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FSF Announces Support For WebM 333

Posted by timothy
from the in-good-company dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Free Software Foundation has signed up as a supporter of the WebM Project. They write, 'Last week, Google announced that it plans to remove support for the H.264 video codec from its browsers, in favor of the WebM codec that they recently made free. Since then, there's been a lot of discussion about how this change will affect the Web going forward, as HTML5 standards like the video tag mature. We applaud Google for this change; it's a positive step for free software, its users, and everyone who uses the Web.' The FSF's PlayOgg campaign will be revamped to become PlayFreedom."
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FSF Announces Support For WebM

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  • Misguided (Score:1, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:05AM (#34949132)

    The FSF seems particularly misguided or unaware of the larger context it is working in. Google's position on WebM, realistically, means that Flash's dominance on the web is going to be prolonged. After all, it's not likely anybody is going to seriously adopt WebM while Google continues to support Flash.

    So, while theoretically the FSF should be about freedom of the user and the community, the actual implication of their stance is to bolster proprietary formats (Adobe Flash) and monopolistic control of the internet (Google).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:09AM (#34949156)

    Sorry to break this to you, but the only people who care what the FSF gives their stamp of approval to are the neckbeards who are already converts to the FSF's message.

    This is why PlayOgg was useless, and it's also why "PlayFreedom," in addition to being an awful, awful, nonsensical, completely pointless campaign name, will also be useless: they're preaching to the choir, and they have a tin ear for connecting with the general public - in other words, they suck at marketing, and if you want to win 'hearts and minds,' it's *all* about marketing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:10AM (#34949168)

    It doesn't matter how this free / not free debate goes. One is a formal ISO standard, the other is whatever Google decides. How that makes H.264 somehow not open escapes me, but...

      If I'm engineering a hardware codec, I want the standard that's set down in stone, just like my design is going to be (well, silicon, but you know what I mean).

  • Re:Misguided (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:17AM (#34949194) Homepage Journal
    Google wants to kill Flash—whether it's as quickly as possible or when they feel the time is right I can't really say, but consider a few things:

    1. They've made Chrome users eat HTML5 video on YouTube in the past. If their objective is to get people to use Chrome (it is! my dear, cynical friend, it is! they want to advertise to your brain cells!) then this is strong evidence that they believe HTML5 is the right way to go.
    2. Google likes Chrome being clean and minimal. They don't like Flash getting in the way—it's hideously unstable, Adobe has never been on good terms with the rest of the industry (see the origin of TrueType for one example), and, once again, my dear, cynical friend, it obstructs their ability to know what the user is doing because it is an externality.

    I think if there's any reason Google delays in making motions to kill Flash, it's because they're waiting for everyone else to be ready for it. A huge (HUGE [webmproject.org]) number of companies support WebM, both hardware and software—in fact, at this point, Apple and Microsoft are sticking out like sore thumbs by being absent from the list. The writing's on the wall that WebM is going to be the de facto video currency in the next few years, because Google is such an aggressive player—and because the format isn't proprietary [webmproject.org], contrary to what you said.

    You lying, thieving, cheating, scum-sucking, dog-licking, spit-swimming, spider-eating, goat-hugging, dung-smearing, pig-kissing, frog-swallowing, mud-biting, cow-tipping, toilet-swabbing, cud-chewing, window-washing, half-warped, apple-polishing, worm-witted, chicken-hearted, lamb-lusting, nefarious, untrustworthy nasty person!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:20AM (#34949206)

    As a video host, I won't do this. I'll leave my video in H.264 format, and serve it up via flash to the browsers that don't want to support H.264 playback via the HTML5 video tag.

    The only thing that started breaking Flash's stranglehold was Apple's decision to say "NO FLASH on our iOS devices." Why? Because the bulk of "video hosts" don't give a shit about "openness," they give a shit about "how many people can watch my video," and the iOS devices represented an affluent demographic that video hosts *wanted* watching their video. So they figured out how to serve up their video without Flash.

    And now, Google is saying "Let's have a standards war," which basically means nobody will invest in any recoding until the dust settles, which means they've just given Flash another 5 year lease on life. The only people who will transcode to WebM are YouTube. In the meantime, everybody else will serve up H.264 wrapped in Flash, and H.264 via HTML5 video tags to any browser that is smart enough to support it.

    Hooray for "openness," enjoy your crashy Chrome-and-Flash browsing experience on any site that's not YouTube.

  • by oiron (697563) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:33AM (#34949262) Homepage

    Hmm... I'd call GCC pretty successful...

  • Re:Misguided (Score:5, Insightful)

    by citizenr (871508) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:37AM (#34949276) Homepage

    >while Google continues to support Flash.

