As some of you may be aware, the WHATWG has dropped the recommendation for Theora and Vorbis in the video/audio section of the HTML 5 specification. Many believe it’s due to pressure from Nokia and Apple and, while that may be correct, it’s only the tip of the iceberg.
There’s much that can be done to revert this situation, but the flood of comments on the WHATWG list of “revert the change!” and “DON’T KILL THE OGGS” is not one of them. Their decision wasn’t an easy one and the problem is more complicated than it seems. What you should do if you want to “SAVE THE OGGS” is do something else entirely, which is to actually go ahead and prove that Theora is a popular good format with good quality. That’s the only way the companies will ever bother to support it, because — and face it — the recommendation for Theora/Vorbis may have stayed there and changed little of the outcome. The companies were never forced to support them in the first place.
So, how do you make Theora and Vorbis popular? Why, by the very same process that made MP3 so ubiquitous: by using it and by sharing it. Only by advocating the formats will you see interest from the corporations. There is no other way around it. Let me write that one more time: there is no other way around it. Backup your films in Theora. Backup your music in Vorbis. Share podcasts and videocasts in these formats. And do not wait for tomorrow; do it now. And by now, I mean yesterday.
There’s a lot of companies out there who do not wish to see Theora and Vorbis succeed, and they don’t even have to make much of an effort to affect them. The masses out there with their expensive iPod toys don’t care about Vorbis or Theora. Most of them don’t even know what they are.
If you want Ogg to be taken seriously, you need to help change that mentality, one person at a time. If you think the problem lies in the tools, then either create them or pay someone to do it for you. If you think the problem lies in the lack of content out there, then share it. That’s the only way to get there.
Now on to dispel some myths:
- Theora may not be state of the art right now (that will change), and H.264 may look better, but Theora has a balance between size, simplicity, quality, and performance which make it ideal for the Web. It is that good
- Theora CAN do HD content. Who said it can’t?
- Theora is not patent-free, it’s royalty-free. On2 claims to own a patent on it, but they have donated it to the public, granting eternal access so that anyone may use the patent (and thus Theora) for any possible reason
- Vorbis, on the other hand, is patent-free. The Xiph.Org Foundation was very careful during the planing stages to only use compression techniques whose patents had already expired, and they still managed to create a state of the art format for general audio compression
- Submarine patents may still exist, however. They may always exist. It’s a valid concern that affects many other formats. To tell you the truth, though, considering the old algorithms in Theora if a patent-troll decides to pop its ugly head out of its hideout, time will likely take care of it and expire whatever patent they may hold
- Ian Hickson of the WHATWG was not bribed. Yes, this needed to be said
- And yes, Apple owns a patent on MPEG-4. If this mess is an attempt to cash-in on that is a completely speculative matter, but I’m inclined to say no… for now
- The W3C accepts comments from non-members, and they may likely revise HTML 5 if many people request, but keep in mind that recommending to support Vorbis and Theora does not mean that companies will do so
- However, HTML 4 has never mandated support for JPEG and PNG. Whoever tells you otherwise is lying
- And finally, Ogg, Vorbis, and Theora are not alone. Big projects like OLPC, Jabber, and Wikimedia Foundation are supporting it. They are not the ones with the big bucks, but nonetheless their support is vital and shows that those formats are a viable, good choice for multimedia.
Keep spreading those files.