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rakaz



about standards, webdesign, usability and open source



Updated: 2013-10-27T10:19:59Z

 



This blog is dead…

2013-10-27T10:19:59Z

As you can see from the next post, this blog hasn’t been updated in over three years. Instead of rebooting it yet again, I’ve found a new place to write at Medium and at the HTML5test blog. Or follow me at @rakaz.

As you can see from the next post, this blog hasn’t been updated in over three years. Instead of rebooting it yet again, I’ve found a new place to write at Medium and at the HTML5test blog. Or follow me at @rakaz.




H.264 video is now (slightly more) royalty free

2010-09-02T20:15:04Z

Last week the MPEG-LA announced that it will not charge any royalties for streaming H.264 encoded video in the future. That does change much from the current situation. A couple of years ago the MPEG-LA already promised it would not change for streaming H.264 video until December 2011 and earlier this  year this was extended […]Last week the MPEG-LA announced that it will not charge any royalties for streaming H.264 encoded video in the future. That does change much from the current situation. A couple of years ago the MPEG-LA already promised it would not change for streaming H.264 video until December 2011 and earlier this  year this was extended to December 2015. Now they removed that deadline altogether, making H.264 “royalty free”. At least, that is what several websites concluded. Some even predicted that Mozilla and Opera would soon implement H.264, that it would become the default codec for HTML5 and that WebM was doomed. Well, things are not that simple… All aspects of H.264 video are covered by the patent pool of the MPEG-LA. If you want to create video, your encoder needs to be licensed. If you want to play video, your decoder needs to be licensed. But it goes further than just the software you use. The actual encoded video you create is also ‘protected’ by patents. Let’s say you are a commercial wedding videographer and only use fully licensed software, you’ll still need to pay the MPEG-LA for every disk you burn. All aspects of H.264 video are covered and require you to pay royalties. All aspects with the exception of streaming H.264 video on the web, but only when you provide the video free of charge. That is hardly royalty free. It is still great news though. A lot of the financial uncertainty about using H.264 on the web has been resolved by this license grant. And most people use licensed encoders and decoders anyway, right? Maybe. Right now I can make my own video in iMovie, export it to my own website and pretty much anybody can view that video. H.264 video can be played using Flash, Quicktime, Silverlight or in some browsers using native HTML5 video support. All without me having to deal with the MPEG-LA and worrying about paying royalties. It doesn’t solve the problem that Mozilla and Opera have with H.264 as the default HTML5 video codec. If a browser needs to be able to play video natively, it needs a decoder, which needs to be licensed from the MPEG-LA. That may not be a problem for Microsoft, Google and Apple. They already have a license and adding H.264 to their browsers won’t cost them a dime. Mozilla and Opera are not so lucky – they will have to pay millions to get a license. And the problem is even more complicated for Mozilla, because their browser is open-source and they need to be able to sublicense the H.264 patents to any user of their source code. That is simply not something that the MPEG-LA is going to allow. There is a way around this though. Both Mozilla and Opera could simply use the media framework provided by the operating system to decode the video. Both Microsoft and Apple have licensed H.264 for use in their media frameworks allowing all applications on that system to decode and encode H.264 video. As long as an application uses that framework it doesn’t have to pay royalties – Microsoft and Apple already paid for them. It doesn’t matter that Mozilla and Opera are companies, or whether or not the browser and videos are used commercially, both are allowed by the license granted to Apple and Microsoft. Only things like commercially distributing video created with the frameworks are not covered by the license. That is the reason why the videographer mentioned above still needs to pay for each copy he distributes, even if he used fully licensed software. That only leaves Linux users. As far as I know there are no Linux distributions with a properly licensed H.264 decoder. If you want to play H.264 you’ll either need to buy a closed-source binary codec from Fluendo or install an ‘illegal’ decoder. Op[...]



