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Wikipedia's Assault On Patent-Encumbered Codecs 428

Posted by timothy
from the because-they-hate-the-march-of-progress dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Open Video Alliance is launching a campaign today called Let's Get Video on Wikipedia, asking people to create and post videos to Wikipedia articles. (Good, encyclopedia-style videos only!) Because all video must be in patent-free codecs (theora for now), this will make Wikipedia by far the most likely site for an average internet user to have a truly free and open video experience. The campaign seeks to 'strike a blow for freedom' against a wave of h.264 adoption in otherwise open HTML5 video implementations."
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Wikipedia's Assault On Patent-Encumbered Codecs

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  • HTML5 Video (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @04:44PM (#31514922) Journal

    It's all nice and all, but if open video technology really wants to win, they have to be technically better. There is no other way.

    However it's nice to see Open Video Alliance trying to partner with Wikipedia. In addition to being technically better, that's another aspect you need to take care of. You need to make sure websites, TV, phone, computer and so on manufacturers support your technology. You have to work with them to get it supported - not just put it out there and hope it catches up because its "open", because that's not going to happen. Personally I would also hate to see technically inferior solution being used, as it would eat huge amount of bandwidth. Theora just isn't on the same table with H.264 for Internet video. Theora is based on VP5 from On2 and now that Google acquired them, they're going at VP8.

    As far as having a single standard for HTML5 video goes, Theora lost. H.264 is and has been already everywhere and on every device. I also suspect majority of sites will use H.264, as that's what is being used with Flash already.

    However, what I see happening (and hope) is HTML5 Video tag being released without requiring support for a single codec, just like img tag is. Then browsers can either implement their own support, use third party tool like gstreamer (like Opera does) or just depend on OS (what I suspect IE and Safari will do). Firefox is still having their ideological problems, but I'm pretty sure they will start using gstreamer too.

    What I'm more worried about is that I cannot watch Wikipedia videos with any other device than my PC. Want to see a video clip of a place you're traveling on your phone? Not possible. Want to see videos from Wikipedia with your PS3/360? Not possible. It will create some serious problems, and I don't think Wikipedia is big enough to push the change alone.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Open video bitstream formats, like Theora, are simply not capable of being better than H.264 (yet). The best bet in that regard is Dirac by the BBC, but even that does not fare too well against H.264 as encoded by x264.

      However, open video formats simply do not need to be better than the proprietary formats, they simply need to be "good-enough" and be ubiquitous on the web, and pretty soon all browsers (except IE, probably) will support them out of the box. Wikipedia going with theora is a good move in that

      • by sopssa (1498795) *

        As much as I hate it, Direc is also inferior to H.264. Not only technically, but support of it sucks and it has seeking problems (at least with the currently available players, where it sometimes takes many seconds after a seek to playback again).

        What is most interesting though is what Google will do with On2 - they're the only ones that could completely change the game.

      • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:03PM (#31515256)

        But why should the average user be quite in some stupid ideological fight when they are never going to be paying for the H.264 royalties that Microsoft, Apple and Google will be shelling out to include H.264 support in their browser?

        • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wealthychef (584778) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:17PM (#31515480)
          The cost is still paid by the average user, it's just tacked onto the cost of the O/S or whatever you buy from Apple, MS, etc. As for "why", various consumers value different things. Some value cheap, some value fast, some value open source, some value high quality, etc. Ideally, customers who want choice can get it with a plugin, and the rest will get it easily without a plugin. But there will always be this creative edge. Most people will just say with safe, reasonably fast and easy.
          • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:4, Informative)

            by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:22PM (#31515558) Journal

            The cost is still paid by the average user, it's just tacked onto the cost of the O/S or whatever you buy from Apple, MS, etc

            Assuming the latest amount of 1.9 billion internet users (and not even accounting those not using internet), the $5 million cap per license, and Windows market share of 98%:

            $0.002 per user.

            I just don't see so many people caring.

            • by Yvan256 (722131)

              Hell, tell me where to send my 0.01$ to end all this non-sense and force HTML5 video to standardize on H.264

              They'll even make five times the profit by doing so.

