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SitePoint Podcast #77: Paper or Blu-ray?

By Kevin Yank

Episode 77 of The SitePoint Podcast is now available! This week your hosts are Patrick O’Keefe (@iFroggy), Brad Williams (@williamsba), and Kevin Yank (@sentience).

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Episode Summary

Here are the topics covered in this episode:

  1. IE9 screenshot leaked
  2. Facebook drops IE6 support
  3. Microsoft’s browser performance breakdown
  4. Google backs out of JavaOne
  5. H.264 to remain royalty free forever (for free content)

Browse the full list of links referenced in the show at http://delicious.com/sitepointpodcast/77.

Host Spotlights

Show Transcript

Kevin: September 3rd, 2010. Internet Explorer inside and out; JavaOne won’t be the same; and H.264 goes free (mostly). I’m Kevin Yank and this is the SitePoint Podcast #77: Paper or Blu-ray?

And welcome back to the SitePoint Podcast. With the Internet Explorer 9 Beta coming out on September 15th it seems like everyone is talking about Internet Explorer. Brad, why don’t you lead off the Internet Explorer news department.

Brad: Absolutely. So there has actually been a leaked photo of Internet Explorer 9 Beta which appeared on one of the Microsoft foreign websites…

Kevin: It’s the Russian website I think.

Brad: Russian one, right, and obviously it was quickly taken down, but in the age of the Internet if it’s up for a second it’s up forever, so the screenshot has been making the rounds. It’s a little small and a little blurry but you could certainly kind of get a good idea of what it looks like Internet Explorer is going to look like and what they’re going for, and that’s certainly like we all thought it would be is the kind of minimal approach that we’re seeing in a lot of browsers such as Chrome and Firefox, so it looks pretty clean. What do you guys think?

Kevin: If it was just a screenshot I would be questioning its realness because it doesn’t look like a real browser screenshot to me, like there’s too many things wrong with it, but reading the provenance, like Mary Jo Foley who I believe is a ZDNet writer who specializes on Microsoft, she apparently is one of the people who grabbed this off the original site. And so with that big name associated with this as the source I find it difficult to question, but I wonder if Microsoft Russia is just mocking things up on their own time here because this really doesn’t seem to work for me.

Patrick: Microsoft Russia has a little too much time on their hands is what you’re saying.

Kevin: (Laughs) Maybe.

Patrick: It looks pretty — I think it looks nice, I mean obviously there’s so much more to a browser than just how it looks; are we that shallow, are we that about appearance?

Brad: Yes, yes we are.

Patrick: (Laughs) No, but it is very simple. If I look at it in my browser that I’m using, which is Firefox, I notice that there is a much lower number of icons and then buttons and menu items available in the browser. Now, will I use it? I was a longtime IE user and switched to Firefox last year; I mean I would consider it but just not based on the looks alone.

Kevin: Hmm.

Brad: Yeah, I have to wonder too, Kevin, because if you look at it closely you can see the actual, the back button, part of the website they’re viewing which is Bing in the screenshot of course, it almost looks like they’re overlaying the back button which seems like that would be an obvious thing to fix, so you do have to wonder if it is kind of sliced up a little bit.

Kevin: Either it’s a bad Photoshop job there or that’s some sort of, I don’t know, artistic choice on Microsoft’s part, just the same way that the Windows button, the Start button in the bottom left corner of every Windows monitor, it now protrudes up over the top of the bar at the bottom, this one it seems to be tucked behind the browser content area, and so I could sort of see Microsoft going, whoa, this is kind of cool, we can tuck buttons behind things, that will make it look a little trendier, a little more novel. So, that isn’t necessarily what trips me up about it, what trips me up about it is they’ve got the browser address bar sitting next to the tabs for all of the open tabs leaving only about a third of the width of the window for browser tabs. And looking at it you could have two tabs open and then after that your tabs are going to start getting smaller right away. This does not seem like a reasonable user interface for me because like the one thing your browser Chrome is having to do for you these days is give you good access to a set of tabs I think.

Patrick: Right, and we’ve seen when I think it was Firefox and the above and below thing, and they’re going to offer the option, I think that just could be the case here where they could offer an option. But what trips me up about this is that on the Bing website that’s in this mock-up it says “Popular now, Internet Explorer,” when was Internet Explorer a popular search on Bing?!

Kevin: (Laughs) Yeah, I’m calling foul!

