Use of Ogg formats in HTML5

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The HTML5 draft specification specifies new video and audio elements for embedding video and audio in HTML documents, which allow straightforward embedding. Formerly, the specification recommended ('should') support for Theora video and Vorbis audio encapsulated in Ogg containers. This requirement was specified to allow the easier distribution of rich media over the internet by using an open standard. However, the decision to require this specific codec led to opposition by Apple Inc., the developer of the Safari browser, citing uncertainty about potential patents and lack of hardware support.



In order to not impose dependence on proprietary technology for web users (both consumers and publishers), web content must be available through freely implementable, royalty free open standards. As multimedia is already mainstream on the web, this has been a concern to developers of HTML 5, given the current use of non-interoperable ad hoc embedding methods, proprietary data formats and dependence on proprietary browser plugins.

Freely implementable, royalty free open formats for video and audio (which the Ogg formats are) can:

  • have the potential for universal acceptance, creating a "baseline format" that everyone is both able and permitted to use without restrictions (legal, technical, what so ever).
  • enable browsers to handle playback. Straight-forward embedding with HTML5 will facilitate this.
  • keep web content out of "plugin prison". This is a consequence of the above. Plugin prison refers both to the limitations of existing browser plugins and the dependence on them:
    • The format will be specified, not the plugin, so one can for example take advantage of the best playback implementation on a given platform, instead of depending on a commercial third party to support your platform.
    • Dependence on specific proprietary software to access data (such as encode, transfer, decode) goes against principles like "own your data" and "control your computing", which arguably applies not only to publishers, but also consumers wanting to access it.
  • lower the bar for amateur publishing. Free software encoders and straight-forward HTML5 embedding will require less effort and money than becoming an actionscript programmer.

CTO at Opera Software, Håkon Wium Lie explained in a Google tech talk entitled "The <video> element" the proposal of Theora as the video codec for HTML5:[1]

I believe very strongly, that we need to agree on some kind of baseline video format if [the video element] is going to succeed. [...] We want a freely implementable open standard to hold the content we put out. That's why we developed the PNG image format. [...] PNG [...] came late to the party. Therefore I think it's important that from the beginning we think about this.

After the presentation, Lie was asked whether Opera will use frameworks like QuickTime and DirectShow to support other formats than Ogg:

My opinion is that browsers shouldn't support other codecs, at least not in the beginning, until we have established a baseline format. [...] We don't want to contaminate <video> with other formats.


Opera Software and Mozilla have been advocates for including the Ogg formats into the HTML standard.[2] Support has been available in experimental builds of Opera 9.5 since 2007,[3] and has been announced to be supported in Opera 10.50 (to be released in 2010).[4] Gecko 1.9.1 (browsers based on this engine include Mozilla Firefox 3.5 and SeaMonkey 2.0[5]), released on June 30, 2009, was the first non-experimental layout engine to support Ogg formats. Google Chrome included support in their 3.0 release (September 2009)[6], along with support for the patent-encumbered H.264, citing performance concerns.[7]

On December 23, 2009, current Linux builds of Mozilla Firefox 3.5[8] and Chrome 4.0.266[9] support audio Ogg playback only through Alsa sound system.


On October 17, 2007, the World Wide Web Consortium encouraged interested people to take part in a "Video on the Web Workshop", held on December 12, 2007 for two days.[10] A number of global companies were involved, submitting position papers.[11] Among them, Nokia's paper[12] states that "a W3C-led standardization of a 'free' codec, or the active endorsement of proprietary technology such as Ogg … by W3C, is, in our opinion, not helpful." Ogg's codecs are licensed under the BSD open source license, and are therefore not proprietary in any accepted sense of the word. Apple Computer have also opposed the inclusion of Ogg formats in the HTML standard on the grounds that H.264 performs better and is already more widely supported, citing patents and the lack of precedents of "Placing requirements on format support", even at the "SHOULD" level, in HTML specifications.[13]

In response to such criticism, WHATWG has cited concerns over the Ogg formats still being within patent lifetime and thus vulnerable to unknown patents.[14] Such submarine patents may also exist for non-free formats like MP3 and H.264. Also, the AVC patent licensing policy is subject to change in a not-yet-clear manner.[15]

HTML5 turns neutral

On December 10, 2007, the HTML 5 specification was updated[16], replacing the reference to concrete formats:

User agents should support Ogg Theora video and Ogg Vorbis audio, as well as the Ogg container format.

with a placeholder:[17]

It would be helpful for interoperability if all browsers could support the same codecs. However, there are no known codecs that satisfy all the current players: we need a codec that is known to not require per-unit or per-distributor licensing, that is compatible with the open source development model, that is of sufficient quality as to be usable, and that is not an additional submarine patent risk for large companies. This is an ongoing issue and this section will be updated once more information is available.[18]

The removal of the Ogg formats from the specification has been criticized by some Web developers.[19][20][21] A follow-up discussion also occurred on the W3C questions and answers blog.[22]


  1. "Håkon Wium Lie on the video element in HTML 5". Google Video. 2007-03-29. Retrieved 2009-02-22. 
  2. "Mozilla, Opera Want to Make Video on the Web Easier". PC World. 2007-12-07.,140408-pg,1/article.html. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  3. "Opera release on Labs - Opera Developer Community". 2007-11-07. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  4. Jägenstedt, Philip (2009-12-31). "(re-)Introducing <video> - Official blog for Core developers at Opera". Opera. Retrieved 2010-01-02. 
  5. Kaiser, Robert (2009-10-28), SeaMonkey 2.0 - What's New in SeaMonkey 2.0,,, retrieved 2009-10-31 
  6. Laforge, Anthony (Sep 15, 2009). "Google Chrome after a year: Sporting a new stable release". Google. Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  7. Fette, Ian (May 29, 2009). "whatwg MPEG-1 subset proposal for HTML5 video codec". WHATWG. Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  8. "Linux Firefox audio media backend configuration". Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  9. "Linux Chromium audio media backend source code". Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  10. "W3C Video on the Web Workshop". Retrieved 2008-06-14. 
  11. "Workshop Papers". W3C. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  12. Wenger, Stephan (28 November 2007). "Web Architecture and Codec Considerations for Audio-Visual Services". W3C Workshop on Video on the Web, December 12–13, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-25. 
  13. Stachowiak, Maciej (21 March 2007). "[whatwg] Codecs (was Re: Apple Proposal for Timed Media Elements)". whatwg mailing list mailing list. Retrieved 2008-02-25. 
  14. Hickson, Ian (11 December). "Re: [whatwg] Removal of Ogg is *preposterous*". whatwg mailing list mailing list. Retrieved 2008-02-25. 
  16. Hickson, Ian (10 December 2007). "[whatwg] Video codec requirements changed". whatwg mailing list mailing list. Retrieved 2008-02-25. 
  17. "(X)HTML5 Tracking". Retrieved 2009-06-23. 
  18. "[whatwg] Removal of Ogg is *preposterous*". WHATWG mailing list. 11 December. Retrieved 2009-08-25. 
  19. "The Attack Against Ogg Theora or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Proprietary Web". Metavid. 11 December 2007. Archived from the original on 23 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  20. "". 2007-12-11. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  21. "Abbadingo » Blog » Removal of Ogg Vorbis and Theora from HTML 5: an outrageous disaster". 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2009-06-30. 
  22. Connolly, Dan (December 18, 2007). "When will HTML 5 support <video>? Sooner if you help". W3C. Retrieved 2009-06-23. 

External links

Ogg hosting websites using HTML5

These websites host user uploaded multimedia in Ogg formats and offers embedding at least with the use of audio or video elements:

Personal tools

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