            • by Cryacin (657549)
              Depends, are you the guy signing the cheque?
          • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

            The cost is still paid by the average user, it's just tacked onto the cost of the O/S or whatever you buy from Apple, MS, etc.

            So they pay a fraction of a penny more? Oh noes! That's gonna break the bank!

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Even that is questionable. No reason why the browsers can not just use the OS's installed codec system. In Windows DirectShow/X/Video or what ever they call it. Gstreamer in Linux, and Quicktime on the Mac.
          The browser will not have to pay diddley

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by icebraining (1313345)

            Gstreamer in Linux

            Illegal in the US...

          • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Korin43 (881732) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:36PM (#31516508) Homepage
            This would seem like the obvious choice, and it's actually how Safari works (using Quicktime). There are patches for Firefox, but Mozilla refuses to use them because they want to make this a "Theora or nothing" battle, even though they'll never win. Chrome supports Theora and h264, so it hardly matters what their backend is. I think there are patches to webkit to let it use gstreamer as well though. I assume IE9 will use DirectWhatever.
            The problem is that Quicktime and DirectShow don't support theora or vorbis by default, so hopefully Mozilla/Wikipedia/anyone else who cares can get them popular enough that Microsoft and Apple have to finally support some free codecs.
        • by camcorder (759720)
          Both Apple and Microsoft have patents in MPEG-LA AVC patent pool, so they don't pay royalties.
          • Both Apple and Microsoft have patents in MPEG-LA AVC patent pool, so they don't pay royalties.

            Being in the patent pool doesn't give you free access to all the other patents in the pool. They pay royalties just like anyone else though the bulk of the cost is usually covered by cross-licensing of patents.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by linhares (1241614)

      It's all nice and all, but if open video technology really wants to win, they have to be technically better.

      New [wikipedia.org] here [microsoft.com]?

    • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xtifr (1323) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @04:58PM (#31515144) Homepage

      It's all nice and all, but if open video technology really wants to win, they have to be technically better. There is no other way.

      Why? Closed formats don't seem to operate under that constraint. In fact, technical qualities seem to be a non-issue as far as success goes in general. The backing of big players seems to be what counts, and that's exactly what we have here. Whether Wikipedia + Firefox + RedHat + other open players is big enough remains to be seen (and I admit I have my doubts), but if "technically better" becomes an issue, I think it'll be the first time ever.

      What I'm more worried about is that I cannot watch Wikipedia videos with any other device than my PC

      Ah, now your real concern appears, I suspect. If Theora starts to get momentum, it'll appear on phones and similar devices quickly enough. My phone already supports Ogg Vorbis. (It may even support Theora; I haven't tried.) If yours doesn't, then perhaps you went with the wrong vendor. I didn't look for Vorbis support for my phone, but I did look for openness; if that wasn't a factor in your choice of phone, then my sympathy for you is nil. Especially if you want to connect with Wikipedia, whose commitment to openness is legendary.

      If you want Wikipedia to go with your proprietary, encumbered format(s), your best be is to lobby the patent holders to donate the patents to the public domain. Good luck with that. :)

      • Ah, now your real concern appears, I suspect. If Theora starts to get momentum, it'll appear on phones and similar devices quickly enough. My phone already supports Ogg Vorbis. (It may even support Theora; I haven't tried.) If yours doesn't, then perhaps you went with the wrong vendor.

        I want to go with the right vendor. But which video game console supports Theora? None of the big three do. Or should people buy one box for Theora video and one box for games?

        If you want Wikipedia to go with your proprietary, encumbered format(s), your best be is to lobby the patent holders to donate the patents to the public domain. Good luck with that. :)

        That depends on what Google decides to do with VP8.

        • by JackDW (904211)

          A hacked one? :)

          If you want a machine to play video files in any format, then may I suggest an old PC? A powerful machine isn't needed, so whenever you upgrade, you get a new "free" media player. (I was amazed at how quiet my old desktop became, once I'd replaced the hard disk with a USB stick and downgraded the graphics card.)

      • by sopssa (1498795) *

        I do agree with the first point. It takes both backing of big players (hence support, as I addressed in the first post) and being technically capable.

