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Mozilla, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Others Form 'Alliance For Open Media' 99

BrianFagioli tips news that Mozilla, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Intel, Amazon, and Netflix are teaming up to create the Alliance for Open Media, "an open-source project that will develop next-generation media formats, codecs and technologies in the public interest." Several of these companies have been working on this problem alone: Mozilla started Daala, Google has VP9 and VP10, and Cisco just recently announced Thor. Amazon and Netflix, of course, are major suppliers of online video streaming, so they have a vested interested in royalty-free codecs. They're inviting others to join them — the more technology and patents they get on their side, the less likely they'll run into the issues that Microsoft's VC-1 and Google's VP8 struggled with. "The Alliance will operate under W3C patent rules and release code under an Apache 2.0 license. This means all Alliance participants are waiving royalties both for the codec implementation and for any patents on the codec itself."
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Mozilla, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Others Form 'Alliance For Open Media'

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  • by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @03:14PM (#50438705)

    That is all...

  • No Apple (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    As much as the industry needs open codecs, if Apple refuses to support whatever they create (like the last three or four similar projects), this project is likely to be stillborn.

    • Re:No Apple (Score:5, Informative)

      by subanark ( 937286 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @03:37PM (#50438867)

      You got what 98% or more of the desktop browser makers by usage in this club? Plus you have YouTube and Netflix on board for providing content. Even if no one else adopts this, it is enough to be both used and supported. The biggest hurdle is ensuring that it is at least as good as what is out there.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        You got what 98% or more of the desktop browser makers by usage in this club? Plus you have YouTube and Netflix on board for providing content. Even if no one else adopts this, it is enough to be both used and supported. The biggest hurdle is ensuring that it is at least as good as what is out there.

        The barrier is hardware support. Google thought that web dominance was enough, but without hardware support VP9 is a non-starter for providers (I work for a fairly major global video service, we would love to adopt open formats. But we need most mobile devices to have hardware decode. And Google has been very inept at this. Hope this alliance is better at it.

        • Name one smart phone system-on-chip manufacturer, apart from Apple, that doesn't consider Android devices their main market? All Google needs to do is make hardware support for this new codec a requirement to pre-load YouTube

          Intel are also in on the smart phone SoC market too

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

        Apple.
        Desktop is one thing mobile is another. Without Apple it is DOA.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          Mobile OS statistics [idc.com] show apple around 15%, Android somewhere around 83% and everyone else in the last 2%. Worldwide, iOS is actually a bit player when it comes to market share.
          • How do those numbers change if you look at revenue? Last numbers I saw showed that the iOS ecosystem made about as much money as the Android one for app developers. If you have a small market, but that market has the majority of people who have disposable income and are willing to spend it, then it's not such a good idea to ignore it.
            • That's not a sensible argument.

              You could just as well say, don't make [something] if it won't fit on a luxury yacht, since the people who own luxury yachts have the most disposable income.

              • Nonsense. The income that you'll get is number of people in the market multiplied by amount that you can get from each one. People with luxury yachts will spend a lot, but there are hardly any of them. If there are 4 times as many Android users as iOS users, but iOS users are willing to part with 5 times as much money (on average), then iOS is a better market to be in. Even if iOS users are only willing to spend 3 times as much, it's still a good market to be in because each customer likely adds to your
            • In terms of revenue? Android mops the floor with iOS. Consider there are 4+ Android phones sold for every iOS phone - and those phones do NOT average just 25% of the cost of an iPhone. Revenue goes to Android.
              • You're talking about hardware makers. I'm talking about software vendors. If I make an iOS app and an Android app, what proportion of Android users will buy it, what proportion of iOS users will? If 4% of iOS users and 1% of Android users are willing to hand over money for it, then that's about the same amount from each platform. Numbers that I've seen are a bit out of date now, but they showed that iOS users were spending a lot more (per capita) than Android users, as most Android users only install fr
                • I didn't realize the plan was to sell the video codecs. I though the consortium was putting together an open-standard video codec and then including it - gratis - in a multitude of platforms. That would assist those who create content (videos, specifically - not apps) to appeal to a very wide user base. But I guess if you want to talk about app purchases - something not at all related to the whole article - be my guest!
                  • The question is why people should care about Apple being in the consortium. The answer is that people want to sell things (e.g. streaming services) to people with mobile devices, and these may depend on vendor support for the codecs that they use (on iOS, you can't easily get hardware acceleration unless you use Apple's AVFoundation framework). Whether this is actually important depends on whether or not that market is one that you care about.
                    • The question is why people should care about Apple being in the consortium.

                      Sure. And people shouldn't care - unless they are heavy Apple users. For the typical person (meaning the 85%+ case), Apple support is immaterial, because they don't have an Apple platform.

