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HTML 5, Flash and saying NO to H.264

There is a certain amount of controversy regarding video standards and support in the upcoming HTML 5 spec for creating and designing websites. This is an important debate in terms of the future and open direction of the web.

Video has become a substantial portion of the traffic across the web due to the vibrancy of our ability to process information in engaging our visual and audio senses at one time. Folks like moving pictures.

One of the bedrock principles of HTML is the open and unencumbered code that is used into creating what we see on the screen in our browsers. To that end video and the new video tag for embedding needs to be addressed sooner rather than later. Closed technologies never benefit users over the long run.

Flash by Adobe is the current front runner in video on the web. It is an interesting technology but has become spyware on personal computers. Flash cookies are stored on your personal computer and are not removable with the standard browser privacy controls.

Don’t take my word for it, check for yourself:
Where to find these flash cookies:

* Windows: LSO files are stored typically with a “.SOL” extension, within each user’s Application Data directory, under Macromedia\FlashPlayer\#SharedObjects.
* Mac OS X: For Web sites, ~/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/FlashPlayer. For AIR Applications, ~/Library/Preferences/[package name (ID)of your app] and ~/Library/Preferences/Macromedia/FlashPlayer/macromedia.com/Support/flashplayer/sys
* GNU-Linux: ~/.macromedia
Hattip Wired News: You Deleted Your Cookies? Think Again

Read More
Schneier on Security: Flash Cookies

And currently none of the browser makers are addressing this issue. But then Adobe has a history of violating your privacy. An earlier version, Flash Player 6, turned on your Camera and Microphone by default if your computer had them. Flash itself puts blocks between you and your privacy by requiring you to go to Adobe.com to “manage” you privacy settings. There is no other down loadable program that requires this scheme, and cannot be managed on your own computer.

They say that the new version will respect your privacy, but don’t hold your breath.

Adobe is trying hard to keep their grip on the video on the web by a campaign of disinformation as to how open the Flash application is.
However, here is the money shot from Dave McAllister a blogger for Adobe.

The main reason we can’t release Flash Player as open source is because there is technology in the Player that we don’t own, such as the industry standard hi-def video codec, H.264. Adobe pays for that codec so video plays reliably worldwide, across browsers and OS’s. So we make it as open as we can – by releasing the specifications.
Source: Open at Adobe

Moving along from privacy to usability
Kevin Lynch also posted his take on Flash and most revealing are the comments.
Adobe is also saying that Flash doesn’t crash or hang systems, but the comments on this posting at Download Squad tells a different story.
H.264
Interesting is the admission by Adobe of incorporating H.264 to hedge their bets.
H.264 is getting a lot of airtime across the web as a possible successor to supplant Flash as a video standard. As the above quote aptly demonstrates H.264 is not an open standard, but a proprietary codec owned by the MPEG LA group. In a story posted at Beta News, the H.264 Group says that they will not ask for royalties aka payment for use,(until 2015 unless they change their mind) but trust me, just like the UNISYS .gif patent mess they will come calling.

According to Allen Harkness, global licensing director:

“While our Licenses are not concluded by End Users, anyone in the product chain has liability if an end product is unlicensed,” wrote Harkness. “Therefore, a royalty paid for an end product by the end product supplier would render the product licensed in the hands of the End User, but where a royalty has not been paid, such a product remains unlicensed and any downstream users/distributors would have liability. Therefore, we suggest that all End Users deal with products only from licensed suppliers.”

anyone in the product chain has liability if an end product is unlicensedThink YouTube with Invoicing. When the RIAA gets tired of suing everybody, the lawyers can just step into H.264 suits.

Like folks are gonna plumb source code for licensing and or liability. Give me a fucking break! Seriously, most folks on the web think that Copyright is a gift from Microsoft with Right Mouse Click > Save As.

Ogg Theora is currently the frontrunner in open source video, still has some technical limitations, but it has the potential to become a royalty free open video standard.
Encumbering the web with proprietary technologies will kill the web as surely as if you turned off the power to your computer.