        As far as technical qualities come, closed formats do have competition there too. DivX (and it's open companion XviD) really did challenge MPEG-2. They were technically better and did gain momentum at least on the internet and even beyond that.

        But as this is about online video, it makes more sense to have the more-bandwidth-friendly H.264 than more-cpu-friendl

        • by Xtifr (1323)

          As far as technical qualities go, MP3 is still king of audio, despite being the worst supported format out there, proprietary or otherwise. Also, VHS beat Betamax. If history teaches us anything, it's that technical qualities are, at best, a very minor factor in success.

          it makes more sense to have the more-bandwidth-friendly H.264

          Not for Wikipedia. Their license won't allow it, so for Wikipedia, the choices are between Theora, maybe Dirac, and no video at all.

      • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:5, Interesting)

        by slimjim8094 (941042) <slashdot3@@@justconnected...net> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:21PM (#31515548)

        To be fair, the format is entirely open, but patent encumbered. Nobody would argue that MP3 is a closed format, for example.

        IOW the only challenges are legal challenges (regarding software patents and royalties). They're not proprietary at all.

        • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:4, Informative)

          by Xtifr (1323) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:47PM (#31515884) Homepage

          To be fair, the format is entirely open, but patent encumbered.

          A bit of an oxymoron there, but I know what you mean. The technical specifications are open; use is not. The latter may not be a factor for the typical home user whose license fee was bundled in with their hardware or OS, but it's going to be a factor for Wikipedia.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by dangitman (862676)

          Nobody would argue that MP3 is a closed format, for example.

          I would. MP3 is a proprietary format.

      • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:4, Insightful)

        by moderatorrater (1095745) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:36PM (#31515710)

        It's all nice and all, but if open video technology really wants to win, they have to be technically better. There is no other way.

        Why? Closed formats don't seem to operate under that constraint.

        Because closed formats have a company or companies willing to push it for reasons other than technical superiority. Open source relies on a lot of people getting excited about something and pushing it in a more organic way, and for that to happen in a big way then the thing they're pushing has to be technically superior. Linux has gained momentum in its areas by being superior for developers and sysadmins who know what they're doing. Firefox gained momentum the same way. I can't think of an open source product that gained mainstream popularity without being technically superior.

        I didn't look for Vorbis support for my phone, but I did look for openness; if that wasn't a factor in your choice of phone, then my sympathy for you is nil

        So, only people who spend their valuable time and money getting an open phone instead of the iPhone are worthy of consideration in this debate? Like it or not, the iPhone's dominance isn't because of any media blitz or cult of Apple, it's because it came out in a market where it was by far the best choice and is still superior to any other smartphone I've seen.

        So, if you want to prioritize openness in your purchasing, that's fine. But this is about Wikipedia trying to influence the culture as a whole and the emerging standard, and to suggest that this process ignore the vast majority of people is at best naive and at worst extremely damaging to your own position.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Draek (916851)

          Linux has gained momentum in its areas by being superior for developers and sysadmins who know what they're doing. Firefox gained momentum the same way. I can't think of an open source product that gained mainstream popularity without being technically superior.

          It depends on how you define "popularity" and "superior", but FreeBSD vs Linux (the BSD lawsuit was a factor, but that became moot before Linux hit even 1.0), KHTML vs Gecko, OpenOffice vs LaTeX (or Abiword/Gnumeric). Some would also argue for Bash vs $FAVORITE_SHELL_HERE as well but I haven't tried any of them to judge personally.

          So, only people who spend their valuable time and money getting an open phone instead of the iPhone are worthy of consideration in this debate? Like it or not, the iPhone's dominance isn't because of any media blitz or cult of Apple, it's because it came out in a market where it was by far the best choice and is still superior to any other smartphone I've seen.

          Really? if it can't support Wikipedia, then I guess it wasn't the best choice after all. All devices have problems, it just so happens that you chose one that had "closedness" and

      • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Rockoon (1252108) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @06:03PM (#31516112)

        Why? Closed formats don't seem to operate under that constraint. In fact, technical qualities seem to be a non-issue as far as success goes in general.

        "Its the money, stupid!"

