W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > March 2012

Re: Encrypted Media proposal

From: Smylers <Smylers@stripey.com>
Date: Mon, 5 Mar 2012 12:59:43 +0000
To: "<public-html@w3.org>" <public-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <20120305125943.GC22801@stripey.com>
Mark Watson writes:

> I was referring to common customer expectations. When a customer
> chooses between a new TV with a Netflix badge and one without they
> don't expect to be able to watch Netflix on the one without the badge.

That may be true but I don't see how it's relevant to the open web
platform.

If a TV has a web browser (and implements all the relevant open web
standards) then I'd expect it to be able to display content from all
websites, not just sites that are in cahoots with the TV's manufacturer.
In particular, I would expect it to work with sites that don't exist at
the time the TV was manufactured.

I would not expect the TV to require a badge on it for every website I
may wish to visit. So yes, I might expect a TV without a Netflix badge
to be able to use the Netflix website.

However, if a TV doesn't advertise general open web capabilities but
instead has specific software installed to view walled-garden content
from particular suppliers, then it isn't part of the open web. Anybody
buying such a TV runs the risk of those particular content suppliers
ceasing to trade, or changing their formats, or no longer providing as
wide a range of content.

In that case the device manufacturer and the content provider
necessarily have a commercial relationship (possibly indirectly) and as
such can arrange for appropriate software for playing the content to be
installed on the device. So it isn't necessary there for the technology
used to deliver the content to follow open web standards.

If the content can't be viewed solely by implementing open web standards
then I don't see why it's interesting for it to be 'mostly' implemented
using open web standards; whether the 'missing piece' is a CDN or a
codec or plug-in -- or indeed whether the entire software is a
completely closed source application written from scratch using bare
ones and zeroes -- doesn't affect the fact that it's not the open web
but a service only available to those who enter into certain contractual
relationships.

So I don't see why the 'requires a badge' scenario is relevant to HTML5.

> At Netflix we don't have customers telling us that we 'don't get it'.
> It's often argued that all customers want is easy, convenient,
> reasonably-priced and legal access to content and they become
> frustrated with industries that refuse to offer them that. But that is
> exactly what we are offering and what we want to make possible with
> HTML5.

For what it's worth I'm not a Netflix customer. You operate in my country
(the UK), but as I understand it your service is not available on the
operating system I run (Linux, with Firefox as my browser), and
obviously there's no point in my becoming a customer unless my system is
supported.

Given that Linux and Firefox are both software libre, I would like for
you to use technology which is entirely openly specified and can be
entirely implemented in open source software.

In particular, I'd like to sign up with a service which doesn't limit
the devices, operating systems, and browsers on which I may view its
content, including allowing hardware and software doesn't yet exist.

At the moment the Netflix service is harming its customers by
restricting their ability to freely switch to a different operating
system. If a Netflix customer who currently runs Windows realizes that
in general she would be better off running Linux instead on her
computer, she can't switch because she'd lose Netflix functionality.

Or if you provide Linux support but as a secret binary blob, that may
give me access at the moment but restrict me from later deciding I'd
rather switch to, say, FreeBSD instead. Whereas if you provide support
in a truly open way, customers have no such restrictions imposed on
them.

Similarly, I did not download any music from major record companies
until they started making it available to buy in MP3 format. 

> Our use of content protection _vastly_ increases the range of content
> we can offer to our customers,

But it limits your customers to those who use particular software which
has signed the appropriate contracts; it isn't available to anybody who
uses a web browser implementing open web technologies.

> so I fail to see how it harms them.

It appears to be harming me right now.

As a customer the thing I would most appreciate would be for Netflix to
use its strong position in the market to pressure content owners to
allow adopting a format which is entirely opening implementable.

That's effectively what happened with the music download industry:
certain large players insisted that they wished to provide music files
without CRM, and eventually the content owners complied.

As a customer I am grateful for the music download sites which did this,
as it has improved what is available to me.

> It's just not an issue that we get any number of Customer Service
> calls about (either from customers or would-be customers).

I don't think Netflix has ever sought my opinion as to why I'm not a
customer.

John Simmons writes:

> ... the Amazon Video on Demand service is supported from my Samsung
> Blu-Ray player. Now that surprised even me, and I am in this industry.

That it is surprising is evidence that at the moment there isn't an
expectation for content to be available across different devices that
aren't in cahoots with content providers.

HTML is surely about making content available to all who implement open
web standards, so this surprise is something we wish to replace with a
general expectation that everything will work everywhere.

> I bring this up because it illustrates what I believe is at the heart
> of the dispute about this proposal- a lack of clarity regarding the
> future significance of broadband-broadcast convergence - brought about
> because each industry is caught in its own 'paradigm paralysis' - its
> own tunnel vision reinforced by the decisions of the past.

I agree.

> I am convinced that if we get this right, clearly understanding the
> requirements for commercial video distribution on the web and the
> needs of an open web we can bring about a broadband-broadcast,
> multi-screen revolution that will be one of the most significant web
> developments since 1993. 
> 
> That is my belief, and I know others on this thread agree with me.

That sounds fair enough.

> That is why I am so supportive of this effort.

Curiously, it's similar thinking that has led me to come to the opposite
conclusion, not wishing to support a proposal which leaves a crucial
part of the solution only available to certain parties.

Cheers

Smylers
Received on Monday, 5 March 2012 13:00:16 GMT

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