I was reading this article, and the comments on that article, and I figured I could write something about the issue, but not directly related to the story: h.264 patents: How much do they really cost?
What I came up with, was this little piece of... I think I'll call it a though experiment:
This isn't FOR or AGAINST h.264 in any way, but a method that won't work, but is the only method that WOULD work:
We're all too timid, whether we be persons or organisations or corporations. The only way I see for making SURE free standards won out, is to get everyone to use free standards for a period of time. A week at the least, but a month would be good. An action against closed-source standards. Just imagine if we, the entire Web population, for ONE week used nothing but open standards. We surf YouTube with Mozilla or Opera without h.264-support, only OGG-support. When we list something on our sites, we upload it only in OGG-format. Or ODF for documents, or XCF (GIMP's native format I believe, and open source?) for pictures. Not a single Flash-animation, not a single plugin with closed-source aspects. We don't use ANY patent-encumbered technology AT ALL for at least a week. This would show the governments that anything can be done free, as in speech and beer, and patents on non-physical ideas is a disaster. You have other laws for that, like trademark and copyright which have their own pitfalls, but nonetheless. It will show the corporations that they should INNOVATE rather than HINDER. It would cut down the costs of the legal system, because there would be no more need for unending battles over IDEAS. It would benefit organisations because they could get rid of the lawyers making sure they comply with patents, and they could focus on what they really do, like WHO, UNESCO, Doctors Without Borders, Red Cross, etc. These organisations use the Web extensively, and they use multimedia like pictures, video and documents to get their message across. For individuals, the benefits would be that you no longer have to worry if your video of Aunt Selma's wedding will even be playable in a standard DVD-player. (I read an article long time ago about a man that had this situation. He could do nothing with the video because of software patents. He could barely even PLAY it, and upon reading the EULA of the camera he used, he saw that the codec used actually had a provision saying that all recordings made with the camera was copyrighted to the company owning the codec. And that's even BEFORE it was checked for copyrighted material such as a re-enactment of The Pelican Brief, or the use of Metallica's "St. Anger" as a soundtrack). As individuals, we would be free of that fear. Other benefits are the obvious ones: ANYONE, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME CAN ENJOY, USE AND EDIT EVERYTHING THAT'S AVAILABLE ONLINE OR IN THEIR HOME!! (Of course, copyright and trademark-issues aside, but that's not this discussion)
As I said, this method will never work, but it's also the only method I can think of that is GUARANTEED to work. It won't work because people have subjective preferences on how things should function. That's why we have so many "standards". Just take GIMP as an example. I have never before or later seen a photo-editing program support so many filetypes. And each filetype has it quirks. Some support this feature but not this, this filetype can be read by "everyone", but not this, even if it's superior in features and quality/compression.
This method will "NEVER" (I'm no prophet, so maybe, just MAYBE, sometime down the line it will be a fact, but I don't see it happening in my lifetime, of which I have apx 50 years left) work. Too bad really. There are so many talented people out there that would benefit from open standards on the web. There is also so many "clumsy"/uneducated computer users out there that would benefit from open standards. As a "power-user" of computers, I'm the go-to-guy for almost anything that's wrong with my family's and friends' computers. If everything was open standards, and computers were shipped with installed codecs for these standards, so much of my grief over working with closed-source would go away. Especially the closed-source I call HELL: Windows 7. I liked it eventually, but now I see it as Hell because it's dumbed down so much you can't really use it. Or, *I* can't use it is probably a better statement. I like to tweak my system, or use it as I see fit. With Windows 7, I can't. I can't install certain programs because they're unsafe somehow. One program I tried to install on a family member's computer was deemed unsafe. So unsafe in fact, that I wasn't even allowed to unpack it or scan it for virus or other malware, let alone install it. Windows 7 wouldn't allow me. And I've found nothing online about how to make it install. Compared to an astonishing open-source experience I have, where I found a GStreamer bug, and apx 18 hours later a fix was pushed out, this is a problem I expect others to have had too, and Windows 7 has been out since October. It seems it was an issue in Vista too for that matter, and that's been out several years. Still, no solution to the problem.
To end this rant: Yes, I was comparing OS to multimedia-codecs, and that isn't EXACTLY the same, but basically I was comparing closed-source vs open-source, and I feel that open-source won hands-down, leaving closed-source choking on the dust.