Brad: I could see the tabs working on that line if every website that I ever visited has a very distinguishable favicon because a lot of the larger sites that you visit certainly do, SitePoint has a very distinguishable— It’s the SitePoint logo, so I know that’s SitePoint, so even if my tab went down to just the fav icon I would know that’s SitePoint, but the problem is not 1) every site has a distinguishable fav icon and 2) a lot of times we’re reading sites that we may not read very often, we just click on a quick article and view the site just for that article and never go back to that site again. So, I would imagine if that is the default layout that there were certainly be an option to move those tabs either up above or below the address bar.

Kevin: I think you guys might be on to something with the option, but I’m actually, I think what they’re going to do is that’s the default state, but as soon as you have more than two tabs open the whole tab bar drops down below the address bar and then occupies the entire width. But what they do is they move them up next to the address bar when there’s not many tabs so you have a little more space to work in when they don’t need the extra space for tabs.

Patrick: Yeah, and at best obviously this is pre-release because there’s things missing here as well, like at the top left some sort of title or icon or something at the top left to say it’s Internet Explorer.

Kevin: Yeah! Where’d the window title go?

Patrick: It’s gone, so if this — maybe it could always be just a fancy Photoshop versus an actual application.

Kevin: Yeah. Okay, well, I guess we’ll see on September 15th.

Brad: Yeah, and something else actually happening September 15th, Facebook, everyone’s favorite social network, well, most people, have announced that they’re going to make some significant improvements in their chat feature, and one of the big parts of that announcement is that they’re going to end support for IE6 in their chat feature the same day that Internet Explorer 9 Beta is released which is September 15th.

Brad: Coincidence? I don’t know but it certainly is interesting.

Kevin: I think September 15th is also that the day Diaspora network is supposed to open source its code in preparation for a consumer alpha sometime in October. This is the supposed Facebook killer built on open source technology and open web standards. We shall see what happens on September 15th, but it seems to be a nexus date in the Web at the moment, it’s Internet Explorer, it’s Facebook and Internet Explorer, it’s Facebook and Diaspora; I wonder how long a chain you could form of things that are happening on September 15th.

Patrick: And which matters more to developers? Which brings them to tears faster, Facebook saying no to IE6 or the release of the code of Diaspora? I think I know the answer!

Brad: Is that tears of joy?

Kevin: One is tears of joy, yeah, tears of joy.

Patrick: Exactly! That’s what I mean, tears of joy.

Kevin: See which one you can pick. So, Facebook doing away with Internet Explorer 6 support, I’ll be honest I was shocked that Facebook was still supporting Internet Explorer 6, but this is yet another line in the sand that I think the last big high profile IE6 support killing was Google Apps, or Google Docs and all of that— All of Google’s web applications no longer support IE6 as a first-class citizen, and so that was an important one, but if you went to your boss and said, “well, Google doesn’t do it” and they said yeah “well talk to me when Google’s search homepage doesn’t support Internet Explorer 6.” But Facebook doing it, now that is a mass market website if ever there was one. So is this finally— I’ll be honest, we still test on IE6 at SitePoint just out of habit more than anything because we know if it’s going to break anywhere it’s going to break on IE6, so often after we finish developing something the first thing we test it in is in IE6 because we know that’s going to be the most problematic environment. But I just in preparation for this broadcast I checked our numbers, IE6 traffic at SitePoint is down to about two percent.

Brad: I don’t think this is the nail in the coffin. I mean we’ve discussed on the Podcast a number of times, and looking at stats, too, that backs this up a good majority of IE6 users are corporate users, and the reason they’re stuck on IE6 is specific applications they need to use that were built for IE6 and IE6 only. Well, those corporate users probably shouldn’t be on Facebook, and they probably don’t have a great reason to be on Facebook other than maybe their marketing department. So I can’t imagine that this would be the nail in the coffin, I mean I would certainly like it to be but I don’t think it will be.

Patrick: It’s like the Google CEO said, you know, if there’s something that you don’t want people to find you shouldn’t do it online, so same thing, if you use IE6 you shouldn’t be using Facebook. No, I think that — I don’t know why it’s unreasonable to maybe say, okay, we have these programs that work with IE6 so you have to use IE6 for those programs, but then install something like Firefox 3 or something.

Kevin: Yeah, I’m with you, Patrick, I think this may not be the nail in the coffin of IE6, but I think it is the nail in the coffin of people developing new apps with IE6 in mind.

