Summary: Less than a week after Google’s VP8 liberation announcement, foes of freedom use sites that are foes of freedom to spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) about VP8
It may seem reasonable to just ignore the threats and treat them as mere FUD (bark but no bite), but it seems hard to dismiss given that ZDNet‘s Christopher Dawson is one among several ZDNet bloggers who throw a lot of FUD at VP8 and Theora (that’s just typical ZDNet as by their own admission they get paid based on how many comments they provoke for and after Dawson’s hostile case of trolling against OpenOffice.org, namely a “death” prediction, he must have been paid well, as this very recent piece of FUD received hundreds of emotional comments).
But anyway, let’s ignore for a moment the noise from ZDNet and instead look at the noise from Rupert Murdock, whose blog says that patent troll Larry Horn is very, very angry and “Google’s “Royalty-Free” WebM Video May Not Be Royalty-Free For Long” (that’s their scary headline)
The announcement of Google’s new WebM video format and release of the VP8 video codec as an open standard have been hailed by some as the move that will free the Web from the proprietary H.264 codec widely used for online video today and favored by Apple (AAPL) and Microsoft (MSFT).
Indeed, Larry Horn, CEO of MPEG LA, the consortium that controls the AVC/H.264 video standard, tells me that the group is already looking at creating a patent pool license for VP8. Here’s an excerpt from my email exchange with him:
JP: Let me ask you this: Are you creating a patent pool license for VP8 and WebM? Have you been approached about creating one?
Larry Horn: Yes, in view of the marketplace uncertainties regarding patent licensing needs for such technologies, there have been expressions of interest from the market urging us to facilitate formation of licenses that would address the market’s need for a convenient one-stop marketplace alternative to negotiating separate licenses with individual patent holders in accessing essential patent rights for VP8 as well as other codecs, and we are looking into the prospects of doing so.
Let’s assume that this is not just intimidation. Previously, Steve Jobs insinuated that they were planning the same thing against Theora. Based on Apple’s storm in a teacup we wrote:
- Patents Roundup: Red Hat on Patent Trolls; Apple Antitrust; Microsoft Attacks Theora, Which is Needed to Save Our Video Culture
- Behind the Microsoft Puppetmaster: SCO-Type Libel, Acacia-Type Patent Trolls, and Novell-Type Patent Deals to Make GNU/Linux Not Free (Gratis)
- Apple’s and Microsoft’s New Motto: Do More Evil, Together
- Steve Jobs: “A Patent Pool is Being Assembled to Go After Theora and Other “Open Source” Codecs Now.”
- Apple and Microsoft a Threat to Culture (Data), Not Just Software (Tools)
- “The fight has been around a long time, now the target of Microsoft is Theora”
- Symptoms of the Sickness of the Patent System and Apple’s Infinite Greed
- Microsoft Brings MPEG-LA-LA Land to the Web and Threatens GNU/Linux With Software Patent Lawsuits
Apple’s CEO is still at it. FUD or a real smear/threat with substance?
Steve Jobs email dismisses VP8 video codec
Apple boss Steve Jobs has dismissed Google’s much-trumpeted open source video codec by referring to a technical analysis written by a third-year college student.
According to Apple Insider, the Messaianic chief Macolyte was asked what he thought of the VP8 WebM video in an email, to which Steve simply replied with a link to a posting on Jason Garret-Glaser’s Diary Of An x264 Developer blog.
From what we can tell, what Jason (aka Dark Shikari) doesn’t know about video decoding probably isn’t worth knowing, and he pretty roundly castigates the VP8 code for being poorly doucumented, badly written, slow and buggy. He also questions whether the codec is really open source and suggests that the patent trolls are currently waiting to pounce as soon as the standard gets a foothold. “VP8 copies way too much from H.264 for anyone sane to be comfortable with it, no matter whose word is behind the claim of being patent-free,” said Glaser.
This candidate FUD originally comes from Apple Insider, which is more of an Apple worship site (Apple compensates such sites to keep them under its fold). What’s at stake here is not just Theora and VP8; it’s also about GNU/Linux, which the MPEG cartel is already taxing [1, 2]. Katherine Noyes has this new assortment of takes on the subject.
Codecs have been the topic of much heated conversation on the Linux blogs of late, thanks largely to all the recent controversy surrounding H.264.