    The day youtube stops serving flash and requires WebM will be the day Flash dies.

  • Re:Misguided (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:38AM (#34949282)

    H.264 is less of an open standard than even OOXML. The H.264 specification was developed by a standards body which is only open in the sense that anyone who can pay the $40k per person per meeting fee to get a voting seat can participate. The H.264 specification is hideously complex and terribly expensive. There are no free software implementations of the complete specification, and certainly none which are legally licensed. Unlikely other areas of software, the patents over H.264 are actively and aggressively enforced both in the US and all across Europe.

    Flash is far from a paragon of openness. But they too have releases specifications— and for free, if not all that complete. When it comes down to it, the internet doesn't need that much of a push to get off flash, it's going to happen naturally. The only question is what will we have when flash is gone? An web encumbered by proprietary technology (which is absolutely what H.264 is— it is owned and controlled by a single managing agency) or an open and freely licensed web?

    So go on, keep spreading that FUD. If you get really good at it perhaps MPEG-LA start cutting buying you houses in Hawaii with their spoils.

  • Re:Misguided (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mewsenews (251487) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:40AM (#34949288) Homepage

    Google's position on WebM, realistically, means that Flash's dominance on the web is going to be prolonged. After all, it's not likely anybody is going to seriously adopt WebM while Google continues to support Flash.

    It might just be late, but I have no idea how you are reaching this conclusion. Are you aware that Adobe is one of the companies that has pledged to support WebM?

    The fight to adopt WebM has nothing to do with WebM vs Flash. The fight is h264/html5 vs WebM/html5. Take a quick look at this page:

    http://www.youtube.com/html5 [youtube.com]

  • Re:Misguided (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mewsenews (251487) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:46AM (#34949310) Homepage

    They publicly attacked an open standard (H.264)

    Ah yes, the famous open, patented, royalty-encumbered standard. Except for the open part

  • Re:Misguided (Score:2, Insightful)

    by dangitman (862676) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:48AM (#34949312)

    Are you aware that Adobe is one of the companies that has pledged to support WebM?

    Only as a means of prolonging their Flash player. I wasn't aware that Adobe makes a web browser, so I'm not sure why we should care about Adobe's position. Also, Adobe has been very hostile to open formats, so again, why should we take those statements seriously?

    The fight to adopt WebM has nothing to do with WebM vs Flash. The fight is h264/html5 vs WebM/html5.

    That's fucking ridiculous. The argument should be HTML5 versus proprietary plugins. This is the whole point. Google (among others) is trying to re-frame the debate as a war between different video CODECs, when HTML5, as a standard, should be CODEC-neutral.

    Basically, partisan forces are fucking with HTML5, and HTML5 will suffer because of it.

  • Re:Misguided (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Americano (920576) on Friday January 21, 2011 @02:53AM (#34949342)

    There are no free software implementations of the complete specification, and certainly none which are legally licensed.

    You mean, except x264, which is by most accounts, one of the most *full-featured* H.264 implementations available... right?

    Flash is far from a paragon of openness

    That's understatement by a mile. Flash is a closed, proprietary standard. There is nothing "open" about it.

    When it comes down to it, the internet doesn't need that much of a push to get off flash, it's going to happen naturally.

    That's correct - Apple's refusal to put Flash on iOS devices signalled the end of Flash as the ubiquitous video playback wrapper on the web. Google's refusal to continue supporting H.264 has simply prolonged Flash's lifespan by a few years.

    Let's be very clear here: H.264 is an "open standard" - anyone may get a copy of the spec and implement it, and expect that their encoder/decoder will interoperate well with any other piece of software or hardware that implements the H.264 standard. What H.264 is *not* is a "free standard" - it's got patents, and royalty fees required for some uses of the standard- basically, if you're making money off of H.264, you need to pay a fee to the MPEG-LA consortium. There is nothing preventing Google from allowing its browser to support both types of video for playback via an HTML5 video tag, but only providing WebM-encoded videos on their hosting services. You can't say that you're dropping H.264 support in the interests of "freedom" while continuing to embed & support Flash - at least, not with a straight face.

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Friday January 21, 2011 @03:25AM (#34949464) Journal

    Not to mention Google and everyone else seems to be missing the gigantic elephant standing over by the potted plants: Hardware acceleration. Pretty much ALL consumer mobile devices support H.264, along with just about every desktop, laptop, netbook, hell I've even seen cheapo DVD players at the Wally World with H.264 support. Now figure in the amount the OEMs have invested in all those H.264 chips, along with the fact that all those consumer devices will have to be chunked (great for the environment) thanks to WebM killing the battery, along with the fact that WebM brings nothing substantial to the table, not better file sizes, not better quality, pretty much the ONLY selling point is "free as in freedom man, yeah!" and even that isn't assured since Google refuses to indemnify users of WebM which opens OEMs to patent trolling, frankly I'd say it has about as much of a chance as Vorbis does of killing MP3 at this point.