On a related note, still talking about Microsoft in browsers and things because it’s all happening this month for Microsoft, but the Microsoft IE Blog has this amazing post called Performance: Profiling How Different Websites Use Browser Subsystems, and don’t be put off by the dry title, this blog post is full of eye candy, if like me you consider eye candy amazing graphs.

Brad: Kevin loves his graphs!

Kevin: (Laughs) This story breaks down the 11 subsystems that goes into the Internet Explorer browser, everything from obvious ones like HTML and CSS right down to things like native object mapping, block building, and marshalling. Brad, did you find this as mind-blowing a glimpse under the surface of Internet Explorer as I did?

Brad: Yeah, it’s certainly interesting and it’s certainly geeky, too, I mean when you really break it down like this, but I did enjoy the graphs; I kind of wish, because they basically break it up by different sites, but it’s very generic, news site one, news site two; I would love to know what those sites were.

Kevin: Yeah! I’m dying to know.

Brad: That’s what I’m missing, but other than that I mean I think it’s really neat to look at.

I was amazed at the amount of JavaScript pulling off these sites, and you probably love that, Kevin, because I know you’re a JavaScript buff, but these sites are running quite a bit of JavaScript.

Kevin: Well, it depends, because what interested me, they’ve given the performance breakdowns of five common news sites, and then they also show a breakdown, an average over all Ajax sites or the top 25 Ajax sites they’ve averaged them all out. But looking at the news site graph the biggest thing that stands out to me is the fact that they are news sites seems to have no bearing on their performance profile. News site number one has a gigantic chunk of Flash—not Flash, JavaScript—and indeed like half the time that the browser spends working on displaying that site is spent running JavaScript code. Whereas if you move over to news site two and news site three the JavaScript component is actually really small, but news site two, they spend a lot of time in marshalling which is preparing the JavaScript communication with the browser itself. And if you look at news site three they’ve obviously done a lot more work than their competitors on performance because their graph is down near the 1,000 millisecond mark.

Patrick: Either that or they have less ads (laughs).

Kevin: Well, yeah, maybe. The next fastest site is almost at 2,500 milliseconds, so they’re taking almost half the time. So, there is no standard profile for news sites which makes me wonder why they’ve gone to the trouble to average out then the amount of time in each browser subsystem on Ajax sites, because if the picture for Ajax sites is anything like the one for news sites they’re all different, and every site is different, and this I guess is the point that Microsoft is trying to make that it’s really difficult to optimize a browser so that it works well and fast on all sites because every site is different and it makes different demands on the browser. That said, JavaScript does seem to be a very big component, if you add up the components that have to do with JavaScript, things like marshalling, JavaScript, the native object mapping interface, these are all things that kind of have to do with JavaScript. On news sites the average has over half the time spent on JavaScript or JavaScript related tasks, Ajax sites it’s weird, it’s only one-third the time. So they’re spending a lot more time on rendering and formatting, which is applying CSS to HTML elements, laying out the page, that sort of stuff, so whereas on the surface you might think Ajax sites are heavier in the JavaScript front, it seems like they’re actually heavier in making the browser’s rendering engine work and work to constantly update the page and make changes on the fly, and the actual JavaScript code is not that heavy. I bet you’re right, Patrick, I bet the JavaScript code on those news sites has a lot to do with the ads that they run.

Patrick: Well, speaking of JavaScript, or more specifically Java, JavaOne is an annual conference that was created by Sun Microsystems in 1996, and Google has participated in every conference since 2004, but this year they won’t be, and they will not be because of Oracle’s lawsuit against Google, according to a blog post on googlecode.blogspot.com by Joshua Bloch of Google’s Open Source Programs Office, he writes that they wish they could participate in the conference but “the lawsuit against Google and Open Source has made it impossible for us to freely share our thoughts about the future of Java and Open Source generally. This is a painful realization for us as we participated in every JavaOne since 2004, and I personally have spoken at all but the first in 1996.” Careful wording there: “lawsuit against Google and Open Source.”

