Rock & A Hard Place: Will Google Dropping H.264 Lead To Antitrust Questions?

from the of-course-it-will dept

There was a lot of attention paid to the news that Google was going to drop H.264 support for Chrome. The reasoning makes perfect sense. H.264 is a proprietary standard, run by MPEG-LA, a group that has been quite aggressive at times on the patent front, and which could eventually turn around and charge websites for using it (right now it charges for hardware, but lets websites use it royalty free, and has promised to keep it that way until at least 2015). Getting locked into proprietary standards is bad, so getting away from those standards is good. I'm all for it, especially given MPEG-LA's views on patents. However, I wonder how long it will be until someone claims that this move shows that Google is violating antitrust laws. After all, part of doing this is to push its own WebM format forward.

Of course, this demonstrates the difficult position that Google is put in on this subject. Lots of folks keep trying to play gotcha with Google pushing its own solutions. That's what some of the various antitrust investigations have been about. But when pushing its own solutions means getting away from proprietary, locked down standards, that seems like it can only be a good thing for consumers. And, really, shouldn't the determination of any sort of antitrust argument be about the impact on the overall market?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 6:17pm

    Antitrust laws have always confused me, because the line between illegal activities and smart business practices seems so arbitrary. At what point do in-house solutions to problems become antitrust violations?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Hugh Mann (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:01pm

      Re:

      When they become successful.

      HM

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 1:35am

      Re:

      As I understand it, it's when they start to leverage their existing monopolies to gain traction in another market. For example - Microsoft. Virtual monopoly on operating systems? Fine. Including IE in every copy of the OS so that the majority of new customers don't even bother looking for an alternative and so Netscape has no new customers? Bad - antitrust.

      What confuses me is how a website like Google can be guilty of any kind of antitrust, since every single one of their products is completely optional. Unlike Windows, where you're stuck once you depend on Windows applications, there's nothing to stop people using alternatives to Google's products this very second.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 5:09am

        Re: Re:

        I have a problem, a big problem, with the browser example. Apple forces Safari on it's users, Linux forces Firefox on it's users. Why is that not anti-trust? If Microsoft said you can't install any other browser, then it would be a problem. Until all operating systems are forced to give a choice, it's just pointless Microsoft bashing.

        Netscape died not because of Microsoft but because of AOL. The browser sucked after AOL bought it.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 5:32am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Linux forces Firefox on it's users."

          LOL whut?

          "Why is that not anti-trust?"

          The problem is that when MS did it, they did so when it was losing the browser wars, and in doing so removed the competition. They leveraged their monopoly in an unfair way to gain traction in a different market - the textbook definition of anti-trust.

          Besides, to commit an anti-trust violation, you have to be a monopoly. Last time I checked, neither Apple nor Linux are in a monopoly position.

          "If Microsoft said you can't install any other browser, then it would be a problem."

          They deliberately made it nigh-on impossible for the average user to remove the program from the OS, whereas that's a trivial matter in most other OSes. That counts, IMHO.

          "Netscape died not because of Microsoft but because of AOL. The browser sucked after AOL bought it."

          Perhaps, but it's clear that packaging IE with Windows 98 (which happened the same year) had a clear impact. If you doubt that, you never had the pleasure of trying to convince people that the blue e icon is not the only way to get online...

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 5:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Microsoft has never had a monopoly.

            It is often convenient for people (the government included) to call something a monopoly even when it is not actually the case.

            MS didn't win the "browser war" by making it part of the OS, they won it by making a better browser. At the time when they included it with the OS most OEMs where including at least 1 other browser. A new HP computer in 1998 came with IE, Netscape, the AOL browser, and an HP branded browser.

            I certainly don't agree with everything Microsoft has ever done but I think they are often used as a scapegoat for the failure of inferior products.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 6:03am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Microsoft has never had a monopoly."

              Depends on your definition of "monopoly" (oligopoly might be a better fit, but it's much less familiar to most people). They controlled well over 90% of the desktop market and faced no serious competition until the rise of Linux and iMacs. That's a functional monopoly, even if it doesn't fit your chosen definition.

              "MS didn't win the "browser war" by making it part of the OS, they won it by making a better browser."

              A lot of people would definitely disagree with that one. Besides, you also have to remember that the inclusion of IE with the OS had an unfortunate side-effect of getting lazy web developers to program for IE6 and its non-standards approach to web code. People would often assume that something was "wrong" with Netscape, etc. when they failed to render some pages, when in fact it was the developers making sure it wouldn't render anywhere else... The product was fine in many ways, but MS's tactics made them appear otherwise (a typical move for them).

              "At the time when they included it with the OS most OEMs where including at least 1 other browser"

              Certainly not how I remember it for many OEMs, but I could be wrong. Besides, we're talking about mid-98 onwards since that's when Windows 98 (the OS in question) was released. It would have taken a year or so for the effects we're discussing to be seen.

              "I certainly don't agree with everything Microsoft has ever done but I think they are often used as a scapegoat for the failure of inferior products."

              IMHO, 90% of what MS has ever produced has been an inferior product. It's only their market monopoly that's enabled them to stay solvent in many areas.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                icon
                Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 6:12am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                If we're talking about the Win98 times, shouldn't you be talking about IE 5 or 4? They were better then Netscape at the time.

                "IMHO, 90% of what MS has ever produced has been an inferior product."

                In your opinion. In my opinion Linux is an inferior product, but my criteria for inferior is different from yours. I've already gone into it (and it is just an opinion), so let's not waste space arguing over MS vs Linux please.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  icon
                  PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 7:12am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  "If we're talking about the Win98 times, shouldn't you be talking about IE 5 or 4?"

                  Those suffered the same issues, I mentioned IE6 because it was around longer and its problems still affect the marketplace today (e.g. legacy apps stopping companies from switching to an alternative browser). Talking about IE5 instead of 6 doesn't change the nature of the fundamental problems, which started with IE4's integration into Windows 98.

                  "In your opinion"

                  That's why I said IMHO. In My Humble Opinion.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                icon
                Spectere (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 6:50am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Besides, you also have to remember that the inclusion of IE with the OS had an unfortunate side-effect of getting lazy web developers to program for IE6 and its non-standards approach to web code. People would often assume that something was "wrong" with Netscape, etc. when they failed to render some pages, when in fact it was the developers making sure it wouldn't render anywhere else...


