Free as in Beards

Brett Smith, for the Free Software Foundation:

We applaud Google for this change; it’s a positive step for free software, its users, and everyone who uses the Web. For a while now, watching video on the Web has been fraught with peril. Most of it is delivered with Flash, which is proprietary, nonstandard software. Free software alternatives like GNU Gnash are available, but the user experience isn’t always as seamless as it ought to be.

To say the least.

In order to make sure the Web stays free for everyone, we need a free codec to prevail as the de facto standard with HTML5. WebM can be that codec: Google provides a patent license with the standard that is compatible with free software licenses, and even got the development ball rolling by releasing a free implementation.

All it takes now is for everyone to switch entirely to free software. Easy.

Some reaction to Google’s move has suggested that it represents a step back for standards on the Web, because H.264 is supported by more hardware and software. Those comments represent a fundamental misunderstanding of the vision of the Web as free and unencumbered. We can only be free if we reject data formats that are restricted by patents.

This paragraph represents a fundamental misunderstanding that standards and freedom aren’t the same thing.

Today, we’re also urging Web site operators to distribute videos in the WebM format, and abandon H.264.

Free beards for everyone.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

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