        No, not kickbacks, or payola, or licensing fees.

        Lets start at the top. Content providers have been banging their head into the bandwidth wall for a decade, starting when the notion of streaming high quality video really took off. Their cost, primarily, is bandwidth. Their product, primarily, is eyeballs. Their revenue, primarily, is advertisers.

        To make this work, they need to offer competitive quality in order to maximize the number of eyeballs, and they need to do it with the least bandwidth in order to offer competitive pricing to advertisers.

        H.264 was a big improvement over the previous generation of codecs, which finally allowed what might finally be viable online video streaming businesses.

        In this case, technically better still matters... its just about the only thing that matters. These businesses don't have the margin to fuck around. If they drop the ball then they lose their shot at #1.

    • by Dan667 (564390)
      better technology is not the measure if it will succeed. All you have to do is to look at the wreckage of all the better standards that fell by the way side over the years to understand that.
    • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:01PM (#31515210)

      What I'm more worried about is that I cannot watch Wikipedia videos with any other device than my PC. Want to see a video clip of a place you're traveling on your phone? Not possible. Want to see videos from Wikipedia with your PS3/360? Not possible. It will create some serious problems, and I don't think Wikipedia is big enough to push the change alone.

      In general I find the "must have hardware support now" argument a bit short sighted. By that reasoning there would never be any change in video codecs. In any case, the PS3 and 360 even combined represent a very small percentage of internet connected devices. And the 360's larger problem is not having a web browser so Wikipedia video would be streamed from your PC anyway and if needs must you can transcode on the fly.

      As mobile phones go, my Nokia N900 plays Theora. It also runs Firefox. Fennec [mozilla.com] is on Maemo 5 (the N900's OS) and will soon be available for Android, Windows Mobile, and future MeeGo devices [mozilla.org]. Millions of devices in the field already have the capability to play Ogg Theora and it will only become more trivial to do so with Firefox releases for those platforms.

      • by sopssa (1498795) *

        You would be surprised how many actually use their PS3 to watch videos online. It's far from very small percentage (and I understand why, it's really convenient).

        • by tagno25 (1518033)
          it is a very small percentage of the internet users (1%)
        • by jmorris42 (1458) *

          > You would be surprised how many actually use their PS3 to watch videos online.

          So? Sony could add support in a week worst case; the PS3 certainly has enough CPU+SPU grunt to handle pretty much any codec you care to throw at it. Chicken and the egg here, Sony won't do it without demand and there won't be demand without must have content. Wikipedia is trying to crack that problem. If Google would help with YouTube we could bury h264 this year and never be troubled with those patent trolls again.

          And I

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        If they don't offer hardware acceleration in a mobile device, your begging for a huge battery drain. The point isn't only that they can play them, but that they are well supported by the device and that the impact isn't overly detrimental.

    • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:07PM (#31515312)

      It's all nice and all, but if open video technology really wants to win, they have to be technically better. There is no other way.

      For any definition of "technically better" where this is not a vacuous tautology (that is, any definition other than "technically better means whatever ends up winning"), this isn't true: solutions that aren't "technically better" by almost any definition you choose will win all the time, because the business model behind selling them allows them to be sold cheaper (even if they aren't any cheaper to produce), because they are imposed by market-dominant players, or for all kinds of other reasons beside technical superiority.

      Compatibilty of patent-unencumbered formats with a venue like Wikipedia would be exactly that kind of non-technical factor. (As would, on the other side, the competitive advantage that those who co-own the patents see in the dominance of patent-encumbered formats that they are part of the controlling syndicate for.)

    • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AliasMarlowe (1042386) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:08PM (#31515334) Journal

      It's all nice and all, but if open video technology really wants to win, they have to be technically better. There is no other way.

      Try telling that to Microsoft!
      Recall that Windows did not become the de facto standard OS by being better - it was definitely not better than the alternatives in the period in which it became dominant. So there is another way: gain sufficient market share through fair means or foul, and you can win. Whether wikipedia would count as critical mass or not is an open question, but if they were sufficiently bloodyminded, then whichever codec they chose to standardize on would ipso facto become a necessary codec, even if it were not used widely elsewhere.

