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Wikimedia Community Debates H.264 Support On Wikipedia Sites. 247

Posted by timothy
from the side-loading dept.
bigmammoth writes "Wikimedia has been a long time supporter of royalty free formats, but is now considering a shift in their position. From the RfC: 'To support the MP4 standard as a complement to the open formats now used on our sites, it has been proposed that videos be automatically transcoded and stored in both open and MP4 formats on our sites, as soon as they are uploaded or viewed by users. The unencumbered WebM and Ogg versions would remain our primary reference for platforms that support them. But the MP4 versions 'would enable many mobile and desktop users who cannot view these unencumbered video files to watch them in MP4 format.' This has stirred a heated debate within the Wikimedia community as to whether the mp4 / h.264 format should be supported. Many Wikimedia regulars have weighed in, resulting in currently an even split between adding the H.264 support or not. The request for comment is open to all users of Wikimedia, including the broader community of readers. What do you think about supporting H.264 on Wikimedia sites?"
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Wikimedia Community Debates H.264 Support On Wikipedia Sites.

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  • Stand their ground (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wiredlogic (135348) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @06:45PM (#45980539)

    Wikimedia should stand their ground to provide a good reason for device manufacturers to add support for open video formats.

    • by icebike (68054)

      I can't see how Wiki has all that much leverage.

      When did you last see someone turn down one Smartphone for another because it couldn't play a wiki video?

      • by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:01PM (#45980677) Homepage Journal

        I can't see how Wiki has all that much leverage.

        Looking at the list of most popular websites [wikipedia.org], I think only facebook & youtube would have more influence on video-standards settings.

        When did you last see someone turn down one Smartphone for another because it couldn't play a wiki video?

        Never, but it can add to a list of small frustrations, getting a user to switch manufacturers next contract renewal. You don't have to be the sole reason for a change to have leverage over manufacturers.

        • by Kjella (173770) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @09:59PM (#45981817) Homepage

          Looking at the list of most popular websites, I think only facebook & youtube would have more influence on video-standards settings.

          People don't visit Wikipedia for the videos any more than they read Playboy for the articles. That you even put it in the same class as YouTube only makes you sound delusional, they are 99.99% video and Wikipedia is 99.99% not. When Google that owns the VP8 codec, owns YouTube and makes Android and Chrome don't want to eat their own dog food and push their own codec on their own site to their own devices and browser it'll never be more than an obscure alternative for ideological circlejerks, like art critics patting each other on the back for recognizing true art while the rest of the world watches Hollywood blockbusters.

          Even Firefox has surrendered [thenextweb.com] on this one and said they'd use the binary blob Cisco provides, if Wikimedia wants to be the Japanese soldiers hiding in the forest 10 years after the war is over and keep denying it's over and that they lost it's their problem. And by forest I mean /. where Ogg Vorbis never dies even though it totally* failed to catch any mainstream use. * Cue the counterexamples, the way Munich shows that Linux is totally going to take over the desktop. But to use an old proverb, one swallow does not a summer make.

          • That's funny because people do actually read Playboy for the articles.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by FriendlyLurker (50431)

            Even Firefox has surrendered on this one and said they'd use the binary blob Cisco provides

            In their own words, Firefox developers were betrayed by Google for not honoring its promise to drop h.264 from chrome [cnet.com]. Google really dropped the ball on that one.

            "We lost, and we're admitting defeat. Cisco is providing a path for orderly retreat that leaves supporters of an open Web in a strong enough position to face the next battle, so we're taking it,"

            The battle was lost and does weaken the open Web supporters position, but the war rages on in the likes of formats such as VP9 and Daala ("Daala is a novel approach to codec design. It aims not to be competitive, but to win outright," Montgomery said).

            This pressure of Wikimedia is just another salvo from the proponents of software patent encumbere

        • Never, but it can add to a list of small frustrations, getting a user to switch manufacturers next contract renewal.

          Someone who switches from an iPhone will lose all his purchased videos, all his purchased books, and all his purchased iPhone apps. Only the music is DRM-free. He would have to re-buy everything else on Android, provided that they're even available on Android and not exclusive to iTunes. The iPhone, for example, is the only phone that can stream video from Amazon.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by FriendlyLurker (50431)

        I have watched Wikipedia being pulled up on two different smartphones simultaneously to settle argument/doubts more times than I can count now over the years.

        "Oh, your phone can't play that wikipedia video - ha! - what a crappy phone you should get one like mine next time."

        That sort of word of mouth marketing has a subtle hard to measure influence on peoples next phone contract signing agreement choices. I can't say how significant it is, but you would be hard pressed to discount it as not being significant

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by icebike (68054)

          That wiki is used frequently has almost nothing to do with it.

