back to article Mozilla and Opera call for Google open codec in HTML5 spec

One week after Google open sourced its $124.6m VP8 video codec, Mozilla and Opera have called for its inclusion in the still-gestating HTML5 specification. As it stands, the HTML5 spec does not specify a video codec. Browser makers are free to use any codec they like, and the big names are split between the patent-backed H.264 …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Open Source is Magic?

    Just because something is open source doesn't mean it is free of patents.

    1. Grifter


      Only in ass-backwards countries.

    2. ThomH

      No, but it does excite the zealots

      Mozilla and Opera are playing politics. I expect the ideologically pure open source disciples will further embrace the brands as desired, and diaclaim Apple/Microsoft while ignoring thar lack of hardware support and likely patent litigation are serious adoption hurdles.

      Is it even a faint irony that I'm typing this on a Nexus One?

      1. SilverWave

        Lots of hardware companies are signed up :-)

        Google has prepared well and have a lot of industry clout.

        I would imagine that a later reference spec for android phones will include the need for hardware support.

    3. kissingthecarpet

      Nobody suggested that

      in the article -did they? . Before you read between the lines, read the lines :-)

    4. SilverWave

      Unless you design them that way?

      This codec has been designed not to infringe, that's why some of the choices look a little odd at fist glance.

      But look for your self:

      It looks fine :-)

      Goodbye H.264

  2. austin cheney

    throwing everything into the beast with an endless appetite

    For some faulty reason the browser vendors seem to think there must be a single video codec. One that rules them all. Instead why not allow media to be served in my flavors and let the user decide. They should simply submit an RFC requesting a name to IANA that assigns mime type names to each codec send media annotated by the correct mime type in the HTTP header.

    Apparently people have forgotten the early days of video served from the web and there were a massive variety of formats from plain old AVI, DIVX, XVID, ASF, Real, and so on. Various codecs for choice have some how magically never been a problem before until HTML5 came along. Imagine that. Apparently whether or not media displays directly next to browser text or in an external application inspires mental illness.

    1. Cameron Colley

      I remember it well...

      You saw a link to a video you want to watch so you click it then one of a few things happened:

      A new page opened with the video embedded in a Java applet.

      A new page opened with the video embedded in an ActiveX control (shudder)

      A new page opened with the video in an embedded Real Player window.

      A new page opened with the video in an embedded Windows Media Player window.

      A new page opened with the video in an embedded Quicktime window.

      The video opened in Real player.

      The video opened in Windows Media Player.

      The video opened in Quicktime.

      The video tried to open in Windows Media Player but you didn't have the CODEC so you tried right click open with on of your other players.

      The video tried to open in Quicktime but you didn't have the CODEC so you tried right click open with on of your other players.

      The video tried to open in Real Player but you didn't have the CODEC so you tried right click open with on of your other players.

      Your browser downloaded the video and then you had to work out what to open it with...

      Yeah, let's go back to that!

      Let's not decide that the browser can be built to play a video format so that you don't need to mess around with plugins.

      1. austin cheney

        Opposition to choice

        Plugins don't have anything to do with this as it is about playing video directly in the browser. Furthermore, I never had the problem you speak of since many media players typically have come with many codecs supported in advance except possibly Real and Quicktime. As a result I would simply use my choice as a consumer to never download or play Real or Quicktime media.

        Why is it there is so much opposition with giving users a choice? Isn't choice really the only difference between an open format and a proprietary format?

        1. ThomH

          Plugins are how OSs handle video codecs

          They may not be browser plugins, but I'll wager that somewhere the thing that knows how to handle the container format looks somewhere else to find the appropriate plugin for the compression algorithm.

          I think part of the "opposition to choice" is that the web goes into lots of embedded devices now (the iPhone being one example, others being almost every other large-screened phone) and they need to be able to palm the decompression off on hardware. Which means they really would be much better served if they had an idea of the codec before shipping.

          1. austin cheney

            you don't need vendor lock in to have advanced warning


            That is what mime types are for.

    2. Alex Hayton
      Thumb Down

      Broken analogy

      @austin: The analogy you're using is wrong here - things are different to the bad old days of early video adoption for a few reasons!

      Firstly, users of the iPhone (and possibly other embedded devices) have no way of installing an alternative codec, so all video sites end up having to encode things twice, with no guarantees that a particular format will work everywhere, and secondly the terms of the license prevent anything that is GPLv3 licensed from working with h.264 video due to the patent restrictions.

      This means that it's quite important that an open codec becomes the de facto standard (whether this happens by spec or by industry consensus doesn't really matter).

      1. austin cheney

        vendor lockin is not a standards problem

        "Firstly, users of the iPhone (and possibly other embedded devices) have no way of installing an alternative codec"

        If you choose to purchase a proprietary device limited to certain limited proprietary software then that is your mistake and yours alone. Don't punish the rest of us for your poor decision.