Kevin: Hmm. Yeah, this is a bummer for me as well because I’m a Java developer from way back. I don’t really do much Java these days but part of my heart will always belong to Java, and I think like a lot of Java fans out there I’m really dismayed by what Oracle is doing to Google. Like I guess from the outside, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few stories out there taking this angle, that Google is being a bit of drama queen about this, “Oh, you sue us? Well we’re not coming to your conference!” But JavaOne is really like this is the heart of the Java ecosystem and there are people who’ve been to every JavaOne since 1996, and it’s usually an amazing conference because it’s not just, well, Sun Microsystems previously, these days Oracle, it’s not just the one company getting up there and saying well here’s what’s new for our platform this year, developers, eat it up. It really is a meeting of all of the big players in the Java world, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Google was one of if not the biggest partner in that up until this point. And to be able to go to this massive conference every year that had to do with such a mature platform and still get so much, such an impression of a vibrant ecosystem of people still playing with new ideas, you know, building new languages to run on the Java platform, building new things that take advantage of Java, I think especially at the moment the biggest thing going on in the Java world is the Android platform that Google built using Java technology. And the fact that Oracle has chosen to thank them for that favor by suing them really does throw a bucket of cold water on this thriving ecosystem, this positive atmosphere of sharing around the JavaScript platform that was centered around JavaOne every single year. I know I’m on the mailing list for the Java Users Group in Victoria here in Melbourne Australia, and they’re talking about it along the same lines; they were getting ready to hold their monthly meeting and they suddenly went, you know what, if the custodian of the Java platform in Oracle is taking this approach to it, suing people who are investing in Java technology, do we really want to be getting together and talking about how much we love Java this month? I’m really not feeling it and they’ve cancelled this month’s meeting and have no immediate plans to schedule another one going forward. It’s a really sad day, especially for a technology like Java that has been held up through good times and bad through the force of its developer community.

Brad: I feel sorry for the attendees that shelled out the $2,000.00 to go to some of these Google-specific sessions that are not going to happen anymore. Some of these look pretty interesting: Taking Java to the Sky, Cloud Computing, The High Performance Java Servers at Google, that would be really interesting, Testing Techniques for Google AppEngine, GUI Animation Rules; so all these sessions that were on the agenda are now cancelled obviously, and so anyone that had planned to go to those are out of luck, they’re going to have to go a different session, so that’s really too bad.

Patrick: Google is apparently already on board for a sponsorship, though, because if you look at the site they are listed under the bronze sponsor, so that’s a little uncomfortable.

Kevin: Whoa. (Laughs) Yeah, hmm, I wonder what they’ll be putting on their sponsorship banners.

Patrick: (Laughs) They’ll put ‘Java’ with a big red circle and a line through it like Ghostbusters did, and right there, ‘no more Java’.

Kevin: Yeah, you know, I feel like I have invested years in Java at times when the main company behind it did not seem to believe in it the way I did. And now that company is punishing companies like Google for choosing it. Google didn’t have to choose Java to build Android on, there would be plenty of alternatives out there and, yeah, anyway, I think enough said, but if there are any listeners out there who are also feeling the pain as one-time if not current Java developers, we’d love to hear from you in the comment thread of this post. Because I’m feeling a bit alone in my love for Java at the moment, I’d love to hear some other people.

Patrick: Come commiserate with Kevin.

Kevin: Yeah, please do. Please do.

On the bright side, H.264 is kicking great goals at the moment. Let’s talk about a technology that’s on the upswing for a few minutes here. We’ve talked about H.264 as a potential standard for web video in the past, if you’ve viewed video on the Web, whether through a Flash player or in one of these new-fangled HTML5 players, chances are the video you were watching was encoded using the H.264 video codec. It’s the one that is supported natively by Apple devices, iPhones, iPads, and so forth, in hardware. It’s really the, the de facto format for video on the Web at the moment. But, as we’ve spoken about before, the W3C when standardizing the new HTML5 <video> tag couldn’t endorse H.264 because there are patents on this, this is patented technology that is owned by a group, the MPEG Licensing Association, MPEG-LA, and they charge licensing fees for people who want to make money using this video format. And so the W3C said, yep, there’s no good option, we’re not going to take sides, we’re going to say there’s a <video> tag and you can use whatever codex you want and the browser will, if it sees a supported codec in the list you’ve provided then it will play that video.

Meanwhile Google has invested in their WebM video format buying all of the technology involved with it and releasing it free to the public domain in the hopes, supposedly, of creating a new de facto format that the W3C can endorse because it isn’t patent encumbered. Now there’s a lot of humming and hawing over whether it is or it isn’t patent encumbered, you know, I get the feeling that for technology as complex as a video encoder if at any point you try to make significant money out of it someone’s going to come out of the woodwork claiming to have a patent on it, and these aren’t the kind of things that you can definitively eliminate from the equation beforehand. I feel like at some point someone’s going to come out with a patent saying they have a patent on logging people into websites using usernames and passwords and now everyone on the Web has to pay them money.