          Lets face it, Wiki uses very few videos anyway, (thank god) and you aren't going to settle fact based arguments by watching videos on a phone.

        • And I would counter, HA, my phone works on all the other video sites, including Amazon (which that other one doesn't). Seems wikimedia is the one with the crappy site.

    • by TimMD909 (260285) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @06:52PM (#45980595) Homepage
      Android already supports WebM (http://developer.android.com/guide/appendix/media-formats.html). I'm thinking this is more of a "should we care about the people with iPhones?" My answer would be "no." That'll add more pressure on Apple to not be jackasses w/ their mobile OS.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I would just provide a JS-only decoder, and when it runs really slowly and poorly, I'd say "iPhone's don't support non-commercial video very well. We did the best we could, take it up with Apple".

      • by Anonymous Psychopath (18031) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:01PM (#45980681) Homepage

        Android already supports WebM (http://developer.android.com/guide/appendix/media-formats.html). I'm thinking this is more of a "should we care about the people with iPhones?"

        My answer would be "no." That'll add more pressure on Apple to not be jackasses w/ their mobile OS.

        Remember Flash? Me neither. Fighting H.264 is tilting at windmills. The vast majority of people couldn't care less about free (to them) video formats as long as stuff works and looks good.

        • by Darinbob (1142669) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @08:10PM (#45981171)

          Flash? People didn't care about free or not, so Flash was big and fighting against Flash was tilting against windmills. But today Flash is greatly diminished. Thus the lesson here is to NOT give up pushing back against H.264.

          • by lgw (121541) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @08:22PM (#45981281) Journal

            Why? I can watch and rip to H.264 with free (as in beer) tools. Is this some political thing? My tools don't convert to *.BasementVirgin, or whatever format this is. Just Works wins for me, sorry.

            The "next format" is H.265, as far as I care, but only when that Just Works.

            • by symbolset (646467) * on Thursday January 16, 2014 @09:10PM (#45981573) Journal
              This course of derision has not worked out well for fans of MPEG-LA so far. So by all means keep it up. God forbid you people take a civil, persuasive tack to win friends and influence people - you might somewhere.
            • by Darinbob (1142669)

              The problem is that the format is not free. I don't care about video at all really, I just don't like to see yet another proprietary format being promoted over open formats. It won't necessarily just work for you if you're a commercial entity. Those tools to rip are not necessarily legal either if they haven't paid the patent license fee.

              It is true that more and more people don't give a shit about this stuff anymore with everything and its DNA being patented. They just want convenience and entertainment

              • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                by lgw (121541)

                And why shouldn't they, is my point. The system is working fine if people get convenience and entertainment. Freaking out over DRM etc on principle is irrational. If it blocks normal people just trying to watch/play/shift/whatever their paid-for entertainment, as game DRM has a habit of doing, then it's a problem. But we've seen companies get bitchslapped by their customer base when they cross that line, and accepted when they only cross obsessive geeks making philosophical points. I see no problem wit

          • The only reason Flash fell out of favour was because Steve Jobs didn't want to install it on iPhones.

      • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:10PM (#45980737)

        Depends on your traffic. I run a content rich site for a client of mine and we realized something as we did our quarterly review: Mobile users are now 60% of all traffic to her site. Of that, the biggest block of users are from iPad at almost 30% of all traffic. iPhone makes up another 18% and all Android devices make up about 13% of our traffic. There is another 6% of traffic that is iPods. So as it stands right now iOS is over 50% of all traffic.

        Think we are going to ignore iOS? Think again. Instead we've decided that it's time to add a native mobile app for iOS targeting specifically iPad.

      • Android already supports WebM (http://developer.android.com/guide/appendix/media-formats.html). I'm thinking this is more of a "should we care about the people with iPhones?" My answer would be "no." That'll add more pressure on Apple to not be jackasses w/ their mobile OS.

        I think you got the "jackasses" upside down here. Google, as they have done on other occassions, bought a video codecs with the sole purpose of upsetting the established standard. WebM is not patent encumbered until it is successful, and if it ever is successful, there will be patent owners trying to blackmail. Just as Google / Motorola have tried themselves. I mean that is a pathetic joke, attacking h.264 as being patent encumbered, and then patent trolling.

    • by ducomputergeek (595742) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:00PM (#45980671)

      The open formats lost this round. Sorry, but with H2.64 we've finally had a "Standard Codec" and format that allows content creators to encode the media once and just about reach everyone. If the open standards offered a significant technical advantage, i.e. better compression without loss of quality or faster encoding vs H.264 then they'd be open to listening. But as I've talked to a lot of content creators over the past few years, many of whom remember the days of creating a quicktime video, a Windows Media video, a Real Player video and none of them wish to go back to it. And for these people the cost of paying for a H.264 encoder license is trivial compared to royalties they have to pay for images, video, and music.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        But that's exactly it: the world doesn't just revolve around people who are paying royalties on image/video/music. If Wikipedia accepts this, then the people who can't afford to pay that (and that includes many people who just don't want to deal with such licenes, for whom even $0.01 is too much) get screwed.