                Have you ever used Netscape 3 and 4? Their support for W3C standards was horrendous. Like it or not, IE 4 and 5 easily trumped Netscape when it came to compliance in all aspects. Netscape was also about as stable as a tower of empty beer cans in a hurricane. Most of the CSS workarounds that web designers had to put in to support Netscape 4 were primarily to keep the browser from crashing. The Mozilla project actually dumped the Netscape source code and basically started over because it was such a mess.

                The real issue with Internet Explorer is that it simply didn't evolve much beyond where IE 6 took it. IE 6 was pretty good when it was released (remember, standards really weren't followed by anybody at that point in time), but the rendering engine stayed in that state through its time and through IE 7's time.

                Fortunately for web designers, IE 9 is shaping up to be a pretty awesome browser. The only question at this point is whether Microsoft will keep up the momentum.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  icon
                  PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 7:23am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  I admit I didn't get online properly until around 1997 (the high cost of access putting me and many others outside the US off in the early days), so I never used Netscape 3 and I've never been a web designer so can't really comment.

                  Even so, the main point isn't that IE was uniquely non-compliant. It's that its market dominance allowed people to be lazy and create sites that "worked" in IE and "didn't work" in other browsers (in the eyes of end users, at least). Not a good thing, and that definitely stunted movement away from IE for many years.

                  I do agree that it's a great time to be browsing, though. I prefer Chrome and Firefox but I've been testing IE9 and I'm most happy with what I see. I won't use it as a default myself (can't even if I wanted to as I don't use Windows at home), but it's a quantum leap from IE6.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  •  
                    identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:36am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Even so, the main point isn't that IE was uniquely non-compliant. It's that its market dominance allowed people to be lazy and create sites that "worked" in IE and "didn't work" in other browsers (in the eyes of end users, at least). Not a good thing, and that definitely stunted movement away from IE for many years.

                    Well, as a developer who was making websites in 1998, your view that people were lazy and that it was a bad thing to have the majority of people using 1 browser couldn't be more wrong. I would even go so far as to argue that the evolution of the web would have been greatly hampered by a more diverse use of browsers.

                    It was and to some degree still is a very complex task to build and maintain a good, highly functional website. In 1998 there was no jQuery, very few HTML validators, a complete void of quality documentation about browsers, and very little cross browser support built into back-end web technologies.

                    To a non-developer, it may appear that people "took the easy way out" in choosing to develop for one browser, specifically, but the reality is that most web technology was in its infancy and much of it still remains there. Once developers could make a good site that a majority of people could access and operate, that was when business on the web actually began. Without commerce the web wouldn't be what it is today and without some kind of consistent use and experience it is unlikely that businesses could have afforded to begin selling merchandise on the web.

                    In retrospect, it seems easy to judge people for their mistakes or poor choices and Bill Gates has never come off as a "swell do-gooder." But in the scheme of things, I don't think that Microsoft deserved the punishment it received over IE; I think they may have done other things that were more clearly illegal, but this seems to be one of those Al Capone / tax things.

                     

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    •  
                      identicon
                      Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 11:20am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      Without commerce the web wouldn't be what it is today and without some kind of consistent use


                      Maybe it would turned out to be better.

                       

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    •  
                      icon
                      PaulT (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 12:06am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      I admit that "lazy" might have been the wrong word to use, but even you admit that it was basically convenience that led people to favour IE over other browsers. The lack of tools to make it easy for you isn't an excuse. This is a decision that has unfortunate consequences to this day.

                      Because IE became a defacto standard, this hampered adoption of alternative browsers, even though they were far superior, especially in the latter days of IE6 - a buggy atrocity whose flaws were directly responsible for many of the more prevalent worms and viruses, especially since it could not be removed from XP. It's sheer good fortune that competition finally arrived in the form of Firefox, or else MS would have made good on their former promise that no standalone version of IE would be released and you'd have to upgrade Windows to get a modern browser...

                       

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      •  
                        identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2011 @ 1:29pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        Yes but my point was that fewer browsers actually translated into wider adoption.

                        but even you admit that it was basically convenience that led people to favour IE over other browsers

                        Actually, I didn't say that. I may not have made it clear in the post above but it wasn't convenience that made developers choose one browser over another, it was possibility. There were real actual limitations to the browsers that made it nearly impossible to create 1 site that worked on 2 browsers. Many dial-up ISPs used proxy servers to cache content for their users and would ignore browser headers keeping only 1 version of the content. Some web servers couldn't properly distinguish between different browsers, and some back-end programing languages had no built in functions to determine the clients browser.

                        This stuff isn't trivial, most of it still doesn't work perfectly but in 1998 it was a horrendous mess. I'm not trying to be mean, I just think hindsight is 20/20 and you are making a lot of assumptions which are provably false. You as much as admitted that you know nothing about the technology, how can you judge peoples choices without understanding the underlying reasons for those choices?

                        this hampered adoption of alternative browsers, even though they were far superior

                        As they love to say, citation needed. I actually had 3 different browsers in 1998 and IE was an order of magnitude better (both 4.0 and 5.5).

                        As for IE 6, I agree it was a buggy piece of crap; but that is irrelevant because we are talking about the Microsoft anti-trust suit which came YEARS before the release of IE6.

                         

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        •  
                          icon
                          PaulT (profile), Jan 16th, 2011 @ 5:27am

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          "Yes but my point was that fewer browsers actually translated into wider adoption."

                          Fewer perhaps, but making the choice basically one browser with the majority of people being ignorant that they had a choice? That's too far.

                          "how can you judge peoples choices without understanding the underlying reasons for those choices?"

                          Sure, perhaps I'm being unfair but in my mind it's no more excusable than PC manufacturers agreeing to a situation where it's virtually impossible to buy a PC from a major retailer without paying the Windows tax. It may have been both easier and opened up new markets at the same time, but the long-term consequences have been horrible.

                          "As they love to say, citation needed"

                          I worded it badly. I was referring to later on when IE6 was so ingrained in the mainstream mind that convincing people to even try Firefox or opera was a major hurdle, despite them being far superior. At the time of IE6's release, it may indeed have been the better product. That's no reason to create a monopoly, however, and its a truism that quickly changed.

