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04.30.08

Wither Web Standards? (The Adobe and Microsoft Threat)

Posted in DRM, GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Patents, Protocol, Standard at 11:02 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

The Web was created to become (and remain) a fully transparent framework that is built using open components. There were some threats in the past to its openness, namely ‘objectification’ in HTML (embedded media players, Shockwave, etc.) and disobedient companies that ‘extended’ things in a variety of undocumented ways (e.g. ActiveX, IE-specific/Office-esque ‘HTML’).

Back in December, not so long after the anti-Ogg fiasco, we said we would significantly reduce the use of YouTube (Flash) for videos, but this promise has been hard to keep as ripping tools (YouTube -> Ogg) continued to break. Where does that leave us all?

We have explained before why Microsoft’s Silverfish [sic] is more harmful than Flash, but all in all, both are harmful. Mozilla too is now warning about them. [thanks to an anonymous reader for the headsup]

ZDNet.co.uk is reporting that at the Internet World Conference in London, Nitot warned that companies like Adobe and Microsoft might have an agenda with their Flash and Silverlight technologies. Even though at the moment these technologies are free to download, this might change in the future. “But maybe they have an agenda,” Nitot said, “they’re not here for the glory; they’re here for the money.” He also warns for the dangers of these companies withholding products from certain markets. As examples, he mentions Internet Explorer for the Mac/UNIX, and Adobe’s refusal to provide up-to-date binaries of Flash.

The reader who E-mailed this to us called it “decomodization [sic] of web standards.” This isn’t the first time that Mozilla talks about this serious issue publicly [1, 2]. The significance here is rather high especially if you consider the role of the Web browser, which many continue to consider the ‘new O/S’, at least in the sense of its presence and role (not the technical sense).

While the current generation of browsers and SAAS applications offers plenty of choice but some security concerns, the next generation could turn this on its head, providing greater security but less choice. That’s because we are quickly moving to a type of Web application that will no longer be delivered to a general-purpose Web browser but will instead be deployed to something dedicated to that specific SAAS application.

This is the world of single-site browsers and rich Internet applications.

In this world, users don’t open a Web browser and then use a bookmark or link to access their important Web applications. Instead, these Web applications are installed and deployed almost as if they were desktop applications. Users launch them from their Start menu or desktop, and the SAAS application runs in its own single-purpose browser window.

Recent articles of relevance include:

So, as you can probably see, Web-based applications are not going away any time soon. The question to ask is, how will they be built? Will they be based on open standards? Open source code maybe? Or will there be proprietary blocks controlled by a single company (semi- or seamlessly-integrated a la WPF)? It is no secret that Ajax is seen as a competitor to Adobe and Microsoft, for example. As such, the news about Sony mixing Java and Flash is not too encouraging.

Sony Ericsson is planning to offer developers the opportunity to embed Flash Lite applications inside J2ME midlets, in the hope that two mobile phone application platforms will prove better than one.

Flash, however, is not the greatest issue at hand, especially when combined with GPL-bound programming.

Remember the Library of Congress and the plan to push aside Web standards? Microsoft, unlike Adobe, has more reasons to do it because it can stifle online competition (notably Google) and platform competition in this way. The other day we mentioned the poor reporting from Ina fried, who uses very deceiving headlines to promote Microsoft in a fanboyish fashion. It completely ruins CNET, rendering its credibility almost worthless (and worse than it has ever been).

In the same vein, we have received the following thoughts from a different knowledgeable reader: “I’m seeing some fresh activity from old astroturfer accounts. The volume is prodigious compared to weeks or months back. The style has changed, suggesting new staff behind the accounts and the ‘quality’ of the trolls has improved. It’s still bad but better put together than before.

“Microsoft literally paid a government department millions of dollars to abandon Web standards and exclude Microsoft’s competitors.”“If I were to take a wild guess I would think that it is to draw attention away from several other things like attacking KDE 4 from the inside, spreading silverfish infestations, and touring the governments again in prep for the summer.

“Looks like a lot of illegal or at least questionable deals are going on to get silverfish infestations in as many places as possible

Look back at the Library of Congress story, which we have already mentioned in [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Microsoft literally paid a government department millions of dollars to abandon Web standards and exclude Microsoft’s competitors.

Another reader points out that “refusing OGG/Vorbis/Theora as HTML5 standard was a real shame. (Thank you for nothing, Nokia).” Remember that the guy from Nokia who was partly responsible for this is actually a former Microsoft employee.

“And yet another demonstration that software/business models/pure idea patents are a really bad idea,” concludes this reader.

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14 Comments

  1. Hassan Ibraheem said,

    May 1, 2008 at 2:58 am

    Gravatar

    Adobe seems to be taking steps in the right direction, today they announced releasing Flash (SWF/FLV) file formats specification with no licensing restrictions (not sure exactly, but they say so).
    It’s not the Adobe Flash Player, but it’s a good step I think.
    Source: http://www.adobe.com/openscreenproject/

  2. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 1, 2008 at 3:06 am

    Gravatar

    This ought to help gnash. Good move by Adobe.

  3. akf said,

    May 1, 2008 at 3:19 am

    Gravatar

    I sent you an e-mail a while ago, trying to explain how I can convert flash video to theora now. But you haven’t answered that mail. Did you get it?

