Tuesday, January 27th, 2009p>Disclosure: Yup, still work for Mozilla!
Chris Blizzard has a really nice look at why he thinks open video matters, and some of the steps that Mozilla is taking to help get it there. We all know that this is a huge, incredibly tough problem, but you gotta do something!
First, the why:
Everyone agrees that the open web is becoming more important in our shared human experience. Our applications, conversations and relationships are moving online and Mozilla finds itself more and more at the heart of defining both the underlying technology and the end-user experience of users of the web. It’s an important role to have, and it’s one of the reasons why operating as a non-profit with a full understanding of our mission and impact are important.
Taking the long view, the open web as a technology platform isn’t something that we see in human history very often. The printing press let you replicate knowledge cheaply and easily. Television and radio lowered the cost of distribution of media. The web took away the centralization of big media and anyone can produce and distribute. The costs of replication, distribution and reaction have dropped to near zero.
I personally believe that this is because of the technology choices that were made in the early days of the evolution of the web. Human-readable formats for documents, simple programs delivered as source code and the ability for anyone to be able to post and create. There were no ivory towers or professional developers in those early days so the act of creation had to be simple. Web technology required you to be technical-minded, but didn’t require huge amounts of training to get started. Mixed with the end-to-end principle of the Internet and the fact that just about anyone could set up a server or a client meant that the web didn’t grow with the backing of huge players, but became a huge shared collection based on the small efforts of thousands of individuals.
The result of that has been an explosion of creativity and investment from single individuals all the way up to the largest companies. Anyone can have an impact and anyone can affect the technology direction of the web. Because anyone can build tools without permission that speak the lingua franca of the web, you can find tools to do just about anything. It’s a truly vibrant marketplace.
There’s one exception to this: video on the web.
And, then we get to what Mozilla is trying to do (other organizations are doing good work here too, and I hope to see some big boys step up in interesting ways):
- In Firefox 3.1 we’re including support for the OGG container format with the Theora video and Vorbis audio codecs for the <video> element. They represent one of the few combinations of formats that fits both the criteria above. They aren’t perfect formats, but they are certainly good enough for how video is used on the web today. And they are improving with time.
- We’re also supporting the development of open video with a grant of $100,000 (USD) grant that will be administered by the Wikimedia Foundation to develop and support Theora. You should expect to see some really great stuff coming out of that funding. That work will make its way back into Firefox as well.
- The other thing we’re able to do is to make video a first class citizen on the web. This means we can do things with video and let it interact with other types of content (SVG, Canvas, HTML) in ways that haven’t been possible to date. We hope that by releasing video from the plugin prison and letting it play nice with others we’ll be able to open up a new wave of creativity around video. But more on that in another post.
There are some big changes in video happening in a couple of years. Mark Pilgrim mentioned this one:
After 12/31/2010, the MPEG-LA will start charging per-encoder royalty
“In the case of Internet broadcast (AVC video that is delivered via
the Worldwide Internet to an end user for which the End User does not
pay remuneration for the right to receive or view, i.e., neither
title-by-title nor subscription), there will be no royalty during the
first term of the License (ending December 31, 2010), and after the
first term the royalty shall be no more than the economic equivalent
of royalties payable during the same time for free television.”
What would you like to see happen?