                      If you're a content provider (like Youtube, Hulu, Netflix) then you'll target the biggest segments first, and that often means Apple comes up short, and late.

          • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

            I have a MotoX, Moto360, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and a Chromecast. In fact I have never owned a iPhone or iPad.
            I am not an Apple fanboy but when you look at tablets Apple has a big lead. When you look at the US and Europe Apple is a bigger market share than the worldwide market share would indicate.
            IOS is too big and too lucrative of a market to ignore. Without Apple this standard will never take off it is just that simple.

            • I have a MotoX, Moto360, Nexus 7, Nexus 10, and a Chromecast. In fact I have never owned a iPhone or iPad. I am not an Apple fanboy but when you look at tablets Apple has a big lead.

              The actual data says otherwise [idc.com]. Apple has about 27% market share for tablets - the rest is pretty much Android. Yes, Apple has a larger market share for tablets than it does for phones - but it's still a very small minority share in either case.

        • Apple. Desktop is one thing mobile is another. Without Apple it is DOA.

          Without Apple, this will only be on 90% of mobile devices. Maybe higher than that, given that we're talking about 2018 or so. Doesn't seem like a showstopper.

          • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

            Doesn't matter if that 10% is 50% of those that pay for Netflix, generate ad revenue for YouTube, pays for Hulu, and so on.
            And the market share for tablets is much higher. Frankly I rarely watch video on my phone a MotoX btw. My Nexus 10 and 7 are what I tend to use for video if not my Roku box or Chromecast.

            • 72% of all Netflix usage is on videogame consoles and smart TVs. The remaining 28% is split up among Roku, Chromecast, and all tablets. For Netflix, what matters is getting Sony and Microsoft on board -- and Microsoft is a founding member. Smart TV makers will do whatever Netflix tells them to do (and it's not unlikely that many future Smart TVs will be Android TVs).

              If we generously assume that half of all of that non-console, non-smart TV Netflix usage is on tablets, that's 14% of Netflix usage. Apple ha

    • Get over Apple already, they are part of the problem. They are not the world and they will probably not adopt them because that's Apple. They are creating android apps right now because they want to keep people locked into Apple.
    • did you expect apple to join in? they always go proprietary as much as possible
      • So does Microsoft. This project is an admission that they consider their own codecs to be effectively dead now anyway.

        • So does Microsoft. This project is an admission that they consider their own codecs to be effectively dead now anyway.

          Did you even read the summary? It explicitly mentions "Microsoft's VC-1", which was the result of standardising their proprietary WMV9 video format back in 2006. If this latest act is their admission then they are at least 9 years too late. Microsoft have been moving away from proprietary formats since Vista, which I recall because I lost an argument back then about whether Windows Media Player could rip to MP3 format (I believed the anti-Vista hype back then).

          • I don't need to argue about that, I can remember from the period: When WMP first introduced ripping capability it could only rip to WMA. Support for MP3 was added later.

            I should have been a bit clearer. I didn't mean to say the codec itsself is dead, but the codec business. By essentially giving away their codec they are making it clear that they no longer intend to use it as a direct profit-making product, and relegate it to a support role. They can no longer sell their media technology as the best around,

      • by mccalli ( 323026 )
        Err...nope. They are using m4a and standard h.264 (and h.265), and have been doing for ages. You could possibly say their .mov container is proprietary I suppose, but for years and years they've always used standard formats.

        There was a brief time at the beginning when they used Fairplay DRM on audio because they were forced to, despite many pushes from them to get that dropped. I believe Amazon broke that one and was the first DRM-free store - not entirely sure on that one. iTunes store followed shortly
    • by GNious ( 953874 )

      If these parties all decided to use whatever codec came out of this, and Apple choose to stay out, it'll be Apple's loss when Netflix, YouTube and the rest start showing messages about "your Apple computer/phone is not able to use this site, please upgrade"...

      (The actual winners of that move would, naturally, be lawyers)

      • Yeah. That worked out real well for Flash. Do you really think that all of those companies are going to ignore Apple?

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        If these parties all decided to use whatever codec came out of this, and Apple choose to stay out, it'll be Apple's loss when Netflix, YouTube and the rest start showing messages about "your Apple computer/phone is not able to use this site, please upgrade"...

        To their peril. Despite Android outselling iOS 4:1 or more, Android traffic is basically even with iOS, and unfortunately, iOS is also the platform of choice for those with money.

        If Netflix doesn't work with iOS, users are more apt to blame Netflix tha

      • Re:No Apple (Score:5, Informative)

        by roca ( 43122 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @07:03PM (#50440261) Homepage

        These companies aren't going to drop support for Apple's devices. They're going to serve both H.264 and the new free codec --- to support old not-upgraded devices, as well as Apple devices. So if Apple doesn't join the party, the main impact will be that iPhones need twice as much bandwidth as Android phones to play video.

