Ogg (and Mozilla) objections

Ogg objections by Måns:

When challenged, three types of reaction are characteristic of the Ogg campaigners.

On occasion, these people will assume an apologetic tone, explaining how Ogg was only ever designed for simple audio-only streams (ignoring it is as bad for these as for anything), and this is no doubt true. Why then, I ask again, do they continue to tout Ogg as the one-size-fits-all solution they already admitted it is not?

More commonly, the Ogg proponents will respond with hand-waving arguments best summarised as Ogg isn’t bad, it’s just different. My reply to this assertion is twofold:

  • Being too different is bad. We live in a world where multimedia files come in many varieties, and a decent media player will need to handle the majority of them. Fortunately, most multimedia file formats share some basic traits, and they can easily be processed in the same general framework, the specifics being taken care of at the input stage. A format deviating too far from the standard model becomes problematic.
  • Ogg is bad. When every angle of examination reveals serious flaws, bad is the only fitting description.

The third reaction bypasses all technical analysis: Ogg is patent-free, a claim I am not qualified to directly discuss. Assuming it is true, it still does not alter the fact that Ogg is a bad format. Being free from patents does not magically make Ogg a good choice as file format. If all the standard formats are indeed covered by patents, the only proper solution is to design a new, good format which is not, this time hopefully avoiding the old mistakes.

While I do understand, in principle, why Mozilla wants to promote open and free video codecs on the web, its sole reliance on Ogg Theora and its blocade of the most popular H.264 commercial codec even through a plugin (although it allows one like Flash, go figure), make it look fanatical and not the least pragmatical.

As a citizen, I'm totally against software patents. They're an intellectual abomination and a net burden on society. I do hope Europe will continue to forbid software patents. As a web developer, I'm all for open and free video codecs, provided they are efficient throughout the whole producer-to-consumer chain. I understand and support Mozilla's goals for an open web, but I find that their tactic around the <video> tag is bad and potentially counter-productive.

Good luck to whoever is capable of developing a better (or at least comparable) open and free codec than H.264, but it clearly does not exist yet. Meanwhile, most web videos will continue to be encoded and served using H.264, and the same through Flash for the poor souls browsing with Firefox.

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