[Foundation-l] Re: File format policy

Andrew Lih andrew.lih at gmail.com
Wed Feb 15 00:51:38 UTC 2006

On 2/14/06, Gregory Maxwell <gmaxwell at gmail.com> wrote:
> On 2/13/06, Ilya Haykinson <haykinson at gmail.com> wrote:
> > I don't see this as an openness-of-content issue at all; I see it as a
> > technological problem.  Our organizational desire is to provide open
> > access to data; to some degree this means using open,
> > patent-unencumbered formats such that patent restrictions will not be
> > an obstacle to viewing our content.
> >
> > On the other hand, a large part of our organizational desire is to
> > actually provide the data.  Currently our video content is accessible
> > to a very small subset of users; just like we present our
> > database-persisted data using XHTML that is understood by web
> > browsers, we need to present video data in some format that's
> > understandable by most computers out there.
> >
> > Without compromising our stance, we could insist on all uploads to be
> > open formats (like .ogg) but transcode to common viewable formats as
> > an option for viewers who don't have OGG players. I don't see how that
> > would be in conflict with our core mission.
> I don't see how transcoding to a proprietary format would be much
> different than offering up our text alternative non-free license.

Gregory, there is a big difference between "free content" as with a
copyleft license, and using a patent-free format for delivering said
content. The former talks about the legality of copying and altering
the work, and the latter is only about the technical delivery
mechanism. So I think in this case, free has a triple chance of
confusion - free as in freedom (to copy), free as in beer and free as
in delivery payload (implementation regarding patents).

In short - they're not the same.

> I also see the assertion made multiple times that the number of users
> who can view this content is greatly diminished... but I've yet to see
> this substantiated with data.  If you count users who must install a
> codec as unable, then you must also realize that the proposed
> alternative proprietary formats are also not installed by default on a
> great many (a majority?) of computers.

We have to recognize honestly that Theora installations lag far far
behind QT, Real and WM by a large margin and the user experience is
not the same to find and download the player/codec.

One cannot reasonably think the number of folks with Theora codecs
installed even closely approaches the number with Quicktime or Real.
Even for the lesser Quicktime, every iPod owner who installs iTunes
(nearly all) by necessity installs Quicktime. (Over 30 million iPod
units shipped in 2005.) Real Networks has been around since the dawn
of the dotcom industry (1993) with tons of legacy content and new
content being generated. So it is a bit of a stretch to draw
equivalence between Theora and the other non-WMP codecs.

> The complexity of getting working players to users is high enough that
> a great many video sites such as video.google.com and youtube are
> using flash and java based players.

This is certainly true, and they've recognized the value of a smooth
user experience.

-Andrew (User:Fuzheado)

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