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Nokia wants W3C to remove Ogg from upcoming HTML5 standard
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You are currently in Programming, Web and Software Design/Development
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Mon Dec 10, 2007 7:31 pm Reply and quote this post
The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, a group devoted to publishing web standards, recently moved to approve the Ogg video and audio formats for inclusion into the forthcoming HTML5 standard. Nokia, makerof mobile phones and mobile multimedia services, has taken exception tothis proposal, writing a position paper (PDF) and raising a formal issue at the W3's web site, claiming that Ogg support should be "deleted" from the spec in order to "avoid any patent issues."
Most people, if they recognize Ogg at all, would consider it to be an open-source counterpart to proprietary multimedia technology, so what exactly is going on here?

An Ogg by any other name
Like most things pertaining to multimedia technology, the issue isn'tquite so simple. "Ogg" is a term for a container, a file with a specific extension (in this case, .OGG) and a defined interna lstructure. Just as with Microsoft's .AVI and .ASF and Apple's .MOV, the content inside these files can be encoded with different types of codecs. Quicktime movies used to be encoded with the Sorenson codec,for example, but now they typically use the H.264 codec instead.
The Ogg that most people think about when they hear the name isactually Ogg Vorbis, a patent- and royalty-free replacement for the MP3audio codec. However, videoOgg files are typically encoded with The ora, a codec that originally was developed as a proprietary solution called VP3 by a company calledOn2. The Xiph.org foundation (are you keeping all these names straight?) was then given an irrevocable and free license to the VP3codec by On2. The The ora codec is virtually identical to VP3 but Xiph.org continues to develop it as an open codec for use in the Ogg container.


The open-source foundation in charge of Ogg.

According to the The ora FAQ, "some portions of the VP3 codec are covered by patents," which could be what Nokia is referring to when they talk about "avoiding any patent issues." Unfortunately, virtually every other video codec is also protected by patents.



What Nokia wants
The position paper that Nokia submitted to the W3C touches on a variety of topics and mentions Ogg only briefly. The paper's arguments can be summarized as follows:

  1. W3C shouldn't make any standards relating to codecs. Leave that to other standards bodies like ITU-T and ISO/IEC.
  2. There are over a billion PCs in the world today, many connected to the web,but these numbers are tiny compared to traditional video playback devices like DVD players.
  3. This industry is used to paying license fees and royalties for video codecs like MPEG-2.
  4. This industry is used to making money, and it doesn't care about keeping things free.
  5. Web codec standards should be either free or low-cost to implement.
  6. Web codec standards should support DRM to placate Hollywood, but DRM implementations should be optional.
  7. H.264 for video and AAC for audio would be Nokia's recommendations for codecs.
     
Some of these statements seem to contradict each other, and indeed theentire paper is full of questionable material: there are spelling errors (distriubuted?), emoticons ("dare we mentoned Flash ", and the author constantly puts "free" in quotation marks, as if to raise doubt about whether something that is available for free is actually free.     
    
A legitimate criticism of Ogg would be that as a standard, it is barely on the radar for most people: few people (even dedicated open-source fans) have .OGG files as a major part of their music or movie library.The major commercial users of Ogg Vorbis are video game companies, who often use the format as a method for compressing audio without having to pay royalties.

Contributed by Editorial Team, Executive Management Team
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