H.264 vs. WebM

Update: At the end, I spell out why Apple “has a brain”.

In my post yesterday, I asked the question: Why is Apple promoting H.264 so heavily when they have only 1 patent in the pool?

The answer is: They have a brain. Well more importantly, they have money.

Google bought On2 Technologies and acquired the technology behind the VP[X] codecs. An open source branch of VP3 became Ogg Theora and was used as a free, but crummy video codec. VP8 is the foundation of WebM, the unencumbered, royalty free codec.

So HTML 5 has a video tag and people are fighting over what standard to use: WebM or H.264. MPEG-LA previously announced that H.264 would be royalty-free within free applications until the end of 2015 (PDF Press Release). Yesterday, they announced H.264 would be royalty-free forever (PDF Press Release).

Mozilla’s Vice President of Engineering, Mike Shaver says this doesn’t go far enough. I thought he was an idiot momentarily until I thought it through. His take:

The MPEG-LA announcement doesn’t change anything for the next four years, since this promise was already made through 2014…Given that IEC [International Electrotechnical Commission] has already started accepting submissions for patents in the replacement H.265 standard, and the rise of unencumbered formats like WebM, it is not clear if H.264 will still be relevant in 2014.

The big piece missing from the MPEG-LA announcements are the patent encumberence of H.264 and by extension H.265. Beltzer Shaver believes that by 2015, H.264 may not be relevant as H.265 will take its place (and he’s probably right). But what he may not be right about is the unencumberence of WebM.

Steve Jobs weighs in on the encumberence issue stating via email:

All video codecs are covered by patents. A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other “open source” codecs now. Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn’t mean or guarantee that it doesn’t infringe on others patents. An open standard is different from being royalty free or open source.

x264 developer Jason Garrett-Glaser has an excellent piece on VP8. For the tl;dr crowd, he states (emphasis, his):

Overall, VP8 appears to be significantly weaker than H.264 compression-wise.

And more importantly:

Finally, the problem of patents appears to be rearing its ugly head again. VP8 is simply way too similar to H.264: a pithy, if slightly inaccurate, description of VP8 would be “H.264 Baseline Profile with a better entropy coder”. Even VC-1 differed more from H.264 than VP8 does, and even VC-1 didn’t manage to escape the clutches of software patents.

And finally:

It’s quite possible that VP8 has no patent issues, but until we get some hard evidence that VP8 is safe, I would be cautious. Since Google is not indemnifying users of VP8 from patent lawsuits, this is even more of a potential problem.

Next, as far as that patent pool Jobs was talking about, Larry Horn, CEO of MPEG-LA, and John Paczkowski of Daily Digital discuss

John Paczkowski: 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.

Rock and hard place. I understand where Mike Shaver is coming from now, but I don’t think his options are very favorable either way.

So back to Apple and its smarts. By not dealing with WebM and paying royalties for H.264, Apple avoids the potential legal mess it could get into over patents. They pay the royalty anyway for OS X, so adding it to Safari is a no-brainer.

Tumblr Integration

TumblrI’m looking for a plugin that will

  1. Pull the Tumblr feed format.
  2. Parse into WP importable xml.
  3. Create new WP posts for new Tumblr items.

What I’ve found so far are Tumblr exporters/WP importers, javascript to embed tumblr, Ping.fm, other miscellaneous useless plugins. I’m not moving platforms so I want something that will pull out the new Tumblr items and post them here.

Do I need to code this or has it already been solved? (I admit my search for a solution was pretty feeble).

Advice appreciated!



Right now I’m more active on clatko.tumblr.com.

Facebook, I’m Coming Back

FuckbookUpdate 6/27: I just received an email welcoming me back to Facebook. I have not done anything to initiate this, time to change the password and sanitize the account. Wow. And here is my Facebook account. Please comment if any of my privacy is showing.

It’s been a month and a half since I killed my Facebook account. Can’t really say I’ve missed it, but at the same time I feel like I’m missing out on the party. There are new things on the site, Q&A, videos, new iPhone app, location is coming, blah, blah that I want to check out but can’t.

My entire line of reasoning for leaving can be condensed into one statement (paraphrased from a conversation about Facebook owning FriendFeed):

With FriendFeed, you have to work to add information to your activity stream; with Facebook it’s the opposite, you have to work to remove information from your activity stream.

With that, I’ll be back on Facebook shortly with the following conditions:

  • My account will act more as a pointer to my main identity – www.latko.org
  • Personal information will kept at a minimum
  • Access denied to any and all apps
  • Never use Facebook Connect
  • Opt out of instant personalization
  • Never use the status update

Killed My Facebook Account

Udated: 6/14 (added views on privacy changes, updated privacy settings)
Update: 5/13 (added analysis link, other links)
Update: 5/12

Many, many reasons for doing so. I’ll update this post later with a FAQ on why. This is going to be an extremely long post and will be updated quite frequently. I’ll probably make it sticky.

1) Why?
I want to control my own online identity, not leave it to a private company with questionable ethics that is accountable to very few. I also don’t have confidence in the technical/security aspects of the site. This has little to do with privacy and I’ll even post links to embarrassing photos.

2) Privacy is dead. Anyway, you have almost 200,000 Twitter followers.
Again, this has little to do with privacy. The ask-for-forgiveness later model of the Facebook system is too much for me. The only thing I care about on Facebook getting out is my email address. And we have already seen this info provided and exposed through two XSS attacks on Yelp.

I’m not going to pin this on Facebook, but the day I deactivated my account, I began to receive hundreds of spam messages a day. I think this has more to do with the poor security of the Yelp site.

3) But they upped your privacy capabilities and made them easier to control.
True, I can now hide my friends and my interests. This move does very little to actually prevent that information from being displayed (you are still listed as a member of the interest group and you are still listed from your more privacy-challenged friends). The simpler controls actually sound nice and I can blow away permissions for the 100+ apps in one fell swoop. Nice. I am contemplating creating a new, bare-bones account that will redirect people to my website. I will continue to hold out and see if there are any more slip-ups.

Bottom Line: Facebook does not respect its users.
Not just with privacy, they have a cavalier attitude that they are smarter than the average user (which is probably true given the Read Write Web spectacle). Here are a few examples:

  1. Embedding originating IP addresses in emails.
  2. Excessively changing privacy controls.
  3. Opt-out schemes on many new features (see below analysis).
  4. Tricking users into oversharing (see below analysis).
  5. Using circular logic to back up the default-to-everyone.
  6. Turning a blind eye to the social game offer schemes.
  7. Extracting usurious fees from profitable partners (Zynga).
  8. Claiming to be open by embracing and extending open source projects and protocols (see my Salmon post).

And I could go on for a while. I have seen the future and it scares me.

Read a great analysis of the recent facebook privacy changes.