        Open codecs aren't about being the best, they're about being for everyone.

        • by Nerdfest (867930)

          There's also no reason they can't be the best, but certain media cartels have packs of lawyers that are certainly going to take a run at making sure it doesn't happen.

      • "These people?" (Score:5, Insightful)

        by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:25PM (#45980845)

        And for these people the cost of paying for a H.264 encoder license is trivial compared to royalties they have to pay for images, video, and music.

        And what about the developing world that is slowly coming online via shared community hubs? Won't they have the right to publish content too without paying exuberant rents compared to their income? The cost is trivial for everyone. I am sorry but open formats are the only way forward for a level playing field. All we are seeing with this WWF/H.264 debacle is a small amount of vested interests trying to justify extracting rents from the world population, when non are really required.

        That these closed proprietary formats/DRM are clawing their way back into our "open" standards, services like Wikipedia and browsers is a testament to how committees, foundations (and once democratic institutions serving the public interest) can be infiltrated by vested interest and their purpose corrupted slowly from the inside out. It is a slippery slope, read todays news to see how absolutely low you can slide [nakedcapitalism.com].

        • by gnoshi (314933)

          They will benefit from Wikipedia adding H.264 support to the same extent everyone else will, because WebM and OGG will remain the reference formats, and content will be automatically transcoded.

          It would certainly be advantageous for all devices to have WebM and OGG support, but not having H.264 on Wikipedia isn't going to strongarm Apple into supporting WebM and OGG.

          I don't like proprietary formats, but when talking about automatic transcoding for device support it is something that I think is necessary and

          • by gnoshi (314933)

            s/wikipedia/wikimedia

          • Re:"These people?" (Score:5, Insightful)

            by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:49PM (#45981029)
            Sure Wikipedia isn't going to strongarm Apple into supporting WebM and OGG, and conversely Wikipedia does not need to be strong-armed by Apple or its vocal users into supporting closed software patent encumbered protocols.
            • by Nerdfest (867930)

              If people see yet another format that Apple has decided they don't want you to see, it's another reason for people to avoid their intentionally crippled environment. What exactly is their reason for not supporting an open format? I'd like to hear their reasoning.

              • What exactly is their reason for not supporting an open format?

                One reason is battery life, as it'd have to be decoded on the CPU instead of on the dedicated MPEG ASIC. When you really need to make a call, you don't want to lose touch after having watched a bunch of videos earlier in the day. The other is Nokia's decision to assert its patents against the use of VP8.

      • by jcdr (178250)

        Actually the reality is that the contents creators are locked by the fact that a few majors manufactures refuse to support free formats.

      • by melikamp (631205)
        Please, stop spreading the myth of "standard codec" and "quality". Anything will be a standard if it is crammed down the people's throats. As for quality, please. All Web video is shit. Talking about the differences in "quality" between mp4, theora, and webm is like talking about the shades of dung. 5 minute videos of cats playing piano and girls masturbating produce exactly the same effect, no matter the codec. On a smartphone screen too. Give me a break. Feeding the patent mafia, who are basically censori
        • By "spy-phone" I assume you are referring to android and it's default to send everything you type into your address bar to google.

    • by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:12PM (#45980745)

      Wikimedia's mission:

      The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content under a free license or in the public domain, and to disseminate it effectively and globally.

      The question is does supporting H.264 media files help or hinder their mission?

      If their goal is to disseminate the educational content effectively then it would seem logical that they provide a media format that is widely supported.

      It's really up to WebM and Ogg to promote their format. Wikimedia should stick to their own mission which is to provide educational content.

    • by StripedCow (776465) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:24PM (#45980831)

      Wikimedia should stand their ground to provide a good reason for device manufacturers to add support for open video formats.

      The best way to do this, should they choose to support the H.264 format, is to add a tiny annoyance to video files in that format.
      Like a 5 second intro that displays their policy in the format war, and how users are better off with the open version of the video.

    • by symbolset (646467) *
      My first reaction was "how much is MPEG-LA offering to pay?"
  • Give In (Score:2, Flamebait)

    by GrahamCox (741991)
    Yes they should do this. Sometimes, you can't fight City Hall - you just have to go with the flow so that your website becomes more useful to people. It's annoying that media files on Wikipedia don't "just work" on most devices, not even desktops.

    I appreciate their position and somewhat support it, but they've been holding out for so long now with absolutely no effect. The only losers are the site's users. At least Mp4 is a standard, albeit not as free as idealists would like.
    • This is not YouTube we're talking about, where its 100% about immediacy and convenience. People can download a free player--or use a non-Microsoft/Apple browser--when they're good and ready to view the Wikimedia content.