        This announcement is terrific news for free codecs. We've been fighting for this at Mozilla for a long time and now it looks like we have a good chance of winning.

    • by jmv ( 93421 )

      Keep in mind that:
      1) Apple can still join this effort. All the reasons why Microsoft, Cisco, Mozilla, and Google want a free codec also apply to Apple.
      2) Even if Apple doesn't join the Alliance for Open Media, they would still benefit from using the codec
      3) Even if they don't join and don't ship the codec, there's more than enough players already involved to make the resulting codec successful.
      That being said, 1) would still be the best outcome.

    • I suspect part of this is because the collected partners are actually afraid of Apple, and so Apple is in a better position to encourage a good open standard by standing outside and holding a big stick. That's why they would rather have an open protocol that no one owns than a popular one that Apple owns. Everyone remembers what happened to Real and to Microsoft's Plays For Sure.

  • by Himmy32 ( 650060 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @03:17PM (#50438739)
    With our powers combined, we are Captain Codec!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @03:32PM (#50438835)

      Given that there are 7 in the summary list, we need to consider the 6-cornerplane model of elementality.

      Mozilla claims fire because FireFox.
      Cisco gets earth, because their routers form the net-lines of the internet.
      Netflix gets water, because they have many bad boat-related movies.
      Amazon gets air, because they ship so much that way.
      Intel gets positive energy because accomplishing anything requires either their hardware or an imitator's (no, AMD doesn't count as a rival).
      That leaves Google and Microsoft competing for negative energy and the 7th spot. The most likely 7th spot is the region of intersection, most recognizably the realm of shadow in the positive/negative axis.

      • by Paco103 ( 758133 )

        AMD doesn't count? Even Intel supports the AMD64 instruction set. AMD has set the direction of the industry in the past, not sure I'd be so quick to dismiss them.

        • I have a number of AMD based computers and devices. However, I mostly remember AMD as the company that made a second-sourced 80286 processor. They also made 8088 processors, I think.

      • earth, air (or wind), water and fire... fair enough. But "positive" and "negative" as elements? What about wood and metal instead to round out the six, then spirit for a total of seven? Each of those can reasonably be described as an element, unlike positive or negative which are intellectual concepts.

        Of course, if you really want to have fun with elements start looking at traditional chinese and realize that there are some very different ways of looking at it (Mountain, Lake, etc.)

        • by Merk42 ( 1906718 )

          earth, air (or wind), water and fire... fair enough. But "positive" and "negative" as elements? What about wood and metal instead to round out the six...

          Dr. Wily, is that you?

  • Can we assume they are also lobbying to abolish the concept of software patents? Or we looking at another honeypot that will be taken private, like a couple of those famous 'community' databases?

    • by GeLeTo ( 527660 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @03:38PM (#50438873)
      I doubt it.
      These companies have tons of video-related patents - they had a big stake in the h264 patent pool, but are conspicuously missing from the list of h265 patent holders. And while the patents will be freely licensed to anyone, the license will allow the alliance to go nuclear on anyone that tries to sue for patent infringement. h265 is an upgrade to h264, so it is very likely it infringes on many of the alliance patents.
    • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @08:16PM (#50440639)

      The real issue is that the patent pool for h265 is getting greedy [streamingmedia.com], and planning to charge a *lot* more than h264 use, and in more circumstances. All these companies have an incentive to create a next-generation codec that can be licensed for no cost, because they're either providing platforms for this content or streaming content themselves.

      So, what you're seeing here is a natural market reaction to the overreach of the h265 pool, and it makes sense to combine their efforts and technologies to deliver a single superior codec that everyone can use. If they follow through with their promise of an open codec, it's definitely going to be a big win for these companies AND consumers. Moreover, as a purely pragmatic matter, it will allow more streaming for less bandwidth overall, something that's also important for many users with data caps.

      Lawsuits are almost inevitable, simply because they're threatening to destroy a potentially lucrative patent pool's effectiveness. Fortunately, this is a talented group with some legal and financial muscle behind it, so I think they have a good shot at succeeding.

  • If they can call themselves Open but not be, than I can call myself Horde.

  • they ain't stopping with just one.
  • Is It Just Me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @03:38PM (#50438869)
    Somehow I expect something named "Alliance For Open Media" to turn into some hideous new DRM scheme that clutch your gonads in fists of iron. With age comes incredible cynicism.
  • There was some industry group that would suggest/recommend best practices in the form of "standards."