Problems with HTML5 video codec detection

2010-06-25T17:01:31Z

In case you haven’t heard yet, Microsoft released a new preview release of Internet Explorer 9 with all kinds of great goodies we have been waiting for, including HTML5 video support. I did notice that this new preview didn’t score any bonus points on the HTML5 test for its video and audio support. This was […]In case you haven’t heard yet, Microsoft released a new preview release of Internet Explorer 9 with all kinds of great goodies we have been waiting for, including HTML5 video support. I did notice that this new preview didn’t score any bonus points on the HTML5 test for its video and audio support. This was pretty strange, because it should have scored bonus points for the H.264 codec. The article below is the result of a little investigation about why IE9 doesn’t pass the H.264 codec test and the problems I found in other browsers. Codecs, containers and mime types First a little background on audio and video. Both the audio and video are encoded by a codec. A codec turns a large number of images into a compressed video stream or a large number of audio samples into a compressed audio stream and vice versa. There are many codecs to choose from with different qualities, but some are more popular than others. That is just half of the story. When you want to merge the compressed audio and video streams in a single file, you also need a container format. Again, there are many container formats to choose from, but not all container formats support all codecs. Currently there are 2 popular combinations for HTML5 video: H.264 video and AAC audio in a MP4 container VP8 video and Vorbis audio in a WebM container The following two combinations are also used, but are less popular: Theora video and Vorbis audio in an Ogg container MPEG-4 video and AAC audio in a MP4 container Each combination of codecs and containers can be described by an identifier. That identifier contains the MIME type of the container and the codecs parameter, a combination of unique strings for each of the codecs that have been used. For example, the MIME type for the Ogg container is video/ogg. The unique string for the Theora codec is theora and the string for the Vorbis codec is vorbis. The identifier would look like this: video/ogg; codecs="vorbis, theora" H.264, MPEG-4 and AAC are a bit more complicated, because these codecs use profiles which determine which features are used by a codec. This only makes the unique string for each codec a bit more lengthy, but the principle is the same. For example Baseline Profile H.264 video has a unique string of avc1.42E01E and High Profile H.264 video has a unique string of  avc1.64001E. The MIME type for the MP4 container is video/mp4. The unique string for Low-Complexity AAC audio is mp4a.40.2. Combined with the unique string for Baseline Profile H.264 video you would get the following identifier: video/mp4; codecs="avc1.42E01E, mp4a.40.2". Detecting which codecs are supported The HTML5 specification does not specify which combination of codecs and containers should be supported in a browser, but it does provide a way to detect which actually are. This has become quite important because not every browser supports the same codecs. The reasons for this are complex and beyond the scope of this article. What is important, is that by calling the canPlayType() function with either the MIME type of the container or the complete identifier for a specific combination you can ask the browser if it supports that MIME type or combination. The browser then tells you one of three things: an empty string: it does not support it, the string maybe: it does not know if it is supported, but it is not sure it isn’t supported either, the string probably: it supports the combination of container and codec. Especially if you only specify the MIME type of the container the browser may not be entirely sure it can play it. The reason for this is that some containers support many codecs and the browser may only support one of them. So if you specify only [...]



HTML5 test updated: how well does your browser support HTML5 now?

2010-06-08T22:18:11Z

Earlier today I’ve released a new version of the HTML5 test. The goal is still the same: to show an indication of how well your browser supports the upcoming HTML5 standard and related specifications. It was clearly time for an updated test, because browsers were starting to get very close to the original maximum score […]Earlier today I’ve released a new version of the HTML5 test. The goal is still the same: to show an indication of how well your browser supports the upcoming HTML5 standard and related specifications. It was clearly time for an updated test, because browsers were starting to get very close to the original maximum score of 160 points. If you disregard the codecs for a bit: a current nightly of Safari scores 95 out of 106. That is very close and demands a new challenge. The maximum of 160 was always intended to be a moving goalpost. The original test suite did not test for all of the new HTML5 features and I always intended to keep adding tests until the specification is stable and all features are properly tested. That is exactly what happened: I’ve added a large number of new tests. If you compare the results of the original test with the new one, you may also notice some changes to the already existing tests. The original HTML5 test may award points for a feature, while the new test does not. We made some of the original tests stricter, so a browser must follow the specification more closely before points are awarded. We still don’t test all current features of HTML5, so expect more updates in the future. The maximum score of the new test has been raised to a total of 300 points. This does not include any points for codec support. If you support one or more codecs you can get additional bonus points, but the maximum score of 300 points is in reach of every browser regardless of which codecs you support. Safari takes the lead (for now) The release of Apple Safari 5 yesterday marks the first time a shipping browser scores higher than 200 points on the HTML5 test. To be exact, Safari scores a total of 208 points and 7 bonus points. That is quite a milestone because Safari 4 scored 129 points and Safari 3.2 which was released just a year and a half ago scored only 29 points. But Apple isn’t the only high performer on the HTML5 test. Given that both Safari and Google Chrome use the Webkit engine, it is no surprise that Chrome is the current runner-up.  Chrome 5 trails Safari just below the 200 on 197 points and 7 bonus points. A bit further away are Firefox 3.6 with 139 points and Opera 10.5 with 129 points. As usual, Internet Explorer 8 concludes the list of currently shipping browsers with a meagre 27 points. But the race hasn’t been decided yet So far we’ve only looked at shipping browsers, but most of the browser manufacturers also release nightly builds or beta versions. These are not ready for public consumption, but should give a good idea of how well the next release of each browser will function. We should not expect much difference from the Webkit based browser, because both Safari 5 and Chrome 5 were only recently released, but work on Mozilla Firefox 4 has been going on for quite a while. Expect a large jump from Firefox. Unsurprisingly Safari and Chrome still hold the lead when it comes to nightly builds. Safari keeps the advantage with 220 points over the 217 points of Chrome. Both nightlies were downloaded earlier today. As expected, Firefox makes a big leap with their nightly builds to a score of 176 points and we should see further improvements before Firefox 4 ships. And what about Internet Explorer? Internet Explorer is an interesting case. Microsoft has been using HTML5 as a buzzword like crazy. It seems like HTML5 stands for everything cool that is happening in the browser and if you have hardware accelerated rendering, just call it hardware accelerated HTML5. If you have a nice demo for SVG, just call it a HTML5 showcase. Microsoft even released their own HTML5 test suite in which th[...]



