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back to article Microsoft defends death of free video in IE 9

Microsoft has gone on the defensive over its decision to exclude free video from the next version of Internet Explorer. With a blog post, IE general manager Dean Hachamovitch dismissed claims that IE 9 will only play HTML5 video built using the patented H.264 codec because Microsoft makes money from licensing H.264. H.264 …

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rule the world

Today, OGG Theora, tomorrow, Linux.

When Linux has been disposed of by patent holding only companies, the next release of windows

will need a 32 core, 10,000 GHZ processor, 100 Gig of memory just to bring up a desk top

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Joke

@henrydddd

"will need a 32 core, 10,000 GHZ processor, 100 Gig of memory just to bring up a desk to"

Will need a 10 000 Thz processor before they're done.

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Unhappy

Can we tell where this is going yet?

This targeting of Ogg/Theora is the most blatant example of standards land-grab by patent that we have seen so far.

It would appear that Microsoft/Apple et. al. are not deploying their patent IP to generate income at this time, but merely to stifle an alternative technology that may deprive them of an effective monopoly.

I say effective, because the cross-licensing that big IP holders engage in has the ability to deflect anti-monopoly legislation, because a consortium of co-operating companies is not deemed to be a monopoly under the current rules.

Of course, once they have this effective monopoly, they can then leverage it for revenue generation. We can only hope that Google is prepared to defend the codec that Theora is based on.

As pointed out, if Microsoft and Apple are successful, then it is a grim portent of what is to follow.

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WTF?

Apple a for-profit corporation, not a friend of the FSF: news at 11

"Should Apple be a contributor to the patent pool Steve Jobs mentioned, that would be very bad news because then the objective may very well be to prevent any commercial use and distribution of Ogg Theora and other open-source video codecs"

Why the surprised rhetoric? Apple and Microsoft have always happily appropriated open-source software when it benefits their bottom line, but when have they every given back anything significant to the FOSS community? They both have huge patent pools, and routinely use them to fight commercial competitors. Why doubt that they'll similarly attack any FOSS development that they see as competition to their long term business strategies? You can bet that everyone in MPEG-LA hopes to profit from their investment in H.264.

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Anonymous Coward

It's sad

It's sad that there are a lot of people out there (other than the companies involved in making money out of the codec) that would defend H.264 rather than work towards an open web.

Hopefully IE will hold less sway in the future and their choice of supported codec will become less relevant to the average user.

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Linux

Ogg/Theora/Vorbis "patent landscape"

Just how much time, money and human-power would it take to research Ogg/Theora's patent vulnerability well enough to either find the infringements these folks are claiming or put the issue to rest? Anybody savvy enough on the subject to venture a guess?

This has that same FUDdish quality as Microsoft's never-substantiated claim that Linux violates some 200-odd patents of theirs. If they won't put up or shut up, it would be damn nice if we could shut them up for them.

I grabbed the Ogg/Theora/Vorbis-encoded HD version of Patent Absurdity (http://patentabsurdity.com) and, while I can't compare it to an H.264-encoded version side by side, I find the quality excellent. Whatever other objections may apply, I can't see how anyone could consider its quality inadequate for web video.

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WTF?

Why?

Why can't the browser use the codecs installed on the computer like any other media player software? I can play both ogg and h264 in media player without any fuss, why cant my browser do the same? Why does it have to be hardcoded to use exclusively one codec and one codec alone?

If this is a noobish question, i apologise.

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You must think outwide the Windows.

Mac video playback is almost exclusively the realm of QuickTime. QuickTime supports H.264 but not Theora, and Ogg support on MacOS is pathetic.

Meanwhile, in the Linux world, codec support is a bit scattershot. The big problem is there is no one universally-accepted media playback system the way Microsoft and Apple do (with DirectShow and QuickTime, respectively). Without an agreed-upon standard, Linux media player developers can't rely on any kind of infrastructure with which to pull codecs as needed (that's why many Linux media players have statically-linked codec libraries).

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OS

I've also been wondering about this for a while now. Why must a single audio/video codec be dictated in the standard? Couldn't the browser utilize the OS's media framework instead of duplicating all that functionality?

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Plugins?

"Why can't the browser use the codecs installed on the computer like any other media player software?"

Because then it turns back into the same old plugin-fest as we have now, not standards that work on every OS?

