Open Ballot: will a campaign to promote Theora and open codecs be a success?


A recent campaign to add more videos to Wikipedia is being used to try and push the advantages of the open source Theora video format over those encumbered by patents. For our imminent podcast, we're asking whether you think this campaign will work despite poor results in a recent quality comparison, or whether this issue is less about quality and more about freedom.

(our thanks to Anonymous Penguin for this episode's Open Ballot question)

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Your comments

If it works...

If something works well enough, at a reasonable cost, people will use it. We must remember, the average computer user isn't concerned about Free Software, DRM et el. They want something that works, plain and simple. If Theora isn't fit for purpose it just won't cut it.


Because Microsoft, Real and Apple won't switch in a million years, and since most people use Microsoft, Real and Apple's products to watch video, most people won't even know it exists.

If FOSS media players had a bigger marketshare, then probably yes...

No, I think it won't

"Whether this issue is less about quality and more about freedom"
I never could understand statements like this. Can freedom really compensate the lack of quality? Not for me. I use open source solutions only when they offer better quality for example Chromium, Firefox and Eclipse in comparison to closed solutions. The very idea of freedom in software (which I never fully understood what does it mean ...) is not very sexy to me!

95% Not Going To work

Profit driven companies will never give up what they use to keep people using their products/software. They want their own version of everything so people who wouldn't give it much thought will probably use their products again and again.

I do think open standards should be push out everywhere, simply because we are able to voice our own preference. Those of us who know the correct moral choice should not give in just because it's easier and the most likely result.

If you don't ask, you don't get.


Yes, it will work for Wikipedia. Wiki don't make profits and will have some problems if someone ask to pay for patented video or audio standards.


Of course it depends on what you mean by success. The fact that many different companies are supporting Ogg in their music players and that it is supported in all the major open source browsers, I'd say it is already a success.

This is a lot like the year of the Linux desktop question. what do you consider success?

I would say that it is a success, at least to the point now that it has a fair chance to compete, and we can't really ask for anymore than that. Good luck Ogg.

Forgot my name

Forgot to put my name in on that last yes, don't want people to think I'm another "Anonymous Penguin"

NO. Technology is not about


Technology is not about how good it is, but is about

- how much it brings / benefit the company that pushes it,

- who pushes it (think apple or ubuntu, aka fan boys)

it will certainly help

I don't know many people outside of audiophiles (who prefer flac anyway) that have heard of Ogg or Theora or Vorbis. One example: Windows has a majority share because the market (vaporware) heavily. Most people will not search for choice, it has to be handed to them. If people know about its existence, there will be more choices made, at least to try, supporting ogg.

My God this is bad engineering.

Worse it was bad engineering in the 1970's. We are just seeing more of Weinberg's White Bread Recipe Warning.

There should be virtually no mention at all of codecs in a standard document. What mention there is should only be of what acceptable codecs can be used. Otherwise the standard runs the risk of being obsolete before the standard is adopted.

The video tag should be able to specify attributes for container format, caudio and video codec.

Then if Apple goes all Unisys ( and that is a very good allusion, HTML survived that precisely because there was no image format specified ) content providers can change codecs and then we get to see who violated another basic engineering tenant: backing up in a lossless format.

Yes, it will help.

If there is enough market demand, then MS and Apple will find it necessary to support Theora. Wikipedia is widely used and IE's and Safari's lack of support for Theora will be noticeable to the end-user. What we need to further emphasize this are even more websites that only post videos in Theora format. I had already made a decision to do just that on my own site, but my site really only targets a few thousand Linux nerds every month. Promoting Theora to my readers is like preaching to the choir.


I think in the long run free codecs will be the choise. Sooner or later most companies will switch. Why should they pay patent costs at all?

On one of my older systems (Geforce 2 MX, 512MB RAM, Sempron 2100), I wasn't able to playback 720p H.264 fluently. But with Theora that was no problem (same video, almost the same filesize). When I looked closely at the video, H.264 was a bit crispier than Theora. But it was a negligable difference.

Also don't forget the Dirac codec, which is also free. Mozilla plans to implement this into Firefox, too.

Yes.....and no

Yes, wikipedia being already open in its nature will most likely take on theora. However with Apple backing h.264 on all things i (iphone, ipad, ipod, imac), h.264 will dominate the html5 video space. all browsers should will likely support both but h.264 will be a clear winner.

Yes.....and no (edit)

Yes, wikipedia being already open in its nature will most likely take on theora. However with Apple backing h.264 on all things i (iphone, ipad, ipod, imac), h.264 will dominate the html5 video space. all browsers should likely support both but formats h.264 will be a clear winner.


Chaps - thanks for crediting me with the question, but I'm afraid I've been misquoted. What I really asked was:

"Two trains start 257 miles apart and move towards each other on the same track, the first train at 95 mph and the second at 92 mph. If the first train continues to accelerate at 2 mph/h and the second at 3 mph/h, how long will it be until Ubuntu's new pink theme gets just as tedious as the old brown one?"

A. Penguin.

@A. Penguin

I really like the new theme, which seems more black and purple than pink to me, but whatever.

I've been using beta 1 everyday since it came out and I love it so far. I don't mind the small crashes and I always send in bug reports, although a lot of them are already well known, or aren't really bugs.

As far as open formats are concerned, this is a moral high horse I am willing to stand up for. Data belongs to the users. The program that reads and edits that data can be open or closed and it won't make much difference because it is largely a matter of personal preference, but without the ability to jump ship when you want, you become trapped, which is possible even with an open source program if you keep saving your data in possibly patent infringing formats.

Not much.

It's the peoples' choice to use the codec, and probably not too many will care about its openness. The fact that video sites like YouTube work best with h.264 and x264 encoded content, and the other fact that Theora isn't "ready" yet, doesn't really help.


The majority of content creators and providers are already using h.264.


x264, the free opensource implementation of h264 codec is providing much better results at same bpp.
Theora should do something like version 2 and just imitate technologies from x264, it is opensource too.
The only problem with h264 is thats patent encumbered and hence should not become standard as long as it has this issue.
Remember GIF problem back in ages? Gif still survived, just people didn`t support it because of licensing. We should do just the same: acknowledge theora as standard so long h264 isnt entirely free. Then switch to it. Or upgrade theora. It is currently as efficient as mpeg4 ASP is (divx, xvid), not bad at all, but could be better.

Recent request to ABC

I wrote to the ABC (in australia) to request they use ogg as an alternative for their podcasts or their downloadable mp3 radio segments.
Their response was not particularly helpful. It would seem that they have no immediate impetus to use these formats, so I would suggest that if they were to recieve more requests and with vigour, they might consider using it at least for their streaming.

Look, to be honest, I don't know what to do about it other than just to keep up asking for it. There are arguments that can be made, I'm sure.

What is the BBC doing in regard to this?

It's at first a "big ask" to make such requests, but it seems to me that these organizations are our first call to make such requests, since they also have the largest repository of media which is on demand.

As I said, I don't have an answer, just a suggestion.

Request your provider of online content to include OGG as a medium of content transfer. It's up to everybody to keep up the requests, since, in an economic sense, demand might give rise to supply.

Hope this helps. Your mileage may vary,


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