                           

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:23am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  You need to consider that Netscape also had the deck stacked against it on Windows. Attempts were made to deliberately create many of the problems you described (although not the technical support) by Microsoft.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  •  
                    identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2011 @ 1:32pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    People love to believe this but it simply isn't true.

                    Microsoft did make special code in the operating system that only IE could access but it was never shown that they made any code design to specifically hamper another product.

                    Netscape code was so bad that many of the original engineers quit and formed Mozilla, I'm pretty sure you can't blame Microsoft for that.

                     

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:21am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              MS didn't win the "browser war" by making it part of the OS, they won it by making a better browser. That depends on if you consider deliberately making competitor's browsers not work properly on your OS, "making a better browser."

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 5:53am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "LOL whut?"

            Every single Linux install I've every seen comes with Firefox built in.

            "Besides, to commit an anti-trust violation, you have to be a monopoly"

            So Microsoft is big and that makes it wrong to do the same exact thing everyone else is doing?

            "They deliberately made it nigh-on impossible for the average user to remove the program from the OS, whereas that's a trivial matter in most other OSes"

            For you maybe, but I have no idea how to remove Firefox from Linux. I only have a vague idea for Mac, and that assumes that the click and drag works for something built in.

            "but it's clear that packaging IE with Windows 98 (which happened the same year) had a clear impact."

            Windows 98 came out at the same time the big Internet push was happening. It's only natural for a browser to come pre-installed. If Windows killed Netscape, how come Firefox is still alive? How come Firefox has been taking it's place in the market? Does it really count as anti-trust if they're getting their asses handed to them?

            "If you doubt that, you never had the pleasure of trying to convince people that the blue e icon is not the only way to get online"

            No, can't say that I have. I have had to convince people to not use other browsers. Our software only works in IE (nothing else will do pass threw authentication) and I have to spend hours explaining to people that Firefox/Safari/Chrome won't work.

            There are so many other places that we can complain about Microsoft's anti-trust actions (and Microsoft in general), the browser just isn't one of them in my opinion.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              senshikaze (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 6:12am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              hi, me again:
              every copy of linux does not come with firefox "built-in". many of them come with it "preinstalled." and some don't. Every linux distro allows you to remove any userland program you want, including the preinstalled browser(s).

              Preinstalled != built-in

              IE, on the other hand, is nigh unto impossible to remove completely, ergo: built-in.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 7:07am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Every single Linux install I've every seen comes with Firefox built in."

              It's also an option you get when installing packages to remove it or add another browser. It's not the default on every distro - it's not even installed on some, and many have multiple browsers installed by default (e.g. every KDE distro has Konquerer).

              That's a very different situation from "here's IE, like it or not, and you can't remove it".

              "For you maybe, but I have no idea how to remove Firefox from Linux"

              In a modern distro, go to the add/remove programs section, software installer or whatever it has, find Firefox and click remove or uninstall. You can add other browsers just as easily from the same window.

              If you have to resort to the command line, I believe the command would be "sudo apt-get remove mozilla-firefox" on a Debian system.

              Ignorance doesn't mean it can't be easily done.

              "Windows 98 came out at the same time the big Internet push was happening."

              That's the entire problem. A lot of end users don't realise they have a choice in OS, let alone browser. Add that to the fact that most people at that time were buying their first computer and had no training, they were conditioned to assume that IE was the internet, and so didn't try the competition. Many didn't even realise there was a choice, hence the competition suffered.

              "No, can't say that I have."

              You're a lucky, lucky man.

              Besides, that problem I referred to with lazy coders making things IE-only? Your problem wouldn't be a problem if MS's monopoly didn't exist, or if they had decided to be standards compliant rather than embedding the browser in the OS to grab marketshare...

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:41am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                No browser ever built has been "standards compliant."

                The standards are basically written in a way which leaves a lot of room for interpretation. I don't want to come across as a Microsoft apologist but they are not the "ultimate evil" they are often made out to be.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  icon
                  Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 1:54pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Perhaps... but if you have ever tried to develop a cross-browser website, there can be absolutely no doubt that Firefox/Safari/Chrome/Opera are all way way WAY closer to compliance than old versions of IE (new ones have gotten a lot better)

                  You don't see many sites having to add browser detection or backup CSS styles to accommodate Safari or Chrome (and if you do, it's usually for one or two small inconsistencies) - whereas nearly every professional website in existence includes tonnes of backup code (some of it quite hacky) that is all there specifically to make it work in IE5/6.

                  Perhaps they are not the "ultimate evil", but if you have ever had to develop a truly cross-platform modern website, you would understand where all the hostility comes from. Adding IE6 compliance to a complex HTML/CSS layout can literally double your development time.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  icon
                  PaulT (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 12:16am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Not 100% compliant perhaps, but some people really went over the line when coding for IE. Instead of creating a site that might render differently in another browser, some sites and applications were coded in such a way that they could not be loaded at all in any other browser. Given MS's history, I doubt this was an accidental move.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  •  
                    identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2011 @ 1:38pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    That had nothing to do with Microsoft, they aren't responsible for the code on other peoples websites.

                    There were a lot of sites that loaded on IE and IE only back in the day but that was usually because someone used IE specific HTML or embedded objects. However, there were also many sites "optimized for Netscape" that didn't display at all in IE or simply showed a page saying you need to download Netscape. Neither of those issues were because of "moves" made by Netscape or Microsoft. They had both implemented functionality that went beyond the standard and they both did it differently.

                     

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                icon
                kirillian (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:59am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                As an IT person, I could see this kind of vehemence against IE as yes, I've had to explain that IE isn't the only browser to some people, but...for programmers, things may look a little differently.

                I have to design end to end solutions for my company's customers. I don't get the option to change the browser that end users are using. Thus my hatred for a browser is solely based off of how easy or difficult it is for me to implement a solution that works for the user's situation and my own personal like or dislike for browsing in a browser.

                Since we deliver video through flash currently, I have developed a like for the stability that IE8 has provided compared to firefox and chrome. It crashes far less in our use-cases than the other browsers and since stability is extremely important to us, it is welcome. Personally, for my own browsing, I prefer chrome. I hate firefox currently because of its slow feel and IE has the same sluggish feeling compared with chrome.