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Jobs Horns

It is a matter of practicality.

Either content providers have to encode, store and distribute video in multiple formats or users need to all be using the same format.

Content providers don't want to have to encode stuff into multiple formats because it is costly both in time and storage requirements.

That leaves users and a choice between two scenarios. The first one is the one we currently have, where users are expected to download plugins to support whatever stream type the content provider serves up. The better solution is to have a single agreed on standard for web video so that users and content providers are both happy.

Unfortunately, that state of nirvana is being threatened by the usual gaggle of vested interests at the big end of the IT industry.

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Unhappy

What about new codecs ?

Then, if a new technique for encoding emerges are we stuck with the old standard ?

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Boffin

Re: Why?

No reason apart from it suits Apple and Microsoft. Why else would they lobby to have HTML5 support any codec instead of the originally-planned for Ogg then lock out anything that doesn't use the H.264 codec (which they own and in all probability will later collect royalties on) from the browser?

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Boffin

Re: Why?

As a software developer myself I understand why you might think that using the OS multimedia framework would be a good idea. However if you were Mozilla, creating a cross-platform multimedia application. How could you best ensure that Firefox can play videos?

A Windows patch to fix a vulnerability could break your video playback and the end user is just going to see that Firefox does not work any more.

Also that framework (DirectX / Gstreamer / QuickTime) is actually a moving target, you'd have to have 3 experts creating and maintaining a cross-platform translation layer for all versions of your application.

Its a balance between stability and features, ideally everything would be from the underlying platform but for stability you bring it into your application and under your control.

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it's not just the encoding

remember most of the studios / commercial content producers actually need to get paid so they can produce the content so they are going to want DRM to protect their rights.

I don't see Ogg Theora innovating in that space, nor do I see it providing more modern delivery solutions like adaptive streaming (fragmented MPEG4 etc) to provide optimal bitrate delivery for given bandwidth/playback conditions.

If Ogg Theora was a viable competitor to H.264 then I could understand the concern about the lack of support but today a lot of companies have invested time and money in making H.264 a well rounded solution

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Anonymous Coward

The war at hand

It can and you do; through browser plugins, not the HTML standard.

This is about using a "standard" instead of one of a variety of plugins., helping developers to build cross platform fun. However has little direct effect on people** who can't tell the difference between using browser supported codecs or the codecs that come with Flash, Quicktime or WM through their browser plugins...

Until you consider the wealth of better experiences they get because all us developers are free to to hang out in our castles and do cool stuff instead of mess around with the different eco-systems' quirks.

** not a dig at the OP or anyone, but an observation of the general public.

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Corporate thieves build stealing machinery

"I've also been wondering about this for a while now. Why must a single audio/video codec be dictated in the standard? "

Two reasons or actually just one: The Money.

The other is Monopoly and the power to kill competion which comes with it but it's actually the same as the first reason.

It's not enough to kill competitors, it's also important to humiliate them first.

MS/Apple owned one allowed and mandatory video codec is a tool for that. You aren't even allowed to install anything else because DRM and MS/Apple are prohibiting that.

Also you pay an yearly tax for video codecs to both of them in next 3 years if this succeeds.

First rule in both companies: Follow the money and forget the morality or ethics, there isn't any of them in those lying thieves called "company".

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RIAA/MPAA are criminal organizations

"remember most of the studios / commercial content producers actually need to get paid so they can produce the content so they are going to want DRM to protect their rights."

Let them shoot in their own foot as much they like. So: No, we don't give a f*k about studios, they arent' a major player in world economy. Very loud very small minority.

MPAA/RIAA combined is generating less than 1% of US income, practically nothing and their interests are not so important that everybody has to ruin their browser with DRM because an association is saying so. On the contrary, these associations should be declared as criminal organizations and their executives executed. Organized crime is worth of death penalty in US.

Extorsion and bribery are the obvious crimes, stealing (of rights) also. And alla this in very organized manner.

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@It's not just the encoding.

"If Ogg Theora was a viable competitor to H.264 then I could understand the concern about the lack of support..."

How well Ogg/Theora/Vorbis stands up technically next to H.264 is really not at all the issue. The difference is pretty slim and could change overnight.

"... but today a lot of companies have invested time and money in making H.264 a well rounded solution."