      • by sopssa (1498795) *

        Recall that Windows did not become the de facto standard OS by being better - it was definitely not better than the alternatives in the period in which it became dominant.

        Are you comparing to '94 Linux? There's no way an casual user would got by with it. Linux is even still semi-hard for casual users, and it would had been hell back then. Windows however, even if it lacked what we now a days have, was superior. You really have to compare it to that days computers - they weren't nice.

      • They're not, especially as most Wikipedia content is text and images, not videos.

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Is there any way to specify multiple formats? Ex: that points to H.264, but falls back to H.264 if that isn't supported?

    • I'm not so sure. Maybe "good enough" would be good enough ? Quality is just one feature. Free-ness and Open-ness are 2 other, quite important ones. I'm fairly sure most videos on the web and on PCs in general are not artistic in nature. Slightly lower quality for no cost and freedom to do whatever you want with them may still be a winning proposition.

      The main issue is network effects: supporting 1 video format is a no-brainer, supporting 2 of them...

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by qbast (1265706)

      It's all nice and all, but if open video technology really wants to win, they have to be technically better. There is no other way.

      No, actually as long as Theora is not significantly worse than h.264 it does not really matter.

      However it's nice to see Open Video Alliance trying to partner with Wikipedia. In addition to being technically better, that's another aspect you need to take care of. You need to make sure websites, TV, phone, computer and so on manufacturers support your technology. You have to work with them to get it supported - not just put it out there and hope it catches up because its "open", because that's not going to happen.

      Yeah, just look how popular Vorbis Ogg is in portable music players.

      Personally I would also hate to see technically inferior solution being used, as it would eat huge amount of bandwidth. Theora just isn't on the same table with H.264 for Internet video. Theora is based on VP5 from On2 and now that Google acquired them, they're going at VP8.

      Actually it is based on VP3 and it is way behind h.264 - it does not even support B-frames! Also being at least one generation behind, Theora is dead end - all that is being done at this point is tweaking the encoder.

      What I'm more worried about is that I cannot watch Wikipedia videos with any other device than my PC. Want to see a video clip of a place you're traveling on your phone? Not possible. Want to see videos from Wikipedia with your PS3/360? Not possible.

      Well then, make sure you complain to manufacturers of these devices. If enough people care, they will add Theora support.

      It will create some serious problems, and I don't think Wikipedia is big enough to push the change alone.

      Actually I

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @04:47PM (#31514956)

    Let the OS handle it, and let the browser interact via plug-ins.

    It's really not that complicated.

    • Let the OS handle it, and let the browser interact via plug-ins.

      We tried that. It didn't work.

  • Killer App? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wjousts (1529427) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @04:50PM (#31515008)

    I'm not sure I see Wikipedia as being the "killer app" for video standards. I'm not sure how many articles would be really enhanced by the addition of video, baring in mind that video would need to be licenced under CC or similar, so clips of TV shows / films would probably be out.

    To take a random example (today's featured article) . I'm not sure what video you could usefully add to that article? Especially since somebody who died in 1938 probably isn't featured in many video clips. [wikipedia.org]

    • I'm not sure I see Wikipedia as being the "killer app" for video standards. I'm not sure how many articles would be really enhanced by the addition of video, baring in mind that video would need to be licenced under CC or similar

      This assumption seems flawed. Wikipedia prefers open licensed content for images, but will accept non-open content with a fair use rationale. Presumably, the same would be true of video clips.

      • This assumption seems flawed. Wikipedia prefers open licensed content for images, but will accept non-open content with a fair use rationale. Presumably, the same would be true of video clips.

        You are referring to the fair use policy [wikipedia.org] on the English Wikipedia. Please note that this is a policy for English only, not all language versions allow non-free content.

        IANAL, but I doubt that non-free videos would really be a breakthrough. They'd have to be short and low-resolution (at least that's what Wikipedia deman

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Xyrus (755017)

      Agreed. Porn is. So putting porn videos on wikipedia would be the killer app.

