Mandatory vs optional codecs

On 6/27/2013 12:34 PM, Silvia Pfeiffer wrote:
> On Thu, Jun 27, 2013 at 10:19 AM, Gili <> wrote:
>> Ending the VP8/H264 war: A proposal was made to mandate a
>> patent-unencumbered codec (whose patents have expired or are not enforced)
>> as mandatory and optionally upgrade to other codecs such as VP8 or H264
>> depending on peer capabilities and personal preferences. VP8 guys can use
>> VP8. H264 guys can use H264. And if the two camps need to chat with each
>> other they can fall back on H263. This gives you the flexibility of
>> arbitrary codecs without the need to do transcoding.
> I'd just like to note that this is not a new proposal and has had
> extensive discussion. If you search for it, you will find a lot of
> discussion about it.
Hi Silvia,

     Next time please change the subject line when discussing individual 
items, as the original email requested.

> In summary, it has been rejected mainly because it's a huge step
> backwards in encoding quality, which would take away a big reason of
> the uptake of WebRTC.

     This is only true when mixing parties which cannot agree on a 
higher-end codec. If the connected peers agree on a higher-end codec 
(which will be the case most of the time) you will get an excellent user 

     My own take is that H264 and VP8 proponents are lying to themselves 
if they believe that they can force their views on others. I don't see 
Microsoft, Apple convincing Google to accept a mandatory H264 codec or 
the other way around (VP8 for Microsoft and Apple). What I am proposing 
is the lesser evil, when compared to not being able to connect to such 
endpoints or being forced to do transcoding.

     To be clear, this is a legal and political matter. I don't 
appreciate people trying to mask these issues by bringing up technical 
arguments. This is perfectly doable from a technical perspective. We 
don't need "the best" codec. We need a "good enough" baseline codec and 
the ability to upgrade to "the best" codec if so desired.

     Using H262 as a fallback means higher bandwidth usage for the same 
visual quality. It only affects a tiny minority of cases and it's worth 
noting that this problem is quickly going away, as the average internet 
connection is improving by leaps and bounds with every passing year. 
This is a self-correcting problem.

     Patents issues are not going away anytime soon. Also, by taking 
this approach there is far less incentive for a malicious company to sue 
in the future because we've got an alternative to fall back on.

> Also, the assumption that it's unencumbered when
> it's a known IPR-enforced format is flawed.

     I don't understand. How is H262 an IPR-enforced format? I gave 
H262/H263 as an example but don't get stuck on the specifics. Feel free 
to use the best patent unencumbered codec you can find.

> In comparison VP8 provides
> much higher quality and has the IPR agreement with MPEG-LA behind it
> and the license statement stops companies that are using the codec
> from suing on the codec. The Nokia court case around VP8 should
> further clarify the IPR situation around VP8 and, given the already
> widespread support of VP8, it seems likely that this is the last test
> on VP8.

     This is a positive development but in no way guarantees that more 
Nokia-like situations won't arise in the future. VP8 could be safe (for 
the record, I personally think it is) but we don't know for sure. 
Mandatory codecs should have expired patents, period. There is no risk 

> Given that the choice of H.263 would be a huge step backwards, the
> easiest way to resolve this seems to me to just wait for the court
> resolution. We're much better informed after that.

     "A huge step backwards" is subjective and vague. Again, we're not 
shooting for "the best" codec. We're shooting for "good enough with the 
ability to upgrade to the best".

     I oppose waiting for the court resolution. Who knows how long it'll 
take and, in any case, the outcome does not prevent other cases from 
being raised in the future. If millions of users jump on board, VP8 
becomes a juicy target for patent trolls. There isn't much you or anyone 
else can do about this.


Received on Thursday, 27 June 2013 17:33:06 UTC