Patrick: Wish I thought of that.

Kevin: (Laughs) Yeah, that would be a good patent. So, you know, there is a lot of questioning over WebM is everything it’s cracked up to be, and of course there would be a lot of work involved in retrofitting not just all of our browsers, but all of the hardware devices to be able to play it as efficiently as they already play H.264. So this latest news that the MPEG-LA says they will not be charging royalties or patent licensing fees of any kind to anyone who is producing or delivering content in H.264 format as long as that content is available for free. This is significant news.

Patrick: Is that free viewing without ads?

Kevin: Yeah.

Patrick: Or what kind of free?

Kevin: You know what, I don’t know if ad support is an issue. My reading of it is as long as it’s available on the open Web to be viewed without paying for it, so ads are allowed, I believe, as long as it’s freely available to watch then it’s license free, patent free. Not patent free, license charging free; it’s free to use! You don’t have to pay for it. Is this enough to make it the format for web video?

Brad: I hope so. I think everyone feels that way. I mean we just need to set a standard so we can move forward and everybody can adopt it and we’ll have HTML5 video for all. It sounds like this is it; I mean you know we have Mozilla and Opera who were both kind of holding out on this because they were uncomfortable with the licensing; it shouldn’t be a question anymore, so they should certainly hopefully support it in the next release or soon thereafter, so hopefully this is it. I mean I think everybody wants to see a standard, I know I do, and there’s a lot of sites and browsers that do support this already, so it’s looking good.

Patrick: It feels kind of weird to me because, you know, you have sites out there that obviously are paid to access video, so it’s weird to have a standard, let’s say, that those sites couldn’t use, I think, where we have a lot of educational sites, for example, that are paid access and so they have to go and use a different standard just because there’s a paywall there, I don’t know, that still seems kind of weird to me, uncomfortable.

Kevin: They don’t necessarily have to use a different standard, but they do have to pony up for the licensing fees.

Patrick: Right, yep.

Kevin: And the way the MPEG-LA works, we’ve looked into this recently at SitePoint because we’re using video in our courses, which are paid content obviously, and there is a certain threshold if you’re, I forget if it’s number of views, it probably is, but it’s something on the order of, don’t quote me on this, but on the order of half a million; if you’re serving up half a million video views or hours or something then you cross this threshold where you have to start paying licensing fees, and then you have to pay an annual fee to the MPEG-LA for your use of that codec. And so if H.264 is embraced as the format for video on the Web what it means is for the first time there is a standard core part of web technology that you need to pay to use as an author if you are producing a certain type of content. But maybe that’s okay, maybe the Web has grown up and we’re at the point where if you’re going to make money off the Web you have to be willing to put money into the technology that makes the Web possible. I’m really interested in you guys’ opinions on this because I’m really on the fence.

Patrick: Well, I’m not, as you know, I’m not a web standards guy by any means, but I don’t even consider myself — I’m not a programmer, I shouldn’t even say I consider myself, I’m not a programmer. But, like I said, it does make me uncomfortable to think that there is ‘a standard’, now I don’t view standards as for-profit operations, now maybe that’s a wrong viewpoint, maybe that’s not the way to think about it. But for me I don’t view the standards of anything we do online whether it be HTML or CSS or video or graphics, or whatever, as something that is someone is out there for profit, but I view people use those standards to profit, and maybe that’s not a sustainable model, maybe that’s a bad way to look at it, but that’s just the way I feel about it, it seems strange to me if you have 500,000 video views, or whatever the number is, within a certain period that you have to opt for a different standard, or pay for the standard, especially because I don’t know what the price is at this stage, that’s a part of it, it’s kind of scary to think well if I ever did this — I guess if I ever had 500,000 views maybe I might have enough money, but still, it just seems weird.

Kevin: Yeah. What I would say is based on our research if we were serving the amount of video that people were paying to view where we would have to start paying license fees, the fees seem fair, they don’t seem generous, they seem fair.

Patrick: And then if you could go with another standard save that money, and don’t tip your hand here or whatever, but would that be something feasible for you to look into, would it be worth it?