                So, despite my technical background, I actually do have a soft-spot for IE despite its shortcomings. Nonetheless, in situations where I am supporting someone who is struggling with some IE only problem, I am frustrated to no end that they have IE and IE only (God forbid that you can install another browser?!?!?).

                Regarding your narrative on the history of browser wars, I am fairly certain that you are mis-remembering your history. As has been addressed by AC and chrono above, IE actually was a jump ahead of the competition in its day, even as it locked developers in over time. Similarly, Flash has enabled similar jumps in video technology even if it locks its users in over time. Proprietary technology sometimes is the ONLY way to solve a particular problem at a given point in time. Once you have a solution, the inertia to continue using that solution is quite strong, hence lock-in. Even without a company forcing and encouraging lock-in, it happens from sheer familiarity and expertise with the technology.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  icon
                  PaulT (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 12:27am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  IE8 is a totally different beast compared to IE4 - 6. Besides, some people are still using IE6 & 7 - those version are not as easy to code for, I'll bet.

                  "Proprietary technology sometimes is the ONLY way to solve a particular problem at a given point in time."

                  Perhaps, but here's my problem. Adoption of alternative operating systems has been stunted partly by this type of move. People try a Mac or Linux, see that a site isn't loading properly and they blame the new OS. It doesn't occur to them that MS is the problem because it "works properly" in IE/Windows. So, there's a lock-in, which is exactly the kind of anti-trust move that's being criticised.

                  Flash is less of an issue because it's a) cross-platform (a site shows the same in my Linux install as it does in XP/IE) and b) it was mainly adopted due to its usefulness, not because it was forced on people by an OS manufacturer.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  •  
                    identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2011 @ 1:50pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    People try a Mac or Linux, see that a site isn't loading properly and they blame the new OS.

                    But that has nothing to do with Microsoft, that is just human nature.

                    Adoption of alternative operating systems has been stunted partly by this type of move.

                    You keep talking about moves ... Are you suggesting that Microsoft has some type of mind control device that allows them to control peoples decisions. Also, I've worked a computer support desk before ... you want to know what is stopping the adoption of alternative operating systems? They suck. Don't get me wrong, they are more secure, often more flexible, may have better code, and may be faster. But some 50 year old woman (like my mother) who just wants to browse her e-mail has no interest learning a new system and certainly not one as complex as most Linux distros. People don't want to cobble together their own sound card drivers; they don't want to learn the technical details of print spooling just so they can make a picture of their grandkids come out of the "ink box."

                    Perhaps if my mother bought a computer from the manufacturer that had Ubuntu installed she would be OK with it, but I'm guessing I would be getting a lot of calls to help find "the start button." Face it, Microsoft had two things going for it: first mover advantage and a superior product (at the time). In many fields that can give market dominance to a company for decades, we are probably lucky that people are moving away from Windows as fast as they are rather than the other way around.

                     

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    •  
                      icon
                      senshikaze (profile), Jan 15th, 2011 @ 2:23pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      "But that has nothing to do with Microsoft, that is just human nature."

                      see: people are stupid f*cks.

                      carry on.

                       

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    •  
                      icon
                      PaulT (profile), Jan 16th, 2011 @ 5:29am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      Christ, more outdated bullshit from somebody who doesn't know anything...

                      "People don't want to cobble together their own sound card drivers"

                      Me neither... and I've NEVER had to in 8 years of using Linux. There's not a single piece of hardware in my last 3 installs that wasn't pre-installed out of the box. You could not say even that with a Windows install, if you used the retail disk instead of your pre-configured OEM install (and it's very unfair to compare a generic install to a pre-configured OEM).

                      "they don't want to learn the technical details of print spooling just so they can make a picture of their grandkids come out of the "ink box.""

                      I say that anybody who says they have to do this on Linux is lying out of their ass. Care to refute this?

                      "Don't get me wrong, they are more secure, often more flexible, may have better code, and may be faster. "

                      So they're superior in every way, but people are too frigging ignorant to accept change? Yeah, you're right unfortunately, but that has nothing to do with flaws in Linux, and has a lot to do with the type of misinformation you're peddling.

                      "I'm guessing I would be getting a lot of calls to help find "the start button.""

                      So, because she's been trained to use one kind of system, she can never move to different kind of system - even if it's superior - because she's stuck with the original training? that makes her ignorant, and that's not Linux's fault.

                      "first mover advantage"

                      Hardly.

                       

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      •  
                        identicon
                        Anonymous Coward, Jan 17th, 2011 @ 5:48am

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        misinformation you're peddling

                        The only person who has been consistently wrong in this forum is you. I'm not "peddling misinformation" as you so kindly put it, simply stating that your original argument is wrong. In a nutshell you have said that Microsoft is a huge evil entity with nefarious intentions who has done everything within their power (apparently including mind control) to destroy "the obviously superior" Linux.

                        Me neither... and I've NEVER had to in 8 years of using Linux

                        This has clearly gotten off track but the original discussion was around Microsoft being sued for anti-trust (as it relates to the Google case). I get that you haven't had the problems I describe above in the last 8 years; unfortunately, we are talking about 13 years ago ... when everything I said above was actually happening.

                        more outdated bullshit from somebody who doesn't know anything

                        I find this especially humorous seeing as I actually program computers and administer both Linux and Windows servers.

                        If you want to press restart on this conversation and talk about Windows vs. Linux right now we can do that ... but this conversation was about history, a history you are obviously ignorant of.

                         

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Jason, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 7:23am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "Every single Linux install I've every seen comes with Firefox built in."

              So then you're not familiar with Debian, Fedora, RedHat, or CentOS??

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Jason, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 7:47am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              "There are so many other places that we can complain about Microsoft's anti-trust actions (and Microsoft in general), the browser just isn't one of them in my opinion."

              You do realize that you probably cite an example that directly refutes this claim in the immediately preceding paragraph:

              "Our software only works in IE (nothing else will do pass threw authentication) and I have to spend hours explaining to people that Firefox/Safari/Chrome won't work."

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:39am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Any other browser could do pass through authentication ... they have chosen not to as they see it as a security risk.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Jason, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 11:19am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Thanks, AC, I considered this possibility, too. It may only be my own craving for irony, but I've got a hunch there's an authentication tool with unnecessarily proprietary components that only work with IE.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:26am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              The single Linux install I've every seen comes with Firefox built in.

