The Old Scholar's Historical Thoughts

November 6, 2009

An issue from class last week

Filed under: Uncategorized — theoldscholar @ 8:23 pm

I think it was Hal who asked why there was not a standard for playing video, to which I replied “Bill Gates would love for there to be a standard, and he would like to set it.”  Then Dr. Cohen said that the new HTML-5 was defining a video element that all HTML5 browsers would have to support. I wanted to see more about the whole controversy, so I looked up HTML5 to try and understand why there wasn’t a standard. A great article by Paul Ryan discusses HTML5.

Basically the standards committee still can not get everyone to agree on the standard to be used in HTML5 and have left it open.

It boils down to Apple and Google supporting one standard (H.264) and Mozilla and Opera favoring Ogg Theora ( I don’t know where they come up with these names.) When you read further you find these standard wars hinge on two things. First is the supposed technical superiority of one (H.264) over the other. The second is Open Source vs non-Open Source software. Mozilla and Opera cannot put H.264 in their browsers because it contains code that is patented. It they included the patented routintes they would violate their Open source license to be able to share their code freely. Apple and Google say you don’t know what lurking patents are in Ogg Theora so you can’t trust that either. I’m glad we had the discussion in class of Open Source and how you could not fence off some part of the work from the patented work, otherwise these explanations would not have made sense to me.

It seems as if Google prefers H.264 for Chrome, but they will support Ogg Theora. Apple will be a bad guy this time, supporting only a patented technology. Microsoft gets around it by saying they just are not going to support HTML5 completely. Ryan said “My inner pessimist suspects that Microsoft will finally get around to implementing HTML 5 video at the same time that the H.264 patents expire, in roughly 2025.”

If you want to see how passionate people get about these debates I cut out a quote from one of the comments about this controversy from (I am leaving out the really offensive things) He said that companies make decisions about standards because they don’t want to be sued by  “some scum sucking, syphillitic pus-drinking, rotting corpse-devouring and worm-infested defecation-eating patent troll.”  I assume he is somewhat of a fan of  the Open Source movement.



  1. Very interesting – thanks for sharing! I, for one, am just thankful everyone involved in this debate is being so mature about it.

    Comment by lprice3 — November 6, 2009 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

  2. I agree…very interesting article and nice post. Also, anytime you can find a commentor who used “syphillitic pus-drinking” as part of insult, then you’ve really found something special.

    Comment by jcassara — November 7, 2009 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

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