Monthly Archive for May, 2010

What WebM means for web video

Today Google launched WebM (project page), a royalty-free video format consisting of the WebM container (a “subset of the Matroska multimedia container format”), the VP8 video codec (acquired by Google when it purchased On2 Technologies), and Xiph.Org Foundation‘s Vorbis audio codec. Thanks to Google’s many WebM-related partnerships with hardware and software companies, we may finally have a codec that breaks through the codec logjam. Here’s why:
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Apple investigation: tackling the wrong problem

Earlier this week, the New York Post reported that the DoJ and FTC are deciding who will investigate Apple for its developer agreement changes, which mandate that “Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript”. Despite my previous interest in App Store approvals, this particular piece of news did not interest me at all. I’ll tell you why: While this antitrust investigation may seem like a great way to increase competition in the mobile app space, it does nothing to solve the root of the problem — that anti-circumvention laws effectively allow Apple to control which applications are legally allowed to run on the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, blocking applications it believes will compete with Apple’s or its partner’s products.

Never before has such a highly-visible platform denied software developers the right to provide their software to the platform’s users. Windows and Mac OS do not prevent users from running the software of their choice, though they may warn the user that the software is not trusted. Ultimately, the choice remains in the user’s hands, unlike it is with the App Store, where the choice remains mostly in Apple’s hands. With the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, users are not even permitted to obtain software from sources outside the App Store. Running applications of the user’s choice is called jailbreaking and is effectively illegal in countries with anti-circumvention laws (like the US DMCA’s Section 103) because running such applications requires the user to disable Apple’s (weak) restriction mechanisms.

The best way for governments to legislate against the anti-competitive practices of Apple and other monopolistic gatekeepers is to remove the defective legislation that allowed it in the first place. Only when circumvention is permitted, allowing users to install the applications on their choice and not just the ones Apple says they can, will true competition be possible. I’ve encouraged Canada to do so and I hope other governments will follow suit.