        "so all video sites end up having to encode things twice"

        That is the nature of giving your users a choice. Mandatory elimination of such choice is no different than forcing clothing vendors to carry only one brand of clothing or forcing only one means of licensing upon software or forcing consumers to purchase only one brand of automobile or forcing all software vendors to adopt the same single licensing scheme. Choice is a good thing.

        "with no guarantees that a particular format will work everywhere"

        There has never been the expectation of such a guarantee before. The only difference now are the cost interests of the web services industry. The only group that benefits from the elimination of choice are those who bear competition derived costs in a diverse market. Competition and choice is always good for the consumer even though there are business costs associated with such.

        "and secondly the terms of the license prevent anything that is GPLv3 licensed from working with h.264 video due to the patent restrictions"

        That is all the more reason to prevent elimination of codec choice.

        "This means that it's quite important that an open codec becomes the de facto standard"

        If the standard is specified in HTML5 then it is not de facto, and that defeats the entirety of your point.

    3. L1feless

      Fundamental Flaw....

      Most people...AKA the grandma market which in reality so long as a vast majority of the baby boomer generation are alive makes up a majority of the target market with money are just not capable and would rather not be bothered with a choice of codecs. If the video quality is good, they don't care. Those who really do care about a choice are the much younger generation as well as those who are technically minded because we understand that there can be better alternatives.

      1. Big-nosed Pengie

        I call bullshit

        Oh yes, sonny boy, we care deeply. And as far as not being competent, who do you think invented all your shiny bling? It's the young and stupid who are being targeted by the likes of Apple and Mickeysoft and FaceSpace - your short attention spans and disregard for your own privacy make you perfect targets for the shiny snake-oil purveyors. As long as it sparkles and makes you look cool, you're jiggy with it.

        We just want something that works - IOW, open standards.



        1. Anonymous Coward

          @Big-nosed Pengie

          Tut tut, you know full well he wasn't talking about you and your beardy ilk.

          I call straw man.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Just Safari

    is the only browser that won't support VP8/WemM

    Seems Apple are intent on controlling things, if you own a iPhone, you won't have flash (because Apple won't allow it), you won't have HTML5 Video either (because Apple won;t allow it), you have to get al your content from Itunes and the Apple app store (because Apple control it).

    When will the iTards wake up?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @AC re: Safari

      Oh my gawd, you couldn't wait to run down the *I-hate-Apple-and-Steve-Jobs* path into the future and tell us all what you see, could you?

      How inaccurate and offensive your comments, epic fail.

      If WebM takes off and becomes part of the HTML5 spec I'm sure Safari will support it - they are about supporting open standards, but it's not there yet, not by a long shot and there's a lot of work needing to be done to unseat H.264 first. Perhaps both have a place, perhaps both make it into the spec. That might not be so bad, eh?

      1. L1feless


        I agree with all of your comments with regards to open source video and Safari supporting whichever video format wins as a standard. Steve and Apple have made that clear. What is undeniable however is that anything 'i' clearly has some restrictions put on it by its creators. This is however where the end consumer must simply step in and say no if they don't agree with it by no purchasing the products. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but if people continue to support the i world and the current restrictions which it comes with....tough.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      IE won't support it natively either...

      but like QuickTime and Safari it is extensible. If Googles codec and wrapper do take off, it's open source, so it doesn't take much of a leap of the imagination to surmise that Apple devices would eventually support it. When will you asinine meatheads think things through before committing your obtuse rants to the ether. The irony of course is that the herds of naysayers, and you are quite numerous--look at the amount of negative comments about Apple posted here *including* the "articles"--and yet you call people who buy Apple's products sheep, marvellous...

  4. Anonymous Coward

    How about...

    ..they just don't mention any codecs in the spec, have a <video> tag, and then just like any other media player, the user has to have the right codec for whatever format the video is in. This leads to a free market in codecs, and eventually all popular ones will be available by simple download of a plugin, if not already in the browser. Or maybe people will converge on a single codec by elimination of the crap/patent-encumbered ones.

    Surely locking in to one codec would be a mistake anyway? That'd put us in practically the same place we are now with flash!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      @Christopher P Martin

      NOOOOOOOO! That is a sure way to ensure that browsing the web will be a different experience on different platforms, based on what codecs are available.

      Put the damn thing in the spec and ensure we can browse the web in the same way. These different codecs exist to protect the profit of the money grubbing bastards at the top.

  5. tas

    Open Source is laudable but in this case inferior

    VP8 is a clearly technically inferior codec than H.264 (

    Despite VP8 now being Open Source, why would you force a very broad Internet standard for future use to hardcode a fixed technical solution to one small part of its repertoire, especially if that fixed solution is already inferior to its current competitors.