              There. Fixed it for ya. ;)

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 11:13am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Every single Linux install I've every seen comes with Firefox built in.


              Apparently all developers like Firefox, but they also give you tons of alternatives, Midori, Galeon, Lynx(text browser), Arora, Dillo, Epiphany, Mythbrowser, more importantly nobody tries to stop you from doing anything, Microsoft approach to that was to embrace some standard make it incompatible and push their own solutions locking people into something, anything outside that wouldn't work and people naturally stopped using it, they leverage their position to force others to conform to them, something that in the Linux world is impossible to do, people would fork the project and leave you alone with yourself if you tried that.

              Now to remove any package managed by a package manager in Linux is quit easy actually.

              su -
              yum remove firefox

              or

              su -
              rpm -e firefox

              or

              sudo dpkg -r firefox

              Not counting the GUI's available that make the process easy.
              Just mark the package to remove and click "apply".

              Try removing IE from windows98, you need a degree to do it.

              So Microsoft is big and that makes it wrong to do the same exact thing everyone else is doing?


              No what makes it wrong is to you to threaten others with retaliation if they don't fallow you, also making it impossible to implement anything on your platform because you don't like it is another reason.

              Windows 98 came out at the same time the big Internet push was happening. It's only natural for a browser to come pre-installed. If Windows killed Netscape, how come Firefox is still alive? How come Firefox has been taking it's place in the market? Does it really count as anti-trust if they're getting their asses handed to them?


              Before the EU came down hard on Microsoft they probably would just made some tweaks on the OS and make it Firefox not work quite right and people would go on using their browser, after that Microsoft stop trying to make the life harder for other browser.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2011 @ 1:53pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                I'm not trying to be an ass, but

                su -
                yum remove firefox

                or

                su -
                rpm -e firefox


                Try explaining that to someone over the phone. Not everyone is technically inclined and Linux was (and for the most part still is) designed for people with marginal technical competence. If Linux wants to take over the Windows market it needs to be easy enough for a mentally challenged person to operate.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  icon
                  PaulT (profile), Jan 16th, 2011 @ 5:21am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  OK, how about this in my current Ubuntu system:

                  Click Applications then Add/Remove Programs. Search for Firefox and then click remove.

                  I wish people would stop judging Linux based on things that stopped being true years ago. It's like saying Windows 7 sucked because some aspects of Windows 98 were bad.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  •  
                    identicon
                    Anonymous Coward, Jan 17th, 2011 @ 6:15am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    It's like saying Windows 7 sucked because some aspects of Windows 98 were bad.

                    You mean the same way you talked about how awful IE 6 was and how people should have been able to uninstall it when you meant IE 4?



                    OK, I've been giving you a lot of crap and I'm going to stop. I don't really love Microsoft products and I don't really think they are any better or worse than Linux or Mac OSes. I'm just tired of people who have turned Operating Systems into a religion and try to wage online holy wars espousing the superiority of their deity without understanding all of the reasoning that goes into choosing an OS. Some people want simplicity, other interoperability, some security, and some just refuse to change; regardless, the choices and reasoning are much more complex than simply: Windows sucks and Linux rules!

                    Anyone who doesn't get that ... Welcome to the Church of Linux, please use apt-get update for a copy of todays program.

                     

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          btrussell (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 6:20am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I can easily un-install firefox from my distro of choice, PCLinuxOS (which used to use Konqueror as default browser).

          I cannot un-install IE from windows.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:43am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            To quote PaulT: Ignorance doesn't mean it can't be easily done.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              PaulT (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 12:17am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              It couldn't be easily done in Windows 98, unless you have a source that says otherwise. Show me a link that shows that, in the timescale we're talking about, the average end user could easily remove IE from Win98, and we'll talk.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2011 @ 2:06pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                First, the commenter above said nothing about Window 98.

                Second, this may not have been the easiest method but it was the fastest I could find: http://articles.cnn.com/1999-03-09/tech/9903_09_removeie.idg_1_windows-shell-folder-internet-explore r?_s=PM:TECH

                Also, "Show me a link that shows that, in the timescale we're talking about, the average end user could easily" install Linux on anything.

                Third, I was making a flippant remark, I honestly don't care if you can remove IE from Windows 98 or even Windows 7 which I currently use. You might as well ask if I can remove core operating system processes because the issue isn't whether IE is baked into Windows but really that you don't like Microsoft.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  icon
                  PaulT (profile), Jan 16th, 2011 @ 5:35am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Hmmm...

                  1. We're talking about the timescale in which Windows 98 became dominant. By the time XP came out, the damage was already done so it's pointless talking about that (and nobody talks about Windows Me :)). Even if it's now easier to remove, that doesn't change the fact that you couldn't.

                  2. Linux was in its infancy as a desktop system at the time, and most people would be unwilling to change their entire OS just to remove a browser. Show me a realistic method.

                  3. Bullshit, it has everything to do with it. You are supplied with a browser that you literally cannot remove and is forced on you despite the massive security risks and problems that it caused (a large number of the bugs and worms/viruses that were prevalent in the late 90s and early 00s were directly due to flaws in IE).

                  Yeah, I don't like Microsoft that will damage its customers like that just to gain marketshare, although I admit they seem to have a moderately improved attitude nowadays.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          Johnny, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 9:11am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Linux forces Firefox on it's users."

          No it doesn't. Linux says nothing about what applications you have to run. The organization behind Linux isn't even the same as the one who makes Firefox. Linux is just the operating system nothing more.

          Besides, Firefox is still the only browser whose Linux version is on a par with the Windows version. Some aren't even available for Linux, like IE, while others like Chrome come to Linux later than they do to Windows.

          Probably you mean to say, linux distributions, like Ubuntu, Red Head, Fedora... but well here comes the interesting bit: each distribution chooses its own pre-installed software, and these are actually different as that's one of the things they do: putting together a package of software. There are certainly distributions that don't come with Firefox pre-installed. Some come with Konquerer, I believe some are considering Chrome.

