Unisys was asking some web site owners $5,000-$7,500 to able to use GIFs on their sites. Note that these patents expired about five years ago, so this isn’t an issue today, but it’s still instructive. It’s scary to think of a world where you would have to fork up $5000 just to be able to use images on a web site. Think about all of the opportunity, the weblogs, the search engines (even Google!) and all the other the simple ideas that became major services that would never have been started because of a huge tax being put on being able to use a fundamental web technology. It makes the web as a democratic technology distinctly un-democratic.
We’re looking at the same situation with H.264, except at a far larger scale.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll have noticed that Firefox 3.5 was released.
With it, came the mainstream acceptance of HTML 5, the new web standard – and as a direct result of that, XHTML is effectively dead.
What’s most interesting about HTML 5 is the new <video> tag, however – allowing web content people (what’s their name again?) to embed videos directly without using clunky <object> or <embed> tags.
About time, too. Video is now more prevalent than ever on the internet, and the widespread usage of sites such as YouTube just goes to show just how popular such sites are. Even Flickr, a primarily still-photo based site, are now incorporating video features into their lineup.
Now, about this format war…
So the story goes a little like this…
Right now, the common way to include video on the web is by use of Flash, a closed-source technology. The answer to this is the HTML5 video tag, which allows you to embed video into HTML pages without the use of Flash or any other non-HTML technology; combined with open video codecs, this could provide the perfect opportunity to further open up and standardize the web.
The problem lies in which codec they’re going to use for this video. Mozilla, along with the rest of the open-source community, think it should be something open-source, such as the Ogg Theora codec which is based on open-source standards. The issue is that not all parties in the browser war agrees – Apple and Microsoft, in particular are against the move to use an open-source codec. Being the large corporations that they are, they want to use their own patented codecs. As they’re not a small portion of the browser market, Mozilla can’t simply ignore them and implement Ogg as the primary codec for the <video> tag in HTML5 (paraphrased from Slashdot comments).
So the question is: why don’t all the parties do what Chrome is doing and just support both proposed formats (H.264 and Ogg Theora) at the same time? In my opinion, this would undoubtedly be the way to go. The issue here is that “Safari won’t support Ogg Theora and Firefox and Opera won’t support H.264 — doesn’t mean you can’t support all three browsers. It just means that to support all three, you need to include at least two <source> elements within the <video> tag, one pointing to an H.264-encoded file, the other to an Ogg Theora file” (thanks to John Gruber for that one.)
That having been said and done, pleas enjoy the video below, whichever browser you happen to be using 🙂
Okay, scratch that idea. Either I just fail at using the <video> tag, or WordPress doesn’t like it, or something. I can play video just fine on the Firefox demo page, but Firefox itself doesn’t seem to want to play ogg video from any page that I create. I’ll just go now…