    If it would have come out 5 years ago I would have given it decent odds, but it is simply too late to the party. Like Vorbis found out if you wait too long so that both momentum and device support is firmly behind a standard, proprietary or not, trying to build any support is damned near impossible. I have a feeling this is gonna be Google's Vista, where they find out that they can't just get the market to jump on board simply by having the name Google. There are simply too many chips, too many websites supporting H.264, oh and did I mention a little thing known as iPad? or iPhone? Maybe Google has heard of those. If they think folks are gonna give up their iPads and iPhones just for Youtube they are in for a RUDE awakening. With H.264 any website developer can simply leave a "raw" H.264 for iDevice users and wrap it in a flash container for everyone else! Tada! everyone is supported. With WebM you are gonna kill battery life or have to toss all the devices supporting H.264 and for what? Youtube? It isn't like there aren't a bazillion other sites out there and if Youtube kills H.264 support I'm sure there will be a dozen new ones happy to take those viewers. The ship has sailed Google, the fat lady is down the street eating a sandwich.

  • Re:Misguided (Score:5, Insightful)

    by compro01 (777531) on Friday January 21, 2011 @04:19AM (#34949664)

    My concern with the patents on WebM boil down to the simple fact that Google won't indemnify users.

    MPEG-LA won't indemnify you either. If someone outside their patent pool sues you, they're not going to be helping.

  • Re:Misguided (Score:5, Insightful)

    by B2382F29 (742174) on Friday January 21, 2011 @04:20AM (#34949666)

    but if I somebody brings a suit against me tomorrow, I may have to spend way more than I ever would have spent on H.264 royalties to defend myself.

    So what is the difference to H.264 ? They also don't indemnify their users, so there is NO reason to prefer one over the other, the risks are identical.

  • by TheNetAvenger (624455) on Friday January 21, 2011 @06:34AM (#34950274)

    What stops Google from total control?

    This is a serious question.

    Google owns both WebM and VP8 - their only licensing obligation is to keep some of the source viewable.
    Google now defines how VP8 encoded and decoding works and the quality, etc.
    Google defines what specific features and version of WebM and VP8 that Chrome will support.

    No matter how 'open' WebM and VP8 are now, what Google says and what Google supports is now the 'standard' and will be the single controlling voice for all video on the web.

    This is more power than any other company has tried to obtain.

    What prevents Google from changing WebM so that in two years, it breaks compatibility with previous versions, rendering hardware absolete?
    What prevents Google from defining the quality of the codecs used for their own purposes?
    What prevents Google from getting this accepted by the world, and then adding in advertising data and decoders that report information back to Google?

    I understand that WebM and VP8 are 'open', but if Google only supports what they want, they are the sole voice in the format and standard, as anything outside their 'supported' guidelines will fail to work in Chrome/Android/etc.

    Right now, this looks like another Google project that uses the work of others and then takes control and sells it at a good thing because it was based in open software.

    Even Microsoft with WMV turned it over to a standards body to oversee the format that ensures compatibility and consistency - something I don't see Google doing, and WMV is a closed format 'standard' aka VC1. At least we are assured that a VC1 encoded BluRay Disc will always play, as Microsoft can't monkey with VC1 and destroy compatibility or mess up quality, etc.

    I am seriously looking for some good answers, as this has me a bit scared to the level of control Google is getting if people blindly accept this.

  • by PeterBrett (780946) on Friday January 21, 2011 @09:33AM (#34951386) Homepage

    H264 is an open standard and if you pay your money you won't be sued by the patent pool.

    If you need permission to use it, is it really open? I think that's the main point people seem to disagree on here.

    Yes -- this question really cuts to the heart of the issue for me. Personally, I object to describing a standard as "free and open" unless it is possible to write and distribute a GPL implementation in such a way that Linux distributions can safely package and include it. WebM is open (the specifications are available to anyone and anyone is permitted to implement them) and free (anyone can obtain a non-exclusive, perpetual, sub-licensable license to all of the necessary patents).

  • by icebraining (1313345) on Friday January 21, 2011 @09:48AM (#34951554) Homepage

    Google owns both WebM and VP8 - their only licensing obligation is to keep some of the source viewable.

    Do you understand what 'open source' means?

    You don't have the VP8 source 'viewable', you have an irrevocable license to edit it and distribute it. If Google starts screwing up and adding advertisements or reporting information to them*, a VP8 fork will appear. Google only has control over VP8 if while people like it.

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