  • MP4 is open (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:05PM (#45980705)

    In every meaningful sense, MP4 is the most 'open' useful video CODEC every made available. The world's BEST video encoder, x264, is open-source and free. Every worthwhile tool you need to encode, process and watch H264 video is FREE. H264 decoding is supported almost universally in hardware by everything made today.

    Meanwhile, the dreadful CODEC that Google bought was created illegally by using close-source development as a method of hiding the fact that it ripped off (badly) patented MPEG standards. After Google released the source, and the truth became obvious, Google simply used its billions to pay off the various IP owners whose patents the code infringed on. Google offers its CODEC for free ONLY because Google chooses to bear the IP costs inherent in the use of its CODEC.

    It gets worse. The hardware support of Google's dreadful CODEC is almost non-existent, so Google class videos are frequently decoded on the CPU, using insanely greater amounts of energy. Encoding Google class video (which always gives worse results than x264 when other metrics are equivalent) also uses far more power. And you thought Google was "politically correct" and "green"?

    All Google wants is control. And Google's incompetent rip-off of H264 and now their new rip-off of H265 are all about control. With H264 and H265, the user has control, and Google hates this. So Google seeds forums like this with the usual vile shills that seek to take advantage of people whose knowledge of the facts behind H264 and its horrifically bad, originally unlicensed copy, VP8, is non-existent.

    PS putting Ogg (a TRUE free sound CODEC) and WebM (Google's licensed AFTER-the-fact terrible rip-off of H264) in the same sentence is as misleading an attempt at pro-Google propaganda as you can get.

    • Part of the issue, I think, is that there is no 'truely open' video codec worth using. There are a few truely open video codecs, like Theora and Dirac, but they all suck - the best algorithms are patented.

    • Re:MP4 is open (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nerdfest (867930) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @08:33PM (#45981373)

      It is not open in any sense of the word. The decoder is free as in beer, the encoder is not.

    • by jimshatt (1002452)
      FYI, Ogg is the container, Vorbis is the sound codec and Theora is the video codec.
      H264 tools aren't free, as the codec is patent encumbered, so you have to pay license costs (one way or another). Officially, you can't use x264 either without paying royalties. So, yeah, I'm opposed to the use of H264 in open works such as wikemedia.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In every meaningful sense, MP4 is the most 'open' useful video CODEC every made available.

      Only for a very narrowly defined sense of the word "meaningful", and a particular meaning of "open".

      The H.264 video standard is patent-encumbered. In some countries, the government doesn't grant or enforce patents on software, so this may not matter to you. But the USA is one country with software patents, and I live in the USA, so it matters to me.

      And it matters to anyone in the USA who would like to use Wikimedia,

  • But the MP4 versions 'ould enable...

    I think you accidentally a etter.

    Many wikimedia regulars

    That should, of course, be Wikimedia, with a big wuh.

    Can we replace the words "Posted by" with "Blindly rubber-stamped by"?

  • by jcdr (178250) on Thursday January 16, 2014 @07:46PM (#45981007)

    Now there is a category of people so disconnected from reality that are ok to overpay an already excessively rich phone manufacturer that refuse to support free format, and there only reaction to there frustration is to ask a poor free project to support commercial format. I wonder how many of them have donate something to Wikipedia.

    But I am not so surprised. I have observed many times that a lot of people tend to be proud of what there have payed and disregards what there have not payed, even when the reality clearly show that there money was not worth the result. It's a childish behavior to ask others to fix your own false choice.

    • by jimshatt (1002452)
      FYI, and not to be a grammar Nazi or anything, but only your first use of the word 'there' was correct :)
  • The unencumbered WebM and Ogg versions would remain our primary reference for platforms that support them. But the MP4 versions 'ould[sic] enable many mobile and desktop users who cannot view these unencumbered video files to watch them in MP4 format.'

    Something is fucking wrong with this situation...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yes - it's called "most people don't care what their computer or mobile phone runs - they just want things to work when they click/tap them."

      When a kid in middle school, working on a Windows XP computer that the district can't afford to replace, and can barely afford to (under)pay an IT staff to maintain, accesses Wikipedia to do research for a report, and can't view the video because IE doesn't support Ogg, that kid gives up on Wikipedia.

      When a grandma, working on her iPhone, tries to watch a short video a

  • Never ever seen one.

  • Let the contributor opt in/out.
    Or doesn't anyone do compromise anymore?

    --dant

  • If the kerfuffle over this has one positive outcome - it will be the insufferable, ridiculously self-righteous Wikimedia users leaving en masse and making Wikimedia a much nicer place to contribute again...

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