Kevin: It’s an interesting thought exercise. Let’s take a step back here, let’s talk about Blu-ray for a second because Blu-ray as a media format, you know, the fancy new discs you can buy to watch HD video in your home theatre, Blu-ray is also based on H.264, the video that is encoded on your Blu-ray disc is also an H.264 format. And a lot of people are paying licensing fees around Blu-ray technology; if you want to put out a Blu-ray player you have to pay a licensing fee for the decoder because you are providing that decoder as a commercial product to decode H.264 video, so the people who make your Blu-ray player are paying a license fee. Also the people who make each of your Blu-ray discs are also paying a license fee because they are putting out commercial content that is encoded in that format. And so the MPEG-LA is cashing in on both sides of that equation. But I don’t think as consumers we are that uncomfortable with that because we see Blu-ray discs as a commercial product, Blu-ray is not a medium for free communication; at least we don’t see it that way currently.

Patrick: Right, that’s a good point.

Kevin: Whereas, you know, if someone were to say that they own the licensing fees on paper— Paper, it’s a technology, it’s been around a bit longer than Blu-ray, it’s probably not quite as complex as Blu-ray to explain how you make paper, but at one time someone maybe did come up with some innovation in paper technology and —

Patrick: Thicker paper.

Kevin: Thicker paper, decorative embossed paper, whatever it might be, and if they owned the patents on that and they suddenly said everyone who A) produces paper to be bought in stores needs to pay us a license fee, would we be okay with that? And, B) anyone who writes on paper and then sells that written-on-paper as a product also needs to pay a licensing fee, would we be okay with that? Paper is thought a lot more as a medium for free expression in the world, and so I don’t think people would be that excited about a new paper technology that required licensing fees to be paid on both sides of the equation. So where on that spectrum does the Web fit?

Patrick: I think it fits in the spectrum of paper to a lot of people. Now, you know, I don’t know if that’s fair. I think if we see something where there’s, let’s say, a standard where there’s people working on it, it’s a business, right, they’re employing people to work on that standard. I think it becomes a little more understandable. I think if you go to the MPEG-LA website they’re the leader in patent pools (laughs), so I mean just by that, there’s nothing against that, it’s a business and it’s fine, there’s publishing companies that go and buy the rights to old music to profit off it now, that’s perfectly fine, but I don’t know, it just seems weird to be a standard affiliated with a patent pool, I don’t know, it just seems weird to me. But then again maybe I don’t understand enough to make a clear distinction there.

Brad: See, and I think that’s kind of the mindset of just the Internet in general is most people assume everything is free, and I think actually we had one of the listeners comment about —

Patrick: That’s not me, Brad, I’ll tell you. That’s not me but I understand your point.

Brad: No, that’s not you, Patrick, definitely; but we had one of our listeners that commented and he made the point that he’s never paid for anything on the Internet, period, his whole life. And I think a lot of people have that same mindset that, hey, if I can get to it on the Internet it should be free. Whereas there’s this other mindset that it’s a business, everyone’s out there to make money, and to make money you have to have patents and things like this and paywalls to watch those videos, so if I have half a million people paying me to watch a video somewhere I should probably be paying somebody for that technology.

Patrick: That’s a good point.

Kevin: It may not be you, Patrick, but I think it is the W3C; the W3C has drawn a line in the sand, they have a patent policy that basically says if a technology is not patent free or licensed royalty free for use on the Web without restrictions then it cannot be a core part of the Web. And so I think despite this latest news on H.264 we won’t be seeing the HTML5 spec updated to endorse H.264 as the de facto format, I think we’re going to stick with HTML5 video as a tag that can list whatever video formats you want, but there is no recommended format. I think WebM has still got the edge, WebM inasmuch as it holds up to scrutiny as a patent free technology may yet make it into the HTML5 standard, but pragmatically H.264 seems like it will continue to be and has cemented its leadership as the format that people actually use whatever the HTML5 spec says. This is a meaty area, listeners, and I would really love to hear what your thoughts are on it: is the Web paper or is the Web Blu-ray? Does the Web have to be free or have we gotten to the point where people making money off the Web need to pitch in a bit? And there’s been plenty going on in the comments feed, Patrick?

Patrick: There has and we’re going to highlight a couple comments real quick right now. The first comes from Chris Trinkiewicz who commented on Google Wave and its impending demise. He says that he thinks, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that Wave was just a collaboration tool and the ability to link Wave was huge for him. He also viewed the tool as easily being the next RSS generation as well. He also commented on the JQuery part of our last group show saying that “JQuery isn’t too thin in size and integrating mobile support could very well influence a project in a bad way.”

