I'm disappointed to see LWN go to press on this without getting Xiph's position on the
I think the content available question is itself a red-herring:
While it certainly is true that Theora is not as widely adopted as some contemporary
encumbered formats, it's dishonest to claim that it isn't used at all. For example, Ogg/Theora
is the exclusive video format supported on Wikipedia, one of the top ten most visited websites
in the world.
Ultimately it takes much less effort to OFFER content in a new format then it does to upgrade
clients to support that format. Many content providers are simply waiting for the client
support to exist, once the client support reaches an acceptable level they will be able to
easily migrate thus avoiding the MPEG-LA per-user webcasting fees which begin in 2009.
On the quality front, the Theora codec offers quality/bitrate performance orders of magnitude
better than other video formats, such as the H.120 standard from the early 80s or MJPEG, which
are believe to equally free of patent risk. The difference in performance of megabits per
second vs hundreds of kilobits per second is utterly critical for the success of web based
The currently available Theora code achieves a quality/bitrate ratio somewhat worse than H.264
(MPEG-4 part 10/AVC), an expensive, heavily encumbered, and computationally costly codec. Xiph
believes that with further enhancements to the codecs Theora can achieve and maintain
generally competitive performance with H.264. (Critical commentary on Theora from its
maintaining engineers: http://web.mit.edu/xiphmont/Public/theora/demo.html)
I'm not sure where the Microsoft comment came from as MSFT is not a member of WHATWG or the
W3C, and they already ship Xiph codecs in various products.
Finally, I think it's a little unfair to fail to mention that the vocally opposed parties all
profit from the patent licensing for the encumbered formats that they prefer.