          In Microsoft-land that would be like Microsoft only supplying the operating system, i.e. Windows and nothing else. Then other companies or organizations would supply packages including a bunch of useful software to run on Windows and consumers would be free to choose which packages they want to use when they have the OS installed, some would come with IE and others with Firefox or Chrome. But we all know that we are far from that in Windows-land.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 9:26am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Don't waste your breath. He's already admitted to being too lazy to work out how to uninstall an application, so it's pointless trying to discuss the finer points of what Linux actually is.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          chris (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 10:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Linux forces Firefox on it's users.

          ubuntu desktop might, but there are many more varieties of linux.

          debian doesn't ship with firefox.

          a lot of KDE based distros ship with konqueror instead of or in addition to firefox.

          lightweight distros like DSL and puppy ship with dillo.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            btrussell (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 2:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I would be very surprised if you could not remove FF from Ubuntu.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              identicon
              Jason, Jan 14th, 2011 @ 7:06am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Did some research. Not only can you remove it, you can use the alternate install CD and NEVER INSTALL IT in the first place.

              I'd personally love to tinker with a Windows 7 alternate install disc.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                icon
                btrussell (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 4:11pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "I'd personally love to tinker with a Windows 7 alternate install disc."

                LOL
                Thank-you! I really needed that after my day today.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Jeff, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:26pm

    Would it still be considered antitrust for them to utilize a royalty-free product?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Jan Breens (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:31pm

    This isn't necessarily bad news in my mind. We should be more careful of large market-leading company's diversifying very successfully. Anti-trust laws are there for exactly that reason.

    Given the mistakes that have been made in the past, I think it's good they are there.

    Let's not forget, Google is not necessarily as holy as some of us believe, and is working for, before anything else, it's own benefit.

    @Marcus, my understanding is that they become antitrust violations when a company has the power in a certain market to push out any competition in favor of it's own products. It's a really old concept (from about Roman empire times) that are mainly in place to promote competition.

    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-trust_law)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:45pm

      Re:

      It just seems like in software that only hampers product evolution. If you release software that is popular, it inevitably will not have every single feature - and then if third parties start creating a solution for that feature, suddenly you are barred from adding it to your product in the future (even if you planned to get to it in the first place)

      The integration of the browser into the operating system was a totally natural and sensible step when Microsoft did it, and yet it was seen as an antitrust violation. But why is it not a similar violation for Windows to include Notepad, when there are countless competitors in the simple-text-editor field?

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Jan Breens (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:49pm

        Re: Re:

        The IE case was/is very complicated. I don't think so much the fact that windows comes with a browser was the problem.

        The tight coupling of IE with the operating system in various places, effectively meaning one almost could not switch to another browser fully... The OS would essentially use IE (or some of it's components) in various places regardless of the user trying to move away from it.

        I don't think this compares very well tbh..

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Jay (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:05pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Hmmm...

          If I may step in, I'd like to say that it became complicated because the US government is horrible at regulating a naturally evolving marketplace such as the internet in general.

          Every part of the Windows OS has pretty much been taken down by others because of Microsoft's monopolistic tendencies.

          IE runs horribly...
          Vista was pretty horrible (7 is alright but now there's Ubuntu as well as Apple competing)
          Google competes with their free updates of Google docs...

          I can go on. While Microsoft may have had a monopoly in the past, it's not the antitrust laws that stopped them from stagnation.

          It was competition.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            Jan Breens (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:56pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Exactly, and anti-trust laws are in place to protect exactly that; competition.

            Whether Microsoft required to be actioned against with anti-trust laws (which they haven't been on all points you raise except for IE) isn't really the point.

            Protecting competition in the market place is a good thing, which we seem to agree on :).

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:06pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              And that the government can tell its ass from a hole in the ground in such cases is what you disagree on.

              Me, I'd say that's at best. At worst they're almost exclusively paid flunkies of whoever wants to pay enough to have a monopoly.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:06pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I'm not saying it's what sunk Microsoft or anything like that. I'm just saying I don't really get it from a logic perspective because what was called antitrust seems like the common sense development of a product and the same thing any business would do.

            I had another thought: lets say someone made an alternative local explorer for Windows. Could they accuse Microsoft of antitrust violations because the "Windows Explorer" interface is so deeply integrated into the operating system?

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:21pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              It was a the devil's in the details kind of thing. Tying the browser tightly into the OS probably wouldn't have been enough but they took quite a few other steps towards making sure that no other browser could really replace IE. Steps that served no purpose except to hinder competition. And were silly enough to get caught discussing it via email and such.

              I doubt it on the shell replacement. They may have done some affirmative actions to prevent competition there but it's not really necessary. I mean we just recently got a noteworthy portion of the population convinced that IE is just a web browser rather than The Internet. I so don't even want to consider explaining a shell, graphical or command line, is not an operating system. Or even what an operating system is. One step at a time.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:02pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          I know what you are saying about IE - but I still don't see what's wrong with that. Look at it from a pure business perspective:

          - We have an operating system
          - The most important and common user functions are integrated deeply into that operating system
          - We foresee a future in which web browsing is by far the dominant use of all computers
          - Let's integrate web browsing capabilities directly into our operating system (d'uh)

          It makes perfect sense. It seems no different from the decision to package Notepad with the OS, and make it the default editor for a whole bunch of filetypes.

          And incidentally, I'm not necessarily saying this compares to the Chrome situation - but that's just a hypothetical, and this is a real example of an antitrust case.

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:25pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            The problem is when you start having documented conversations like "hey, make sure we don't document the foo, bar, or baz libraries so nobody else can tie their browser as tightly into the OS". It probably wasn't all about being anti-competitive but they damned sure did their best to make it as anti-competitive as possible.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            btrussell (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 4:22am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "- We have an operating system
            - The most important and common user functions are integrated deeply into that operating system"

            So why is office sold separately?

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 8:31am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I was thinking about that very thing, actually. And it's a good point. Yet - I wouldn't think it was odd if office DID come packaged with windows. Again, it would seem to make perfect sense. Windows comes packaged with Notepad, Paint, Solitaire - how come none of those things count? Just because the competitors aren't as high-profile?

              OS X comes packaged with the iLife suite (iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand) - how is that not an antitrust violation, then? There are plenty of competitors being arguably "locked out" there as well, aren't there?

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                icon
                PaulT (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 9:21am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                "how come none of those things count?"

                There's a world of difference between supplying a basic tool and a fully-fledged package. There's also no real market for those items. Notepad and Paint are far too basic to be seen as competitors to bigger applications, while Solitaire would never work as a paid-for game. Nobody else's bottom line is being affected by MS's inclusion of those apps.