    Oh wait...how was Microsoft involved in that earlier group again?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    anything they produce will be a) NOT purely free and open source software, b) NOT be absolutely free from the burden of patents, and c) WILL BE corrupted by closed source DRM...

    so.. basically, its just business as usual and this is just some fluff PR piece

    • by jmv ( 93421 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @09:56PM (#50441093) Homepage

      I suggest you read the Mozilla post [mozilla.org]. Basically, the output *will* be free, with open-source software under the Apache 2.0 license, and the patents being licensed according to W3C rules. So it doesn't get any more free than that. As for DRM, it's not a property of the codec. There certainly won't be any in the codec itself, but people can put DRM on top of anything they want (including ASCII art).

  • How long until ... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by janoc ( 699997 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @03:39PM (#50438881)

    MPEG LA sues?

    Media codecs are literally a patent minefield and even the likes of Microsoft or Google will have tough time breaking through the established monopolies.

    • Possibly they see new alliance as defense from those mines.
      You sue us with phony patents, Alliance will answer with hookey dokey patents of their own.

      In brave new world of codecs everyone will stay inside their walled gardens(because mines) and there will be peace finally(or at least until someone turns greedy)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Oh it'll be Open, for sure....conveniently packaged with built-in DRM controls.

  • Were they included out of pity?

    • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

      They were included for their work on the Daala codec, on which they also have patents, which has also received development time from Google and Cisco.

    • Re:Mozilla (Score:5, Interesting)

      by roca ( 43122 ) on Tuesday September 01, 2015 @07:07PM (#50440287) Homepage

      We have Daala, which (unlike VP8/9 and Thor) is radically different technology to H.264/H.265. That's very valuable because it steers away from the patent minefield. Also, our codec developers are among the best.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Mozilla employs most of Xiph's heavy-hitting codec geeks. They're the ones driving much of this.

  • Call me cynical, but I don't trust a coalition backed by any two of these players much less all seven of them at once. This partnership will only result in tighter Digital Restriction Management, more un-blockable advertising, less freedom for consumers, and more tracking of our every move.

  • And how long before Microsoft uses a "slight modification" from the open standard, which will make everything incompatible.
  • Google will work with Netflix and Amazon to produce whatever that triumvirate wants, and Mozilla and Cisco will just be along for the ride. (I notice Microsoft isn't even listed here; they don't have anything even vaguely resembling any market power here, since the only platform of consequence they control is IE, and they know it.)

    • by roca ( 43122 )

      We (Mozilla) have Daala, which is the only video codec around that is competitive and based on technology radically different from H.264/H.265. That's an important contribution.

  • Poor adobe. *gives huggles to adobe*

  • I think most of the posts are correct that this has come about because of the over reach of h265 patent holders' demands for money. I have to assume that they can change their licensing terms at any time though. If it looks like they are losing business, it would make sense for them to drop their prices, just like any business venture would.

    If the cost of using h265 suddenly drops to the range of using h264, I have to think that at least the speed of progress would slow for the open solution(s). I have t

  • MPEG standards (like h.264/AVC and now h.265/HEVC) are the best.
    Isn't it easier for the "alliance" to pay MPEG to open their standards rather than make inferior alternatives that may not even be completely patent-free?

    This is only for video. For audio, free codecs are actually really good, except maybe for multichannel. But considering how much lower audio bandwidth is compared to video, it doesn't matter as much. For stereo music, you can reach transparency with a well-encoded 256Mbps MP3 and maybe down to

  • I hate the ongoing assumption that "media" just mean "internet TV".

    Anyway, this appears to be specifically about developing a legally-free video codec. Anyone who's skeptical that it can be done should be pointed to the previous similar project to develop an audio codec: opus [opus-codec.org], which has been done, successfully, for a couple of years now and was developed in a similar fashion by a similar coalition of companies (and driven largely by Xiph/Mozilla's work as looks like this video codec will probably be, with

  • Why do we need new codecs? I'm genuinely confused and would like to understand.

    Is it an issue of patents and royalties? I know I've been watching videos on my computer since about 1995. The patents on those codecs should be expired. Also, I use a lot of Linux and open source and have since about 1998. I can still play videos. If those codecs are patented and closed then who paid the royalties to make that open source software possible? Is patent violating software being openly distributed while nobody does

    • I wonder the same thing and can only explain it by the "not invented here" syndrome plus current patent holders like that they can cash in almost indefinitely. The patent protection did not expire and will not for a long time. That is the reason why Microsoft makes a lot of money from Linux and Android because commercial users/vendors have to pay royalties for reading and writing FAT, which is the de facto standard for memory cards. I advocate for this for years, tech patent protection should expire after 3
  • The only open way into a viable future is OPEN
  • Open source and royalty free existing codecs...would be much easier, quicker, and apparently makes way too much sense. Instead we have a loose conglomerate of competitors that each create incompatible codecs that probably will only be supported in their browser. That those are then open source and royalty free doesn't matter that much.

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