Microsoft talks big about HTML5 but shows very little

2010-03-16T20:14:33Z

I’ve just downloaded the first Internet Explorer 9 platform preview and tried out the demos. And frankly I am confused. They mention HTML5 all the time in the press release and on the IE blog. There are even five dedicated HTML5 demos… Imagine my surprise that after running the HTML5 test, Internet Explorer scores exactly the same as IE […]

I’ve just downloaded the first Internet Explorer 9 platform preview and tried out the demos. And frankly I am confused. They mention HTML5 all the time in the press release and on the IE blog. There are even five dedicated HTML5 demos… Imagine my surprise that after running the HTML5 test, Internet Explorer scores exactly the same as IE 8: a meagre 19 out of 160.

Even the demos they list as HTML5 are misleading. None of them actually deal with HTML5. First we have some CSS stuff like border radius and selectors. Then they give us DOM Events and DOM CSS. And finally the HTML5 T-shirt Designer which deals with SVG and events and not what the name suggests: HTML5. None of these tests are even served with the HTML5 doctype.

Okay, they did officially announce HTML5 video support, but where is the rest? I almost get the feeling they use the word HTML5 more like a fancy buzzword than actually supporting the specification. Time may prove me wrong, and they may actually implement stuff for future previews, but at the moment it is simply not yet here.




Ogg Theora: 3 – H.264: 3

2010-03-16T19:25:29Z

With the revelation that Internet Explorer 9 will support HTML5 video the score is tied. Opera and Mozilla are pushing for Ogg Theora. Safari and Internet Explorer will support H.264 and finally Chrome supports both.

With the revelation that Internet Explorer 9 will support HTML5 video the score is tied. Opera and Mozilla are pushing for Ogg Theora. Safari and Internet Explorer will support H.264 and finally Chrome supports both.




Microsoft intends to ship Internet Explorer 7 with Windows Phone 7

2010-03-16T11:08:26Z

Today Microsoft released the SDK for Windows Phone 7. It includes an emulator with a build of Internet Explorer. The useragent reported by the emulator is Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows Phone OS 7.0; Trident/3.1; IEMobile/7.0). I’ve also ran the CSS selector test and the HTML5 test and both report the same numbers as the desktop […]

Today Microsoft released the SDK for Windows Phone 7. It includes an emulator with a build of Internet Explorer. The useragent reported by the emulator is Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 7.0; Windows Phone OS 7.0; Trident/3.1; IEMobile/7.0). I’ve also ran the CSS selector test and the HTML5 test and both report the same numbers as the desktop version of IE7.

Unfortunately still no modern browser for Windows Phone 7 users, but at least it’s a big improvement over Windows Mobile 6.5 which shipped with Internet Explorer 6. Even though they could make a switch to a more modern engine like Webkit, I can understand their reluctance to use an externally developed engine. Still I’m quite curious why they didn’t ship their own standards compliant engine: the one used in Internet Explorer 8.  Anything less seems to indicate to me that phones are still a second class citizen within Microsoft itself.




