Why Ogg?

For those of you that have been unable to play the audio clips on my web sites (here, kentuckyjam.com or curreedy.com), the reason is simple: the maker of your device or browser is either stupid or evil!

What it comes down to is software patents. There has been, and still is, much controversy about software patents and their use by businesses. I read an article on ZDNet today about how Microsoft is making more money from Android than from Windows Mobile (or whatever they’re calling it this week).How, you ask?

I see it a bit like this:

Two large bent-nosed Microsoft enforcers, um . . . attorneys,  walk into the Samsung offices and say, “Gee, that’s a nice mobile phone business you got going there.  It’d be a shame if something happened to it! Don’t worry though: we’re here to help. For only $15 per Android phone you sell, we can make sure that nobody from Redmond sues you over software patents owned by Microsoft, which, we believe are violated by the Android OS.”

OK, so I glam it up a bit. What Micro$oft is doing, does seem like extortion to me. They promise not to sue as long as the phone manufacturers pay Micro$oft for privilege of not being sued. I imagine the scenario above, because I don’t think the MS legal department would actually threaten someone. C’mon, look at what happened to Netscape!

As a result, one of the Redmond giant’s largest new income streams is taking money from consumers for a product with which Microsoft had no part in the design, programming or manufacture. Believe me: the M$ Android tax is being payed by consumers!

Why, you may ask again, does Microsoft not sue Google, the producer of Android?

I answer that Google has enough money to go to court and defend themselves against, what I assume are false, claims about patent-infringement in Android. (Didn’t Microsoft pay SCO to attack Linux? Didn’t Microsoft get caught stealing intellectual property from Stac in a software patent claim?)

So, all of this rambling is to say that I think software patents are a bad thing. No one should have to pay Microsoft for the privilege of running Android! Perhaps the patents themselves are not bad, but are being used in an evil way. Still, I’m against software patents.

Enter Fraunhofer and Technicolor.  According to Wikipedia–I know, I know–Fraunhofer made €100 million in 2005 from MP3 software patents. In the US, Technicolor actively enforces their claim to own the patent on MP3. This means that every device or software program that creates MP3 files, probably includes in the price, a fee to some third party for the right to use a file format.

Why, you ask, Gentle Reader, does this bother me so?

It seems that both Microsoft and Apple include MP3 capabilities in their devices and software, but do not include the ability to play or create the quite similar Ogg/Vorbis format(s).

The only reasons I can imagine for this are:

  1. Stupidity: These codecs are free to use; both as in free beer and free speech!
  2. Evil motives: As supporters of software patents, they don’t want us to know about or use free and open codecs. (And they charge us for that!)

Now that I’ve rambled on incessantly, I’ll finally get to the point: I encode my sounds (mostly music) into the free-and-open .ogg format. Microsoft Internet Explorer hates it. The Apple iThings can’t play the audio directly in the browser. (You can, with Safari, assuming you have VLC Media Player installed, download the file and then play locally: A poor second choice.)

It would cost Apple and Microsoft nothing in licensing and little in time and effort to implement the Ogg/Vorbis codecs in their software and devices. I see it as a philosophical choice, as there is no reasonable argument, suc as: it would cost too much money to add the codecs. So, I proudly use .ogg!

Someday, I’ll blog about on which devices and with which browsers I have been able to play the .ogg files seamlessly. Probably after I get my replacement Android Tablet (for which I probably paid Microsoft around $20!)

Update 20141011: I just found an interesting entry in the IE Blog on MSDN discussing HTML5 and Web Video stating “Many parties have raised legitimate questions about liability, risks, and support for WebM and the proponents of WebM should answer them.” Have you even heard of the Melissa Worm? (The Microsoft software designers called the vulnerability that lead to this fiasco a feature for administrators!)

Update 20200616:  Now that Windows 10 offers the Chromium-based Edge browser, Windows users can play .ogg files in the browser! Progress! Your move Apple!

Well . . . OK. I think folks using Windows are used to risk. And, despite the way that the techie-press has been bashing open source regarding ShellShock and HeartBleed, I trust open source software much more than the behemoth in Redmond!

A user named Ming has an excellent point, stating: “as far as I can tell, it costs $2500 in royalties to include MP3 music per HTML game.”

Be Free, Be Open!

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