Another comment we received was from Joaquin who commented about Wave as well. He said that it was “really hyped but just badly explained.” He said his Twitter feed, for example, “is mostly normal people, not geeks, and they thought it was meant to compete with Facebook or Twitter or some other social networking site, and of course it failed at that.” He says he wanted it “to succeed if only for the reason of not having to remember to reply to all, man, I hate that feature in email,” he says.

Kevin: I’m loving our comments feed at the moment. Please, listeners, do contribute because we read every single comment and, yeah, we love hearing your thoughts on this stuff.

Let’s finish off with our host spotlights, guys, Brad what have you got for us?

Brad: I have a fun website that’s actually released by Google, and they’ve partnered up with the band Arcade Fire, and essentially what the site is, it’s called The Wilderness Downtown, and it’s basically like a showcase of what you can do with HTML5.

Kevin: Yeah, I saw this too and I love this.

Brad: This is really cool; I watched the whole thing through, so the website is actually chromeexperiments.com, and then the very first experiment will, if you click the launch experiment button, will open up The Arcade Fire, The Wilderness Downtown. And I don’t want to spoil it too much, but essentially it will ask for your home town and then it will start up this music video that opens up multiple different windows and closes windows throughout the video kind of making it a little bit more, I don’t know if I would say like 3D, but a little bit more interactive I guess. But it’s pretty wild and then it also integrates your hometown via the Google Maps and things like that, so it’s definitely interesting.

Kevin: Oh, I didn’t even realize! I watched the whole thing and now that I think about it those streets did look really familiar! (Laughs)

Brad: Is that my car? (Laughs) It takes about a minute into the video before it starts showing the home town stuff, but then all of a sudden it will integrate and show the satellite imagery, it will show streetview shots as this person’s walking through the streets, it’s pretty wild to actually see it because it looks like the video was shot in your home town. So it’s a really cool demonstration of HTML5 and kind of connecting with some different Google features, so I’d definitely give it a spin.

Kevin: The music is good too, I’m a big fan of The Arcade Fire and this is one of their best songs. It really is like a — it’s like watching a music video played out through browser windows, and at times there are six windows on your screen playing different clips of video and there’s interactive bits as well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise because this thing is full of surprises, but be sure to move your mouse near the birds because fun things happen. Yeah, but the thing is when you first load this up it took for me about a minute to preload, and at the same time it’s showing messages like “This experiment is processor intensive, please close down other apps on your computer for the best possible experience.” And you’re like, whoa, it’s been a long time since a website has asked me to close down other applications because it’s going to be too processor intensive. And sure enough it did spike my CPU to 100% while it was running. And I think a lot of that has to do with the stuff they’re doing with Canvas, and this goes into my pick this week, my spotlight, which is Tips and Tricks for Better HTML5 Canvas Animations. This comes to us via Webmonkey but it’s a nice blog post written by Hakim el Hattab who has a list of tips or practical discoveries he made while working on a Canvas experiment, very much or similar in technological underpinnings to what we’re seeing with this Arcade Fire experiment. And he’s discovered, this is something we talked about a bit before, but he’s discovered that getting decent performance out of this technology is not trivial, and if you do things the obvious way often that’s the slow way. And I think Google is just having to do things the slow way because they’re trying to pull off so much in their demo, but especially the biggest one is manipulating bitmaps, so if you take an image, say a Google Maps image of your home town, and you want to manipulate it and display it skewed, say so it looks like it’s in 3D and someone’s running down that street of your home town, that kind of thing is really going to slow down current browsers because manipulating bitmaps in that way is just not a very optimized process at the moment in HTML5 <canvas> tags. So he’s got a whole list of things that you should do or shouldn’t do if you want to keep your experimental animations performing nicely, I’m not sure Google would be able to do all the things he suggests, but if you’re thinking of using Canvas on your site it’s definitely worth spending the ten minutes to read through this because it might save you some painful performance problems down the line.

Patrick: And my host spotlight is an article at theoatmeal.com, I have to warn you it’s not work friendly, there’s a lot of vulgarity in there, so you know you’ve been warned. The article is called, or the comic really is called, “Why Working from Home is Both Awesome and Horrible”. And I work from home and I know Kevin’s worked from home, Brad works from home, so we all kind of can sympathize with this. I would like to think that my own life isn’t as bad or as good, let’s say, as this article explains, but if you do work from home or you have you’ll certainly be able to get something out of it.