      Natalie Portman, naked, petrified, hot grits, now featured on the Elemental Chart on wikipedia. Nerd nirvana. Or if your feeling less pure, Mila Jovavich naked and shellacked, covered in hot corn nuts doing a spread on the Actinide series. Though really, she's been naked in so much I don't even think that's porn anymore.

      ~X~

  • And... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @04:50PM (#31515010)

    And Google, Microsoft and Apple give out a collective *yawn*. Youtube has more traffic than Wikipedia so if Google is pushing H.264 through there it will have far more impact than Wikipedia. Not to mention that Facebook, who also has more traffic than wikipedia and also youtube, also uses H.264 for its video.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by justinjstark (1645867)
      HTML5 video codec support is not a dichotomous decision. There can be multiple supported video codecs for the video tag just like there are multiple supported image formats for the img tag. Larger sites like Wikipedia supporting only theora will encourage other companies to add support for theora in their browsers...not replace H.264.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Those supporting Theora argue that, unless Theora is the video codec for the Net, some people (e.g. Linux users in U.S. not willing to break the law) will be restricted from large parts of the Net that will go H.264-only.

        It's why Mozilla refuses to just use GStreamer codecs for HTML5 video in mainline builds, for example.

  • by Protonk (599901) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @04:50PM (#31515016) Homepage
    WP should just adopt html5 and give up on the FOSS posturing for once. We already relented on the issue of fair use media--limited use for copyrighted material. Patent protected material seems like a better place to compromise more widely because patents don't live forever. After ~14-21 years, the content path is free. If WP does plan to be around "forever", that isn't too long a time to wait.
    • by jedidiah (1196)

      It's really not a problem. The commercial desktop operating systems are supposed to have all sorts of stuff to handle the "scary technical details" here. WP should be able to offer video in any format they like. They could even host some of the relevant bits of system software and web browser glue-ware.

      Histrionics over strange data formats is so 90s.

      • by OverlordQ (264228) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:16PM (#31515472) Journal

        They could even host some of the relevant bits of system software and web browser glue-ware.

        It does already. Wikipedia uses the OGGHandler extension which tries to determine automagically what method for displaying video the client supports. It supports attempting to use the following clients:

        • Cortado (bundled Java applet)
        • VLC
        • QuickTime with XiphQT
        • Totem
        • Kaffeine
        • KMPlayer
        • (ko)GomAudio

        And then some more generic support for other cases [mediawiki.org]

    • by arose (644256)
      They have. HTML5 doesn't specify a codec, so Theora is as valid (as far as W3C is concerned) as any other.
    • by bersl2 (689221)

      Question: Do you believe that, if what Wikipedia itself currently says about the subject is correct, various MP3 patents ought to persist into at least 2012 and possibly as late as 2017? If not, when do you believe all patents covering its design and implementation should expire or have expired?

      I think that if we are to allow patents on algorithms, not only should obviousness standards be rigorously enforced (including the appropriate appropriations from Congress to make it happen), but that we should be ta

    • Except that patent encumbered codecs make it difficult for some users to create or view content *now,* which is the problem. Wikipedia is supposed to be for everyone, including people who cannot obtain patented codecs (such people do exist), both for viewing and for creating the videos. I would certainly not encourage Wikipedia's users to violate patent law in their respective localities -- the last thing Wikipedia needs is a lawsuit to deal with.

      It is not a question of compromise, it is a question of
  • Um, no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by eweu (213081) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @04:52PM (#31515046)

    this will make Wikipedia by far the most likely site for an average internet user to have a truly free and open video experience

    Yes. An experience of videos that won't play in the average internet user's browser. It's easier to click the "close window" button than it is to care about broken video on a broken web site.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by arose (644256)
      They have a Java fallback. I Even without a fallback Theora will play on more machines then HTML5 only H.264 would (supported by Safari, Chrome and Opera, where the user cares to add the codec, as opposed to Firefox, Chrome and Opera).
      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        Haha. Nobody has Java installed, either... that's the worst "fallback" ever.

        • Actually, you'd be surprised. I've seen some market research desktop penetration figures for Java, and they're really impressive. Not 97% like Flash, but way above 50%.