                The browser, however, had numerous very real competitors, and packaging IE gave MS a very real and unfair competitive edge, hence the antitrust. Similarly, a fully-fledged office package would impact a huge market and give the included app a very big advantage over other apps, hence the antitrust.

                "how is that not an antitrust violation, then?"

                Mainly because they're not in a monopoly position, so antitrust doesn't apply. If they owned more than 90% of the desktop market like MS used to, there would be.

                Besides, the other problem with IE was that you couldn't remove it. AFAIK, you can remove the apps you mentioned.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                •  
                  icon
                  Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 9:59am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  I do see what you mean. I just still feel like the line is pretty vague.

                  I mean, with Apple, they might not own the whole desktop market but they are 100% of the Apple desktop market - so any other Apple software developers (a legitimate and meaningful independent industry) face "unfair" competition from the apps that are included on every single Apple computer by the sole manufacturer of those computers and their operating system. Apart from the fact that, yes, those apps can be removed, I'm not sure I see the distinction from Microsoft.

                  Or rather, I do see the distinction, but I can't shake the feeling that it's somewhat arbitrary. But then, maybe that's good - maybe every potential antitrust situation should be evaluated solely on its own merits. Except it's so tough to have laws without firm and clear standards - that situation is ripe for abuse and the extension of laws beyond their original intent.

                   

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                  •  
                    icon
                    btrussell (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 12:04pm

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    If I remember correctly, you can un-install solitaire, paint, etc.

                    Look to the left of the add/remove programs window and you will see Microsoft(or Windows) components. From there you can add/remove solitaire etc.

                     

                    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                    •  
                      icon
                      Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 1:05pm

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      Yeah, I guess that's the main distinction here.

                      So what about, say, application launcher software (I'm thinking Quiksilver for mac but i'm sure there's something equivalent for PC) - could they claim the Start Bar is unfair, since it's a packaged solution of launching applications that can't be removed?

                      I'm honestly not trying to be difficult, it's just that every explanation I see for the where the line is drawn still seems to leave a huge grey area. I suspect that's just the way it is.

                       

                      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                      •  
                        icon
                        btrussell (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 2:49pm

                        Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                        You can use a computer without ever needing to access internet, therefore browser does not need to be integral part of OS.
                        You do need to access the OS though. The start bar is part of the desktop environment. I believe you can change that even on MS and use, for example, "bumptop."

                         

                        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        •  
                          icon
                          Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 4:12pm

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          I can think of even more examples but there's no need to go on - because I totally get your point and I do see how IE perhaps steps a bit further than anything else has. However, I think even this conversation alone has demonstrated that the line is hardly clear.

                          It always bugs me when a law has a lot of grey area, mainly because of what we see in the state of copyright today: grey areas in copyright law are ripe for exploitation by private interests at the expense of the public and the marketplace, and they also provide the gaps that lobbyists and lawyers shove wedges into in order to change the law in their favour.

                          It seems to me like antitrust law needs to be watched to make sure the same thing doesn't happen - after all, a lot of the examples I've been using here came from my thoughts when I realized antitrust trolls might one day be possible.

                           

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                          •  
                            icon
                            btrussell (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 5:52pm

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                            "It always bugs me when a law has a lot of grey area, mainly because of what we see in the state of copyright today: grey areas in copyright law are ripe for exploitation by private interests at the expense of the public and the marketplace, and they also provide the gaps that lobbyists and lawyers shove wedges into in order to change the law in their favour."

                            I think all laws should be written with the clear intent of the laws purpose.

                             

                            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                          •  
                            icon
                            PaulT (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 1:14am

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                            "I realized antitrust trolls might one day be possible."

                            IMHO, that's exactly what any attack on Google boils down to, since they can't be considered a true monopoly (there's multiple, easy to implement competitors to everything they do). How can their search site be an actual monopoly, since switching to another one is as easy as typing a different address in your browser?

                            It's true that there's a grey area, but I'm not aware of any antitrust rulings so far that haven't been justified - in the tech space at least, since that's what I'm most familiar with.

                             

                            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                        •  
                          icon
                          Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 4:14pm

                          Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                          Also something just occurred to me...

                          aren't all patents pretty much antitrust violations, then?

                           

                          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                          •  
                            icon
                            PaulT (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 1:10am

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                            Not really. As I understand it, antitrust is about the unfair leveraging of a monopoly position in a different market. A patent is the granting of a monopoly in a specific market. So, it's not antitrust, unless of course the granted monopoly is used in an unfair way to gain traction is a different market.

                             

                            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                            •  
                              identicon
                              Jason, Jan 14th, 2011 @ 7:03am

                              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                              Yeah, but then licensing extends the patent's leverage into other markets. Like I said more like anti-trust exceptions.

                               

                              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                            •  
                              icon
                              Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 10:42am

                              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                              Yeah you're right of course - I was mostly joking. It's just funny that some companies using their market position to block competition is illegal, but at the same time countless other companies are handed government-sanctioned monopolies and given the right to legally block any and all competition if they choose.

                               

                              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                          •  
                            identicon
                            Jason, Jan 14th, 2011 @ 6:55am

                            Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                            More like anti-trust exceptions.

                             

                            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        identicon
        JEDIDIAH, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:47pm

        Utter nonsense.

        > The integration of the browser into the
        > operating system was a totally natural
        > and sensible step when Microsoft did it

        No it wasn't. It was really quite stupid and highlights the genesis of Microsoft's pervasive and continual reliability and security problems. Assimilating more and more things into the core OS is simply not good engineering practice.

        No. You don't make things so they are HARDER to replace. You make them so they are EASIER to replace even if they have the outward appearance of being core system functions. This sort of notion of standardized interchangeable and interoperable components is the foundation of modern engineering and the industrial revolution.

        Anything that forces a Brand X mentality is a bad engineering solution.

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          icon
          Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:11pm

          Re: Utter nonsense.

          Actually, you're totally right - I shouldn't be defending it from an engineering perspective. However, I think it makes business sense...

          Why are all cars manufactured with at least a few dealer parts that cost many times what generic parts cost? Isn't that the same thing?

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          •  
            icon
            The Mighty Buzzard (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:31pm

            Re: Re: Utter nonsense.

