boring work to develop a good video codec. It's the kind of thing open source development is very bad at.

So no, there isn't one.

Re:Alternative? (1)

Twinbee (767046) | more than 2 years ago | (#39811003)

I just can't imagine it to be boring. Optimization is something that tends to get people salivating (even myself sometimes to a degree). Setting a fitness function (e.g.: total of absolute differences to the original RGB values) would define a goal that I think would encourage a ton of creativity, competitiveness and even new math.

Re:Alternative? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810985)

Yes, it really is that hard. I've written some of these things. It's not that the knowledge is inaccessible: most of the concepts involved are covered in a good undergrad discrete math course. It's just that 99.999% of the programmers out there either don't take the course, or forget what was taught the moment after the final is handed in.

Look at the sorry state of linux audio, for one. Layer upon layer, library upon library, everyone's an architect slinging metaphors and objects around but very few actually know how to write a good sample-rate conversion function, for example, or to even build the filters necessary to do so.

And video's harder. There's tons of mind-twisting buffer management issues to handle interpolated, motion-compensated frames that can take as reference past frames, future frames, and even other interpolated frames either past or future, using any of a number of different block sizes as the base motion-compensating element to which the discrete cosine transforms are applied. All with modified coefficients from the mathematically pure transforms -- powers of two to improve hardware decoding ease (even if it makes the filesize somewhat larger) -- that's what one of the key patents is about.

So, yes, it's hard enough and arcane enough that the likelyhood of someone with both the free time and the knowledge to do so, does it.

A bit late (1)

x0d (2506794) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810577)

They should have done that from the beginning.

What about audio? (1)

archen (447353) | more than 2 years ago | (#39810727)

Are they planning on doing the same with mp3 for audio? Every device I could name that can play mp4 movies can also play mp3s. I have my doubts that ogg is going to gain any more traction than webm did. I'd be fine with aac as long as something gets standardized.

Why only one format?! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810775)

I still don't understand why it has to be an either/or for people. That's like saying browsers need to "choose between PNG, JPG, and GIF. They must all agree on a single format and disregard the rest".

The real solution is for all browsers to support about 3-4 different codecs to choose from. And let developers decide on what to use. So Apple and Microsoft, you need to support WebM, and Mozilla, you need to support h264. Let the people decide on what to use! Don't limit them!

Move to Europe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39810841)

Seriously. VLC et al have freedom to write their x264, becaise they are based in France. Why can't they just make Mozilla Corp Europe (like FSFE) to be legally responsible (under sane jurisdiction)?

Don't bother reading TFA (5, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | more than 2 years ago | (#39811151)

TFA is not worth your time. He says all sorts of outrageous stuff as if it were fact: apparently he knows exactly what Google was collectively thinking when it introduced WebM, for example.

And the ending is sort of surreal. Hooray! The patent-encrusted H.264 has defeated the challenge by the free and open software! Here are my wrists; there's still room for a couple more handcuffs, put them on! (Eh, probably not a fair summary, but about as fair as his treatment of Google.)

steveha

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