    1. SilverWave

      WebM clever design around patents - Good Quality.

      Quote from: An analysis of WebM and its patent risk

      "What we can obtain from this (very thorough – thanks, Jason!) analysis is

      the fact that from my point of view it is clear that On2 was actually aware of

      patents, and tried very hard to avoid them. It is also clear that this is in no

      way an assurance that there are no situation of patent infringements, only that

      it seems that due diligence was performed. Also, WebM is not comparable to H264

      in terms of technical sophistication (it is more in line with MPEG4/VC1) but

      this is clearly done to avoid recent patents; some of the patents on older

      specification are already expired (for example, all France Telecom patents on

      H264 are expired), and in this sense Dark Shiraki claims that the specification

      is not as good as H264 is perfectly correct. It is also true that x264 beats the

      hell on current VP8 encoders (and basically every other encoder in the market);

      despite this, in a previous assessment Dark Shiraki performed a comparison of

      anime (cartoon) encoding and found that VP7 was better than Apple’s own H264

      encode – not really that bad."

    2. Tom 7

      Open Source is laudable but in this case inferior says H264dev

      well with their revenue streams drying up they would say that wouldnt they?

  6. Tom 7

    MPEG-LA is not Magic

    Just because MPEG-LA say you can decode (not encode) H.264 for free (until 2015 and then what?) doesn't mean that someone else doesn't hold patents on it too.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      There are other patent holders

      Via Licensing and AT&T both hold patents on h264 and are not in the MPEG-LA pool. There may be other patent holders waiting for the most advantageous time to bring their submarine to the surface.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    @first anonymous poster: don't repeat Steve Jobs' opinions word for word, it's not only unoriginal it's a bit creepy.

    Also to the Reg, don't give Microsoft too much credit for their WebM "support". They only announced that they'd let WebM play if the user installed it because less than a fortnight before the had explicitly ruled out playing any codecs installed by the user. This was seen as an obvious strike at Theora, but also a pre-emptive strike at WebM. It would appear they either changed their mind after seeing the wide industry support, or they were simply unaware that Google was about to announce WebM.

    It's worth noting that Safari, on Mac OS X at least, has always played user installed codecs such as Theora and so offers that level of support to WebM by default. The WebM project has announced that a similar user-installable codec will be available for WebM users on Mac within a month.

  8. SilverWave

    The actual guarantee of the MPEG-LA's patent pool is quite weak

    Quote from Swift and predictable reactions to WebM

    "Despite MPEG-LA's promotional material suggesting that blanket rights to

    use H.264 come with a license, the actual guarantee of the patent pool is quite

    weak: "


    "In other words, submarine patents and patent trolls can threaten H.264 —

    and in theory, On2 and Google may hold such patents."

    1. Charles 9

      That may be Google's defense.

      If MPEG-LA threatens to submarine WebM, Google may drop hints of a counterattack--a submarine patent against H.264. The end result would be a patent war. It's likely one or more patents will become invalidated due to prior art (which would hurt MPEG-LA more than Google as the latter isn't interested in patent exploitation), each would probably end up with enough grip to hurt each other and thus they'd end up on the negotiating table hammering out some deal to keep more toes being hammered.

      Just hypothesizing...

      1. SilverWave

        Best code around patents - prior art tricky argument to get right


        [↑menu↑] That first type of defence is really the one you want, it’s called: non-infringement. And that is: "we don’t do that. The patent says X, we don’t do X, therefore go away, sue someone else, it’s not relevant for us". That’s the defence you want. If you can demonstrate really strongly that you do not do that, then you’re in the clear. And you wanna make sure that you demonstrate it really clearly. And if this is a patent that you really have to be concerned about, you really have to check your arguments with a patent attorney, but, that is the argument you want to be aiming for.

        [↑menu↑] Next one, prior art: someone did that before. Someone else has done that before. Before what? Before the priority date for the patent, which is actually, in many countries, a year before the patent was filed or even earlier in some cases. I’ll be talking about that later in the talk, about priority dates. Basically the argument is: somebody else did that before. It’s a very, very tricky argument to get right. Extremely tricky, and it is the most common argument bandied about in the free software community. And if you see it in the primary defence against a patent, you should cringe because it is an extremely unsafe way of doing things. You’ll see why as we go through examples.

        1. Charles 9

          Sometimes, the best defense...

 a good offense. The reason being your two suppositions may be impossible to achieve.

          One may not be able to achieve an action in a non-infringing way if the patent is broad enough (which, if you ran the thing through a GOOD patent attorney, it is likely to be since nothing sinks your patent quicker than a "copycat" patent that finds a loophole). For example, X may be the actions covered by the patent, and you may be trying to do Y only to find out that "Y is a subset of X" and in fact X (to borrow the American idiom) covers all the bases, leaving no Y that is not a subset of X.