Now we're getting warmer. Certainly, anytime individuals or companies want to spend bucks to develop a product and put it on the market, that's enterprise, and that's as it should be. However...

This issue pivots on one crucial difference: HTML5 is not a part of a free and competitive market. If it's accepted, it will be an Internet standard, binding upon any and all who would create web browsers that would be standards-compliant and work to the satisfaction of end users.

Among the fundamental, bedrock philosophies underlying the design of the Internet are openness, indifference to the whims and wishes of any party or faction, and ubiquity and consistency of its functionality. Perhaps the realization of those goals in the real world is less than perfect, but in the standards that define and govern it, it's damn close.

Now, for the first time, a formal Internet standard would put those wishing to comply with it at the mercy of a private entity with the power to impose restrictions and demand payment. It doesn't matter if it's a little or a lot, or tomorrow or in ten years; it's trashing the most sacred principles that have served to make the Internet the phenomenon that it is and centralizing a staggering amount of power in a small number of entities with no accountability to anyone but themselves.

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Umm

"no single sure way of supporting video in 100 per cent of web video capable browsers"

Sure there is, Flash.

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Tell that to someone with an iPad

Not even Flash is universal.

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Go

Another solution

libavformat and libavcodec. Yes, it will bloat the browser's size by another 5 megs or so, but hey, they could just upx it.

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not the iPad/iPhone

It was a very backward step by Apple when many other phones support mobile flash in their browsers.

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Unhappy

Flash video

I'm fairly certain that most flash videos are H.264 encoded with a flash UI wrapped around them. This calls a decoder in the flash runtime. This is one of the reasons why the performance is so dire on non-windows platforms as Adobe show no real interest in anything other than the mainstream.

If we intend to keep the low power/cost end of the computing platforms alive (such as phones, pads and netbooks), we absolutely need the decoder part of a codec in the browser, not just language interpreters that allow you to run a decoder.

I've been playing around recently trying to use a different backend for flash video, specifically using mplayer with the correct modules for flash video. This works great (and much faster), until you hit a site that tries to query the version of flash in the browser plugin (like iPlayer), whereupon it falls down in a heap.

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Software Patents

one of the most stupid & potentially dangerous ideas ever conceived. Patenting software is identical to patenting mathematical concepts. If they appear at all workable, its because the software industry is in its infancy. Their wholly negative effects are now emerging.

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Megaphone

MS lose money on H264

I bet they do now, I also bet that'll change when the review happens in a few years.

Businesses don't deliberately throw away money..... aloss leader is not throwing away money.

Unless of course the market changes in the meantime......

"May infringe patents....."

MPEG-LA? Put up or shut up.

Microsoft? Apple? ditto.

Check this out... Talk about cradle to grave.....

http://www.osnews.com/story/23236/Why_Our_Civilization_s_Video_Art_and_Culture_is_Threatened_by_the_MPEG-LA

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RE: MS lose money on H264

The post didn't say that MS lost money - it said that MS pay more to MPEG-LA than they receive in royalties. The cost of licensing will be included in the cost of the operating system.

I agree that it's stupid that Microsoft isn't using Windows' underlying media framework in IE9. So what if I have to download the Theora codec for a website that only supports that particular codec? It's better than not being able to watch the video at all.

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FAIL

Doesn't matter...

The slack will be taken up by 3rd-party software. The only people surprised - and the only losers - will be MS. As usual.

I'm not a Linux fanboi. Hardly necessary as - in effect - the biggest promoter of Linux currently appears to be Microsoft.

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Ironic

"Hachamovitch also said that IE 9 would support Flash. Last week, in his blog on H.264 in IE 9, Hachamovitch joined Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs in bashing Flash, saying it has "some issues, particularly around reliability, security, and performance.""

Hachamovitch needs to take a closer look of the heaping pile of $h!t called IE.

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Positive

H.264 video can utilise hardware better than Flash, giving longer battery playback time due to processing. It's HTML5 compliant, it's safer, faster and less buggy.

Usually a fan of openness, but this time I think this choice is for the better and will stick.

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Ogg?

I think it's mostly inarguable that, as far as video playback is concerned, H.264 is better than Flash, but the discussion is H.264 vs Ogg Theora, where the comparison seems to be much more arguable.

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Coffee/keyboard

but...

