By Matthew Magain

HTML5 Working Group Rejects Open Media Formats

By Matthew Magain

OggThe HTML5 spec looks set to introduce new audio and video capabilities into the language, but the HTML5 working group has become embroiled in a debate over the codecs that browsers should support for them.

Nokia and Apple have succeeded in removing Ogg Vorbis and Theora from the current draft, citing patent uncertainties (read: a reluctance to back a standard that has no provision for including DRM).

Manuel Amador has detailed why he believes the decision to omit these open formats to be an “outrageous disaster”:

(Given) the fact that there are widely available patent-free implementations of Ogg technology, there is really no excuse for Apple and Nokia to say that they couldn’t in good faith implement HTML5 as previously formulated.

And Ian Hickson from the WHATWG has responded with his own version of why it doesn’t make sense for Ogg Vorbis or Theora to be included (primarily, because Nokia and Apple are supposedly worried about being sued for using the format).

Regardless of the true motivations, it feels like this is a step backwards for HTML and for digital media in general.

  • Rudd-O

    Actually, my name is Manuel Amador. Briz’s just my second last name.

  • Apologies Manuel; I’ve updated the post.

  • madr

    It’s sad that every force on this planet is trying to kill OGG and do the best they can to keep OGG Vorbis unknown to everyone.

  • php_penguin

    Its sad that the HTML5 WG has become so heavily political. Company with a vested financial interest in how HTML 5 plays out are the WORST people to have on the WG and it was a bad decision to put them there in the first place.

  • nwmcsween

    the reason ogg isnt included is becasue it isnt a *format* its a *container* just like avi it can hold mp3,mp4 almost anything trying to impliment that browser side would be a nightmare instead use h.264 and go up from there *these* actual codecs **will** advance becasue of the wide usage of them.

  • It’s unsurprising but still disappointing that the HTML5 WG is now being driven by corporate members. From standards point of view there is no compelling reason to require DRM for video/audio content. The markup spec should be focussed on creating robust websites and NOT focussed on pleasing the lawyers of the music and video industry.

    While legal considerations form a part of the landscape, that’s not how decisions should be made.

  • the peregrine

    If the inclusion or exclusion of Ogg audio and video codecs truly hinges on the lack of digital rights management, the corporate ninnies are shooting the messenger.

    The RIAA and others have approached DRM with the attitude that they will crush the technology that allows file sharing of the creative works they are themselves responsible for protecting. International copyright laws do put the burden on the copyright holder to practice due diligence in protecting his/her copyright, and new technology has made copyright protection shockingly convenient in some ways (at the sacrifice of considerable quality, usually). If this tactic succeeds, though, RIAA and their ilk will be using the standards bodies to do that copyright enforcement work for them.

    I’d like to see these working groups held above the economic fray, but maybe that’s unrealistic. Nokia and Apple seek to protect themselves from lawsuits by taking the extreme conservative view, instead of taking part in a legitimate discussion that leads to workable solutions. If they withdraw their support and the working group perseveres without them, they’ve surrendered their interest. That’s all. So call their bluff! We can’t please everyone, and in the end these standards are meant to be developed for the good of all.

    Janis Ian is one artist who has spoken eloquently about why the RIAA’s approach has always been flawed. Look her up!

  • the peregrine

    Ahhh, sorry.

    Meant to say that new technology has made copyright infringement shockingly convenient in some ways …

  • Breton

    What good is a standard without any concern for corporate interests, if you’ve alienated the corporations that would implement it? You end up with something like xhtml 2.0, which makes perfect sense in its own nerdy little logical way, but there’s no way it’ll be in use on the open web for a million years. It’s a dead standard, and that deadness and lack of concern for what apple and opera and mozilla want is the reason html5 exists in the first place. HTML5 is the standard dictated by the corporations- because that’s the only way anyone will implement it. I’d rather have a bad standard that everyone supports than a good standard that nobody supports.

  • krdr

    So, after few years, open-source browsers will have ogg and theora extensions (-moz-ogg or anyone?) which will make them more better choice than IE or Safari.
    This also smells me on beginning of “Open HTML” initiative.

  • Disillusioned

    I’m sorry but who gives a monkey what Apple/Nokia think!! How much of the useragent market do they share… less than 2%??? Should we really be basing future standards on what they want?

    I’d much rather see buy-in from Microsoft who still control approx. 70% of the market until then all this talk of new standards is a big waste of time.

    A few days ago I read an article that said it will take 10-15 years * to implement HTML5, at this rate that timescale is looking optimistic at best…

    * Insert lots of swear words here

  • “…Should we really be basing future standards on what they [big corps] want?”

    Well, yes – partly. To set a tandard that a large copratioin cannot legally implement would be foolish. Patent holders sue the deepest pockets for infringement damages. That puts companies like Nokia and Apple – and Microsoft – (and their sockholders) at serious financial risk. And that goes a long way in understanding why corportions prefer proprietary technology while users and small companies prefer open source.

  • DR


    I agree that the year timeline is ludicrous. Its obvious that the executives at a lot of these companies have either forgotten or have never known that the WWW is less than 15 years old.

    For those of you who think I am exaggerating, I remember in 1992 using a dial-up connection and a Mosiac browser to access a rescource in Gopher.

  • linux-mike

    quote nwmcsween

    the reason ogg isnt included is becasue it isnt a *format* its a *container* just like avi it can hold mp3,mp4 almost anything trying to impliment that browser side would be a nightmare instead use h.264 and go up from there *these* actual codecs **will** advance becasue of the wide usage of them.

    Ogg is a container but the spec was not just about ogg. It also included Vorbis and Theora. If you read the thread referenced then you will see that h.264 does not meet the current requirements because Apple and Nokia are scared of shadows everywhere. The consequent upshot of the FUD is a stalling of the whole process.

    The reality is that if Apple are that afraid then itunes would be in paralysis as well. This is a political agenda, pure and simple, and unfortunately as the rest of the mailing list thread says:

    Sadly, work to get a solution here is likely to occur mostly behind closed doors, since it’s principally a political problem and not a technical one. I am not actively involved in the work to find a solution here.

    Quote from here

    I think the whole move was intended to take the process out of the public eye and that is reprehensible.

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