          I still wonder where that comes from. Very few sites on the Net actually seem to need JRE these days. On the other hand, both my current desktop and my current laptop (HP and Lenovo, respectively) came with JRE preinstalled. Both were purchased within the last two years.

          • by Blakey Rat (99501)

            Last time I bought an HP (and I'll never make that mistake again) it came with a kitchen sink installed too. If that wasn't bad enough, they even installed the crapware on the recovery disk that shipped with it-- I had to borrow a clean Windows CD from a friend and reinstall to make it even slightly usable. (Fortunately, the OEM number worked fine with the clean Windows CD.)

            But anyway. Java's nothing but a security hole now. Like you said, practically no sites require it, the odds of a normal consumer comin

  • Good luck. (Score:2, Insightful)

    They're so uptight about what pictures they'll accept (copyright, fair use), what makes anyone think that Wikipedia is going to become a giant video repository?

  • Dirac (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I've been playing around with schroedinger 1.0.9 and it's output is nearly indistinguishable from baseline x264. If dirac had even half the resources that have been invested into h.264 encoders, it's possible that quality, compression, and encode/decode speed could be equal.
  • I've been waiting for this - because it's a rare organization that can long resist the desire to go political.

    So much for their independence and reliability.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    First of all, bad headline. This is not Wikipedia's assault; in fact, this will be seen as an assault on Wikipedia, to unduly promote a new product. Most of these additions will be reverted as spam, and the organization from that website will be seen as illegitimate canvassing. A campaign to get anything on Wikipedia is against Wikipedia's policies on neutrality. Now it's true that Wikipedia has a tendency to bend to other free-as-in-speech interests, but those video files are going to draw more attention a

  • Wikipedia? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TopSpin (753) * on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:38PM (#31515740) Journal

    So far the comments are focused on teh 3v1Lz H.264 vs. 'open' codecs, why one is better than the other, etc. What about Wikipedia?

    Perhaps Wikipedia doesn't actually need to be riddled with video. Maybe Wikipedia is actually better off without it. Have you ever had to suffer through some lengthy, 99% irrelevant video to get a specific piece of information? How many times have you just not bothered to watch that video because it's frustrating, you can't afford the time, don't have just the right version of some plug-in, etc? Ever tried to copy and paste from a video?

    How much of the useful content of Wikipedia is going to end up trapped inside videos when easily indexed and searched, entirely unencumbered US Grade-A ASCII^h^h^h^h^hUTF-8 would have been sufficient? How much more bandwidth is Wikipedia going to have to fund to serve up cell phone footage of Silambarasan Rajendar [wikipedia.org] waving at people?

  • by avatar_charlie (1633965) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:41PM (#31515794)
    ......just not between corporate entities.

    No, the competition will be between various wiki-weirdoes over who can be first to enshrine their peckers forever by putting video of it on the articles for "Penis", "Herpes", and any other genital or sex-related article on that site....of which there are no small number.
  • A long lost battle. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted @ s l a s h d ot.org> on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @05:56PM (#31516012)

    Give us a real codec.
    Linux beats the crap out of Windows.
    Firefox beats the crap out of IE.
    Vorbis beats the crap out of MP3.
    And Theora should beat the crap out of H.264!

    But right now it’s a toothless tiger, slow, bad quality/size ratio, outdated technology...
    Until that changes, well... frankly nobody in the real world cares for evangelical wars.
    And I’m saying that as someone who almost exclusively uses open source software, and is very very happy with it!

    I wish I could write codecs. I’t word night shifts to kick H.264s ass. ^^

    But hey, as previously said: If Firefox just binds to generic facilities/libraries like ffmpeg, DirectMedia and CoreVideo, the whole discussion goes away, since everybody can choose what to use anyway.
    Unfortunately right now they play little dictators, enforcing what they see as “the one true codec” in their holy war.
    Maybe I can at least write a patch that creates these bindings.

  • JPEG (Score:3, Insightful)

    by wiredlogic (135348) on Wednesday March 17, 2010 @07:38PM (#31517054)

    JPEG images are patent encumbered too. There's just a gentleman's agreement among group members not to pursue royalties for "baseline" implementations of the standard. I don't see anyone scrambling to remove them from Wikipedia.

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