Kevin: And that’s our show for this week. Just before we go I’d like to direct your attention to the .net Awards where the SitePoint Podcast is nominated for the Best Podcast of the Year. We’re in good company in the list but it is great to be on that list. And listeners if you enjoy what we do here every single week please do drop by thenetawards.com to vote on the .Net Magazine Awards for 2010, you have until October 12th which is when voting ends, and yes, please do consider us for category 6, Podcast of the Year.

Let’s go around the table guys. Who are you?

Brad: Sure, and just a quick plug: I will actually be speaking at WordCamp Mid-atlantic, which is in Baltimore on September 11th, so if you’re in the area and you want to come to a really fun WordPress event, be sure to track me down. You can check out my blog, strangework.com and on Twitter @williamsba.

Patrick: I’m Patrick O’Keefe for the iFroggy Network, ifroggy.com, I’m on Twitter @ifroggy.

Kevin: Visit us at sitepoint.com/podcast to leave comments on this show and to subscribe to receive every show automatically. You can follow me on Twitter @sentience, and follow SitePoint @sitepointdotcom.

The SitePoint Podcast is produced by Carl Longnecker, and I’m Kevin Yank, thanks for listening and please do vote!

Theme music by Mike Mella.

Thanks for listening! Feel free to let us know how we’re doing, or to continue the discussion, using the comments field below.

  • powerpotatoe

    The web as a platform should be like paper, whereas the web in terms of content development may be like paper or Blu-Ray; depending on the desire of the producer and the preference of the consumer.

    If the web platform is like paper, then content on the web could be like free newsprint publications one finds outside a gas station or restaurant, it could be like fliers posted on a community bulletin board, it could be like a novel sold in a book store, or a news paper sold at the local convenient store, or a magazine available only by paid subscription. Web content can be free or sold at a cost.

    I have commented before that I do not purchase content on the web when I can find the same or similar content elsewhere for free. I do the same with computer applications (eg. Photoshop vs GIMP). Although I do not think that all web content (or applications) must be free, I promote web content that is free. I argue that the web platform should be free. There should be a patent free and cost free core to the web platform for development and use.

    It made sense, years ago before video became a web staple, for web video components to be cost based. It was then a luxury. Although, one could still argue that video on the web is a luxury, it is quickly becoming a common media. Therefore, I think that eventually a patent free alternative must be created for the web core. This would allow up and coming developers to create video content at no cost and it would allow large developers and site owners to produce content at no cost.

    It seems that if H.264 remains the leader as the video codec of choice, then the web economy will decide whether or not MPEG-LA will profit from its product. I have no problem with a developer charging for its product. But I want to see the web standards remain free.

    This posses a dilemma for browser developers. If MPEG-LA ever decides to rescind its commitment to a broad license free use, then browser groups may be forced to pay for the codec if the market demands its use. However, the browsers will still have a weapon to fight back with; the popularity of the browser. If the leading browser refuses to pay a license and consequently disables the use of a feature, then the developing world may just follow suite and begin to use another (or create a new) way to do what there audience wants.

    I foresee that if a patented technology became included in the web core standards, the world would eventually see the demise of the free web platform. If one potential money maker makes it into the core, why would other commercial groups keep their hands out of the cookie jar?

  • http://wydajnykomputer.pl ChrisPL

    I am against endorsing H.264 as a standard as long as it remains paid for any use. This is because you can easily think of a vodcast or movie database which will make some money, but maybe not enough to pay the fees. A good example would be charities, giving out some high quality videos (like from concerts). Should they pay the fee? Or a lower fee? Even if so, will the owners of H.264 spend their time to decide who should pay what? And what if they change the rules and rates? It’s their product, they can do it.
    Imagine if Google now said that we have to pay for searches. And imagine what would happen if Google was a standard and Bing and Yahoo wouldn’t exist or would suck as they were not endorsed as a standard and thus not developed.
    That’s why the paid services should remain an alternative for me. Maybe a better, but still – an alternative, not a standard.

    Remember, that the standards don’t have to be the best option. Like with Flash, it’s better than HTML & JS for lots of things, but do we endorse it? And what if we did in the past, and the whole web was in Flash, and now Apple came and said “no thanks” to it. A battle of 2 companies could strongly affect all the websites. We would probably go back to the free solutions and there goes the endorsement.

  • goldfidget

    I’ve always worked to the rule that I’ll support any browser with more than 5% market share. Looking at w3counter it appears IE6 now has just 6.27% in the general marketplace and falling fast. I never thought I would see the day :)

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