Apple Wary of Ogg Theora: No Agreement Yet on HTML5 Video Standard

Jul 03, 2009

Firefox 3.5 and Chrome already support the new video tag of the HTML5 specification. Before it can become a standard, though, more browsers makers have to agree on the codec.

The major browser vendors are having trouble agreeing on an enconding format for the new HTML<video> tag. As Ian Hickson explains in the mailing list, he removed the two subsections in the HTML5 spec regarding video and audio due to this nonagreement. Hickson summarizes the current situation as follows:

  • Apple refuses to implement Ogg Theora in QuickTime by default in Safari, complaining of lack of hardware support and patent issues.
  • Google implemented H.264 and Ogg Theora in Chrome, but can't hand off the H.264 codec license to third-party Chromium distributors from the "belief that Ogg Theora's quality-per-bit is not yet suitable for the volume handled by YouTube."
  • Opera refuses to implement H.264 because of the high patent license costs.
  • Mozilla is going the same route due to the costs to downstream distributors.
  • Microsoft has not as yet commented on the issue.

Microsoft's noncommitment may end up making Ogg Theora the favorite for the upcoming HTML5 standard. Meanwhile, while Apple alleges having no patent claims on Ogg Theora, it fears that it may be filed against if it included the codec in QuickTime, according to an article in

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  • XiphQT solves that problem

    Jobs (and Ballmer for that matter) can stamp their little feet and complain all they want, but it doesn't mean the rest of the internet has to obey their wills.

    <a href="">XiphQT</a> is legally free from Xiph and adds support for Ogg/Theora/Vorbis(Speex/Flac...) to Quicktime - encoding as well as decoding, and that includes HTML5 &lt;video&gt; and &lt;audio&gt; tags, allowing Apple users to participate with the rest of us.

    I'd add here (as I seem to be compelled to do everywhere this comes up) that there <em>IS</em> also a &lt;audio&gt; tag to go with &lt;video&gt;. Sure, it's not unreasonable to argue that Theora isn't quite as pretty as patent-encumbered "de-facto" video standard of H.264, the "de-facto" standard for audio right now is MP3, and Vorbis <em>IS</em> a genuine quality improvement over it.

    Also, It's a heck of a lot easier for participants on the net to produce their own audio than to produce video. While news stories are busy focussing on HTML5 as "internet TV" because of the &lt;video&gt; tag, I'm hoping for a wealth of peer-produced audio content to start showing up.
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