    For short: ffmpeg2theora can do it now.

  4. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 1, 2008 at 3:38 am

    Gravatar

    akf, which address did you send it to?

  5. akf said,

    May 1, 2008 at 5:09 am

    Gravatar

    You don’t want me to post your address here, do you?

    I used an e-mail address, which I found on your private homepage… after long searching. And I encrypted it with the gpg-key I found there. It was on 14. Apr.
    Shall I try to send it again?

  6. akf said,

    May 1, 2008 at 5:30 am

    Gravatar

    Okay, I explain it here for short:

    You can download it with the service on:
    http://www.downloadyoutubevideos.com/

    Then, at least on a current debian lenny system you can convert it like this:
    ffmpeg2theora -p preview –sync file.flv

    You can try other settings, but you need the –sync option.

    see http://www.v2v.cc/~j/ffmpeg2theora/

  7. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 1, 2008 at 6:31 am

    Gravatar

    Thanks for that!

    I have the feeling that I got your E-mail and replied, but I can’t find it in my archives. I’ll take a look and see if I can manage quick Ogg conversion, with the goal of making more Oggs available where copying is permitted.

    Thanks again.

  8. LinuxIsFun said,

    May 1, 2008 at 6:39 am

    Gravatar

    akf check out Pytube to download YouTube videos.

    what i can understand is previously adobe allowed to write put not play SWF/FLV/F4V files. Now they are allowing to write and play without any license restriction. Great job adobe !

    http://www.adobe.com/openscreenproject/faq/index.html

    The SWF specification has been published since 1998. Until today, the specification had a license agreement associated with it, which said that developers could write software to output SWF but could not make software that would “play” SWF files. These license terms were initially included to prevent fragmentation, which most client technologies have experienced. These terms have worked well for Flash Player over the past decade as it now reaches over 98% of PCs on the Web with a consistent runtime, enabling things such as the video revolution we see today across the Web. With this announcement, Adobe is removing this restriction from the SWF specification, as we have established a consistent runtime and we want to ensure the industry can confidently continue to support the SWF format. This will permit the development of applications that “play” SWF files. Adobe will of course remain focused on making the best, most reliable and consistently distributed implementation across desktops and devices.

  9. LinuxIsFun said,

    May 1, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Gravatar

    akf check out Pytube to download YouTube videos.

    what i can understand is previously adobe allowed to write put not play SWF/FLV/F4V files. Now they are allowing to write and play without any license restriction. Great job adobe !

    http://www.adobe.com/openscreenproject/faq/index.html

    The SWF specification has been published since 1998. Until today, the specification had a license agreement associated with it, which said that developers could write software to output SWF but could not make software that would “play” SWF files. These license terms were initially included to prevent fragmentation, which most client technologies have experienced. These terms have worked well for Flash Player over the past decade as it now reaches over 98% of PCs on the Web with a consistent runtime, enabling things such as the video revolution we see today across the Web. With this announcement, Adobe is removing this restriction from the SWF specification, as we have established a consistent runtime and we want to ensure the industry can confidently continue to support the SWF format. This will permit the development of applications that “play” SWF files. Adobe will of course remain focused on making the best, most reliable and consistently distributed implementation across desktops and devices.

  10. LinuxIsFun said,

    May 1, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Gravatar

    akf check out Pytube to download YouTube videos.

    http://www.adobe.com/openscreenproject/faq/index.html

    The SWF specification has been published since 1998. Until today, the specification had a license agreement associated with it, which said that developers could write software to output SWF but could not make software that would “play” SWF files. These license terms were initially included to prevent fragmentation, which most client technologies have experienced. These terms have worked well for Flash Player over the past decade as it now reaches over 98% of PCs on the Web with a consistent runtime, enabling things such as the video revolution we see today across the Web. With this announcement, Adobe is removing this restriction from the SWF specification, as we have established a consistent runtime and we want to ensure the industry can confidently continue to support the SWF format. This will permit the development of applications that “play” SWF files. Adobe will of course remain focused on making the best, most reliable and consistently distributed implementation across desktops and devices.

  11. Hassan Ibraheem said,

    May 1, 2008 at 7:08 am

    Gravatar

    I use a tool called Pytube and it’s great, it searches and downloads YouTube videos, and convert and all that stuff.
    I highly recommend it, but the website is down for now, you may check some info here till the project’s site is back online.

  12. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 1, 2008 at 7:14 am

    Gravatar

    I’ve had Pytube installed for a while, but Google applied some changes to YouTube on the face of it, so Pytube’s underlying code was no longer compatible (I didn’t try to get the latest version).

    Thanks to akf I got the whole pipeline working very quickly, so I’ll produce Oggs and host them here in the future if it’s legally possible. Here’s a corny one that I’ll add later:

    Ogg Theora

    All those videos that accumulate inside the home directory slow down my backups, but more Oggs on the Web can have a positive effect.

  13. akf said,

    May 1, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Gravatar

    Nice one.

    But better leave the “-p preview” away…

    P.S.:
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZNVLzdKDeyQ

  14. Roy Schestowitz said,

    May 1, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Gravatar

    I’m attending a talk of Richard Stallman in about 30 minutes. He came to Manchester, so I’ll probably get the chance to say “hi”.

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