The HTML5 Test

2010-04-14T20:39:17Z

Want to know how well your browser supports HTML5? Try the HTML5 test and find out. Points are awarded for every HTML5 feature that is supported. Added together these points give a total score between 0 and 160. Compare multiple browsers or different versions of the same browser and find out which vendor is slacking […]Want to know how well your browser supports HTML5? Try the HTML5 test and find out. Points are awarded for every HTML5 feature that is supported. Added together these points give a total score between 0 and 160. Compare multiple browsers or different versions of the same browser and find out which vendor is slacking off and which vendor is pushing the web forward. Apart from the total score, the test also shows exactly which feature is supported and groups the results into easy to compare sections. Ideal for developers wanting to keep track of the capabilities of the browsers they develop for. In fact, the whole test started out just as a small internal tool for doing just that. Of course there are some inherent problems with doing automated tests. The tests are only trying to detect if a feature is offered by the browser. It does not test the actual functionality of each feature. Also, the HTML5 standard and other related specifications are still in development. As the specification matures I hope to add new tests to test for these new features. The upper limit of 160 is a moving goalpost. Despite these shortcomings we hope that by quantifying the level of support users and web developers will get an idea of how hard the browser manufacturers work on improving their browsers and the web as a development platform. The results for desktop browsers Browser Version Score Internet Explorer 6 11 Internet Explorer 7 11 Internet Explorer 8 19 Internet Explorer 9 19 Firefox 3.0 31 Opera 9.6 – 10.1 38 Firefox 3.5 100 Firefox 3.6 101 Firefox 3.7a3pre/20100308 102 Opera 10.5 102 Safari 4.04 115 Chrome 4.0 118 Chrome 5.0.335.1 133 Chrome 5.0.342.2 137 Safari r55603 138 Chrome 5.0.371.0 142 Safari r55990 143 The results for phones OS Version Score Opera Mini 10 33 iPhone OS 2.0 37 Android 1.6 39 iPhone OS 2.1 – 2.2 45 Maemo microB 5 PR-1.1.1 55 Firefox Mobile 1.0 101 Palm WebOS 1.4 107 iPhone OS 3.0 110 iPhone OS 3.1 113 iPhone OS (iPad) 3.2 115 Android 2.0 – 2.1 118 iPhone OS 4.0 134 If you want to contribute results for browsers and phones not shown above, please leave a comment below. Please mention the exact version number of the browser and the platform you are testing on. [...]



Opera Mini for the iPhone

2010-02-10T14:17:16Z

Opera announced that they ported their Opera Mini browser to the iPhone and will be submitting it to the App Store. It isn’t the first third-party browser for the iPhone but all others were based on the standard Webkit component that is available in the SDK. Opera Mini is unique in this regard because it […]

Opera announced that they ported their Opera Mini browser to the iPhone and will be submitting it to the App Store. It isn’t the first third-party browser for the iPhone but all others were based on the standard Webkit component that is available in the SDK. Opera Mini is unique in this regard because it doesn’t use Webkit, but has its own renderer.

There is one potential problem though; Apple refuses to approve applications that have an interpreter or virtual machine that can run arbitrary code. This is exactly what you need if you have built your own renderer and want to render pages that contain JavaScript. The interesting part is that Opera did not port Opera Mobile, but Opera Mini. The latter doesn’t actually contain a full brown renderer.

It uses Opera’s servers to render the HTML pages and sends the result in a proprietary compressed binary format to the relatively light-weight client. This is exactly why Opera Mini works so well on all of those older mobile phones which don’t really have the speed to power a full brown renderer like their Opera Mobile product. Is it enough to bypass the SDK rules? Maybe, I’m quite curious how Apple is going to handle this.




95% of statistics are completely made up

2010-02-09T10:39:55Z

After Vimeo announced that they would be support the H.264 codec for the HTML5 video beta test, Silvia Pfeiffer published a completely ridiculous article in which she claims that Ogg Theora is a better choice because it has a reach of 95% while H.264 only has 25%. Given that only roughly 30% of all browsers […]

After Vimeo announced that they would be support the H.264 codec for the HTML5 video beta test, Silvia Pfeiffer published a completely ridiculous article in which she claims that Ogg Theora is a better choice because it has a reach of 95% while H.264 only has 25%.

Given that only roughly 30% of all browsers actually support HTML5 video in one form or another this claim is something of a mystery. She actually gets the 95% not from actual browser support by counting how many browsers are able to use the Java Cortado player as fallback. Well wouldn’t it be fair to do the same for H.264 and also count Silverlight and Flash for possible fallback. That way H.264 would be available in 147% percent of all browsers… Ehh…

The reality simply is that if we want use HTML5 video we need to use H.264 with a fallback mechanism or encode our content in both Ogg Theora and H.264. Only using Ogg is simply not an option for many devices.