Hardware makes are not gonna start recalling products with their chips to rewrite Ogg Theora into the firmware, H.264 is already implemented. Lets move on, this will be forgotten soon.

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Short Note

"HTML5 compliant" does not apply to video renderers. HTML5 is a markup language. How any application wants to support that language is up to them, including that application's choice of video rendering software.

Saying that H.264 is "safer, faster and less buggy" implies that you have some benchmark results that prove your claim. Don't you? Please link to them. Otherwise, your claim means only that you enjoy making claims without proof.

Worse, you assume that the performance characteristics of this format are isolated from their operating environment, which is simply, demonstrably false. If the operating environment is friendly (provides a mature means of integration) with Brand A and not friendly with Brand B, then claiming that Brand A is a "safer, faster and less buggy" than Brand B while running on that platform just points out the weakness of the claim.

As with the MSIE/Netscape battle of old, when the OS is optimized for use with one and no effort has been made to support the other, then obviously one will have better performance characteristics than the other on that platform. It says nothing at all about a comparison between the two, because the deck is stacked. It's like making a door 24" wide, then saying that the thin guy was smarter than the fat guy because the thin guy could get into the room for the interview and the fat guy couldn't. The width of the door has nothing to do with the smartness of the person trying to get through it ...

If Microsoft and Apple refuse to support Ogg, then Ogg will always perform worse under Microsoft and Apple operating systems. H.264 will *always* be the chosen format, and *all* arguments from those companies will push toward its adoption because of their vested interests, not because Ogg is better or worse than H.264, but because supporting Ogg does nothing for either company's bottom line. It's just that simple.

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Anonymous Coward

Yes - but you misread the comment.

The 'more secue, less buggy, better performance' comments to which you refer were made as a comparison between H.264 and FLASH (not Ogg).

You seem to have gone off on a rant about 'not fair to compare H.264 and Ogg' because of (quite correct) observations, but that wasn't what the original comment was about.

Do you really need links to articles that demonstrate how bad flash is to 'prove' it? Just do a search for FLASH and PERFORMANCE, or FLASH and SECURITY - you'll find plenty of 'evidence'.

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Welcome

Standards

H.264 is an ISO standard.

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So what?

What does this have to do with the argument? Are ISO standards free from licensing and IP problems?

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OTRhead

Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T, etc. control web video availability already. And you can't forget the video distributors they must have their cut. Microsoft and Apple are a little late but it looks as though they will control the software side. It already costs 4.99 to 5.99 (U.S. dollars)for the right to rent an overly compressed 24 hour viewing of a popular release. Can't wait for Microsoft and Apple so I can enjoy a truly wonderful experience. I'll get my wallet ready.

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@OTRHead

Hmm... No.

Time Warner and the others you mention do not control web video availability. The Internet is open and free; providers such as you mention merely connect you to it and charge to do so. They have nothing whatsoever to say about what happens on it or what you may expect if you find some other way to connect; the most they can do is interfere in some way with the connectivity they provide their own customers (as Comcast did with BitTorrent). That's all.

To an end user it might seem just fine to lump all of the costs together as you do and look at the bottom line only. It might not seem all that important that, for the first time (to the best of my knowledge) it may become inherently, if indirectly, necessary to pay some fee to be able to use a standard Internet protocol. That is a very, very disturbing threat.

Up till now, there was never a way that any party could put a stranglehold, or impose a fee, on anyone creating a software product which uses the Internet for some benefit. Now it looks like anyone creating a web browser will risk being charged a fee simply for supporting and complying with the HTML5 specification with a product that can satisfy users' expectations. A browser that supports only Ogg/Theora would be compliant; but that's not much good if much of the web video out there is H.264 encoded for the benefit of IE and Safari.

On top of all the other valid concerns about this expressed here and elsewhere, this blithe willingness on the parts of Microsoft and Apple to trample on the nature and spirit of the Internet's design is selfish, exploitative and downright immoral.

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@OTRHead

"Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T, etc. control web video availability already."

No they don't. They don't even exist over here. As Slashdot posters are so fond of commenting in reverse - This is a UK site, why don't you take your whinging over to Slashdot where some people might care what you're talking about.