          As for the prior art, well, that's where "submarine" patents stir up the waters. Unless the prior art goes far enough back to be before the earliest possible date for the patent to be effective both then and now, there's always the possibility the supposed "prior art" is itself covered by another, previously unknown ("submarine") patent.

  9. SilverWave

    Google Own YouTube - WebM Wins.

    All that money they paid for YouTube just keeps looking a better and better investment.

    Firefox, Opera and Chrome have it built in.

    All the browsers will play the VP8 codec if its installed.

    Any holdouts will fall-back on flash which will support VP8.

    Google have hardware manufacturers on-board.

    Content creation apps as well.

    Game over man, game over.

    Goodbye H.264 we all hated you and are glad to see you go :-)



  10. bell

    This is all just an annoying distraction

    Let online video become fragmented and die. The web is about more than YouTube.

    The back and forth over codecs, patents and video standards is taking up time and effort which could have been far more productively spent on other aspects of HTML5. Ones that would provide some value for the web as an application platform - like extended form controls and datagrids (which have been canceled for lack of interest).

    1. SilverWave

      Nope its important to keep the web free


      1. bell
        Thumb Down


        And since it seems impossible for the web to be free and have video, kill the video and move on.

  11. Paul Powell

    Patents just suck!

    Petty minded suits stopping the adoption of the best technology for the situation. Sucks.

    Watched an interesting documentary the other day on the humble shipping container (no, it was interesting). The inventor gave royalty free patents to the industry so that everyone could use the same containers with the same locking mechanisms etc. Imagine how world trade would suffer if each company ran their own dock with their own container mechanisms, with their own lorries. Or if each dock had to have a specific crane for each container type.

    But no, the suits sit there with their DVD region codes, content scrambling systems, proprietary codecs, and frickin iTunes stores all trying to monetise their little slice of the net as if it were a fixed product. Instead they could be putting together infrastructure that would allow completely new levels and new types of industry to form.

    1. austin cheney

      Patents are not the problem in this case

      The problem is expensive sucky licensing on one side of the issue and Apple's intent to form a patent pool to troll about the web and work very hard to discover a form of punishment that need not exist. Patents could go away, but these two problems would still exist as in H.264 would still be expensive and Apple would still be an ass to openness.

  12. Keris

    Not source?

    "Earlier this week, OSI board member Simon Phipps told the world that without OSI approval, VP8 can't be considered source"

    It would be very surreal if he had actually said that, but unfortunately he actually said that without OSI approval it couldn't be called 'open'. The status of it as source code was not in doubt.

    "Use the Source, Luke!"

  13. Steven Knox

    Open Source

    existed long before OSI. OSI owns neither the term nor the principle. Not all Open Source licenses have to be OSI-approved; not all OSI-approved licenses are necessarily Open Source.

    1. SilverWave

      Although they do get a bit huffed if you ignore them ;-0


  14. SilverWave

    Yeah they come off sounding like a bunch of kids TBH

    Oh Dear...

  15. J 3


    Google can end this fight if they really want to.

    1- Convert YouTube to WebM exclusively.

    2- Watch world and dog complain that they can't watch the latest stupid viral thing with their Safari or IE9 thing. But look, it works on Firefox (or Opera or Chrome)!

    3- Watch the mad scramble by remaining browser makers to support YouTube or else have their market share diminish a bit. Or a lot, in Safari's case, since it's not much to begin with.

    Microsoft knows this to be true, that's why the recent back-pedaling "OK, if the user installs it we're fine with it" -- very easy to see that morphing into "we only do what the customers want" blah blah and offering WebM for IE9 on Windows Update, etc.

  16. Trig

    HTML5 plagued by patents

    I hate to see the industry standard once again being jeopardised by the large corporations who want to control the industry, and surprise surprise, Microsoft are in the list!

  17. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge

    I'd like to "open"

    a can of whoop-ass on any and every company that tries to use the word "open" to describe anything ever again.

    THE WORD HAS LOST IT'S MEANING, YOU $expletive(something_vile());

  18. MarkOne

    re: Open Source is laudable but in this case inferior

    You understand that "review" of VP8 was from somone with a vested interested in H.264. It's like asking Microsoft what's the best browser.

    In INDEPENDENT comparisons, there is little to choose between H264 and VP8, except VP8 is free, and H264 may cost you millions in licensing in the future.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    "What the spec says will depend entirely on what implementations (in particular browser vendors) decide to support,"

    Anyone else concerned that the industry is saying the spec will change depending on what companies implement? And here I thought all this time that you conform to the spec. Apparently the spec conforms to you! Microsoft was right all along. Please move along now.

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