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Isn't it ironic

The ironic thing is that Microsoft reportedly put a great deal of money into developing a video encoding standard that they could own, expecting that they would have a lock on basically every consumer electronic device. They pushed it as a standard, and started to succeed. But that brought patent trolls (and one or two legitimate patent holders). Now, instead of getting a cut of every computer, media player, cell phone, etc. sold, they have a net outflow of payments.

But even with a net ongoing cost, it's more important to Microsoft that the market be costly and controllable.

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Happy

@Donald Becker

"The ironic thing is that Microsoft reportedly put a great deal of money into developing a video encoding standard that they could own"

Not really. The first rule of monopoly is "No monopoly *calls* itself a monopoly"

The second rule is "Protect the monopoly at *all* costs"

Royalty payments to a few people they haven't managed to tie up in court (before they move in to slaughter them) is a small price to pay for a continuous revenue stream which in principle could force virtually *every* website on the net into a subscription payed access model (depending on what the charges are set at) for at *least* the life of the patent.

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No worries...

Hopefully, IE9 will be the last IE we ever see. If they don't get it right this time, everyone will switch to anything else.

It now takes more dodgy javascript to cater to the different IE versions than to cater for all of the other browsers combined.

I'll believe the "Open Standards" hype when I see it. Even then they'll have to improved speed, security and functionality to at least equal the other browsers out there.

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h264 costs to rise

So MS are losing money? Prediction: once h264 is ubiquitous the licensing costs will rise so MS and Apple can provide a decent RoI and coin it in. The public will be screwed over (again) but the fat cats an continue to get fatter and grease the palms of the parliamentarians, so that's OK then.

Pedantic: "codex" != "codecs". "codec" is from "compression-decompression" whereas "codex" is generally considered to be a bound (stitched) volume (book) as opposed to individual scrolls.

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FAIL

Firefox..

... Can't do anything but hold it's ground, for a bunch of obvious reasons, so who gives a damn?

If they round on theora without doing something solidly useful about 264's licensing it's going to be PR armageddon.

P.S. this is why Steve Jobs fails.

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Apple - contributor?

"Should Apple be a contributor to the patent pool Steve Jobs mentioned, that would be very bad news"

It wouldn't be any sort of news at all. Apple are a contributor, as anyone who downloads the list can read for themselves. Ed Bott of Ziff found that there are 1,137 patents. Apple has one, Microsoft has 65.

All this kerfuffle about what codec the browser will natively support. Plug-ins will cover any gaps, especially if (gasp!) a new codec is developed in future. It could happen folks. As far as I can see, all the major platform/browser combos can already be equipped to decode Ogg and Theora.

Teoh Han Hui is right though - the underlying OS should handle decoding. The last thing we want is for the browser to override the native hardware supported decoding with some crappily ported routine.

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Joke

"I agree with Steve"

Says Microsoft spokesperson.

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The Microsoft way of doing Web

"Comments ridiculed Microsoft for backing a closed and patent-encumbered codec that the company can charge people to use."

That *is* how MS does business.

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This Is A .co.uk Site

And H.264 is a free and open standard over here. Please tell your US reporters to stop writing this irrelevant rubbish on here. I really, really don't care what is happening in the US software industry or its descent into patent litigation hell. If I wanted to read this crap, I'd read Slashdot.

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@Cowboy Bob

But the money they make in the states is being used to ensure that the bleeding obvious will be patentable over here.

I would bet my annual salary that MS spend more on 'influencing' the law makers in the EU and UK than they do on actually writing video-codec support code.

And judging from UK bottom licking of the US if you actually made an H.264 encoded video you'd get a free one way trip to the US just in case someone there felt you were infringing.

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Stop

In fairness

Whilst the Patents are meaningless over here, it does still affect those of us in Blighty to some extent.

Think about it;

If your favourite browser comes from the US (i.e. the servers are hosted there) then they cannot implement H.264, even for us. OK, they could relocate the server but I'd imagine there's going to be some loophole in patent law that they could still fall foul of.

It's quite possible that they'd have to exclude all US contributors to avoid being at risk of the patents.

That's a lot of effort, the beauty of Open Source being that hopefully a non US browser may popup.

As for making one version of the browser for the US, and one for here, I believe that would fall foul of the GPL. It'd be very difficult to give you the right to redistribute if you couldn't distribute it in a specific country because of the patent threat.

That said, I grow tired of the articles written by yanks about things that don't affect us at all.

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