            Yup, but none of the car companies have an over 90% market share and do their best to tie you for life into only using their cars.

            Most of the circumstances individually do not add up to warranting anti-trust charges. Added together, they do.

            You can be a monopoly and not abuse your power to force out competition. Or you can be a non-monopoly and use everything you can think of to force out competition. Or you can be a media company and not have any competition by nature of your product and have the government grant you ever more monopoly powers. Oh wait, that last one was for another time.

             

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            •  
              icon
              tracker1 (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 12:17am

              Sony and BluRay?

              I think that HD-DVD was in a natural position to win, first with a home solution under $100, lower licensing fees, similar encryption etc.. Sony colluded there, I want to know why there wasn't an anti-trust violation considered for that.

               

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 5:49am

                Re: Sony and BluRay?

                Because you didn't start spelling it $ony?

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              •  
                icon
                Jay (profile), Jan 14th, 2011 @ 8:34am

                Re: Sony and BluRay?

                I'm pretty sure that Sony won that war because of the lessons they learned the first time around.

                When the Betamax came out, their own engineers didn't work with it.

                When Blu-ray came out, EVERYONE in Sony worked with it. No exceptions. It made a world of difference.

                 

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Luke Smith (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:32pm

    The complexity comes in others (namely MPEG-LA shareholders) saying they dont want to implement WebM in their software/hardware/browsers because it violates MPEG-LA's IP.

    So Microsoft wont implement WebM in IE, and Google wont implement H.264 in Chrome.

    Where does that leave us, the end users, and the Internet in general?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Jan Breens (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:45pm

      Re: not too bad

      Web Developers (at least myself) won't be too unhappy about this.

      To be honest, working on the web means various juggling of browser specific items all the time. Inconvenient, yes. But in the grand scheme of things, when smooth running video is important in any specific project, work to cater for different browsers is being undertaken anyway...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Marcus Carab (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:13pm

        Re: Re: not too bad

        Indeed - the moment everyone settles on something with the slightest hint of permanency, the web will be flooded with dozens of cross-browser solutions

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Nick Coghlan (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:47pm

      Re:

      It leaves us sitting out here wondering how you patent a mathematical algorithm in the first place (since that is all compression is).

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    kyle clements (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:50pm

    hmm...

    I'm not sure how I feel about this.

    Getting away from proprietary formats is always good, but I'm also a fan of using the best tool for the job, and right now, that's H.264.

    I'd rather they keep H.264 support until their own formats look just as good at the same bit-rate.

    Hopefully, this is a sign that they are going to really push WebM development.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Bryan (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 7:52pm

    Firefox refuses to use H.264 for the same reasons, H.264 is not really free. Google supports the same Ogg Thedora open codec that firefox supports, plus they support WebM (Firefox will also support WebM but doesn't in current versions).

    The interesting thing about this is weather or not Google will switch Youtube over to using WebM instead of H.264 for mobile optimized video.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    James Carmichael, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:19pm

    logic +1!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:20pm

    As long as they don't make third party implementations impossible I don't see how they could be accused of anti-trust. There was this company that not only dropped support for any standard they also made it impossible to others to implement something on their platform.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:21pm

    It seems a bit silly to me that they're either going to be sued for using H.264, or sued for not using H.264.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    pianom4n, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:27pm

    Someone already the antitrust idea here:
    http://www.osnews.com/thread?457071

    Since this change is only for the Chrome browser (which only has about 10% of the market), I don't think Google really has anything to worry about. Maybe this move is to prevent future serious antitrust concerns. If in two years Chrome has 50% of the market, Google would face much more scrutiny over this move, while now not so much.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:32pm

    I believe the real reason for Google doing this is ad money. With the current H.264 they can not easily place their transparent overlay ads and click interactivity into YouTube videos.

    With their own open WebM format that have a much easier time inserting these type of ads into the videos.

    I prefer to watch YouTube videos using H.264 because I can avoid the annoying ads that take up the bottom of the screen. It is a nuisance to have to click the X to see the entire video on every Flash YouTube video. I have nothing against ads as long as they are pre or post roll.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      icon
      Chris Rhodes (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 11:35am

      Re:

      I think you are confusing two different (but related) concepts.

      H.264 is just a codec to compress/decompress video (like Theora, which Google is pushing as an open alternative to H.264).

      The thing that allows you to interact with the video (popup ads, floating comments and links by the video creator, etc.) is not the codec used, but the wrapper around the video content. Currently, the most widely-used wrapper for video is this little known, oft-overlooked piece of software made by Adobe, called "Flash". :)

      Google is pushing WebM as an alternative wrapper, and Theora as an alternative encoder.

      Neither of these will give Google the ability to do anything new, to my knowledge (other than avoid paying millions in royalties to MPEG-LA for the use of H.264 patents)

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    Aaron Farnham (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:33pm

    Open but not free...

    Google's codec maybe open but it certainly is not free to end users. It comes with two caveats; hardware decoding of video streams is lost and Flash is entrenched.

    One of the key components of the H.264 infrastructure is the hardware decoding that is now in tens and quite possibly hundreds of millions of devices. End users lose the value of that hardware if H.264 goes away. That's literally tens of billions of dollars the end user in aggregate has to put up to replace this hardware with a "free and open" codec. Perhaps in the long run all devices will come with hardware to decode WebM, but at the moment not a single device on the market supports it.

    I like open source as much as the next programmer, but end users really don't care about it. I see this heading in one direction: Flash. For those that don't know, Flash supports H.264 and Google bakes the Flash plugin into Chrome. This move to drop H.264 does nothing to help WebM and everything to entrench the closed Flash plugin from Adobe. Since almost every site encodes their video in H.264 they will use the easiest means of delivering that H.264 video to end users. Since HTML5 is no longer easy, websites will deliver H.264 video wrapped in Flash packaging as much of the web has done until recently with H.264 HTML 5 delivery picking up significant steam. So we end up with less web standards and a guaranteed proprietary mess right now with Flash instead of a possible proprietary mess that might, maybe manifest in 2015 with H.264.

    That's my two cents at least.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 8:52pm

      Re: Open but not free...

      > Google's codec maybe open but it certainly
      > is not free to end users. It comes with two
      > caveats; hardware decoding of video streams
      > is lost and Flash is entrenched.

      Neither of these address the issues of whether or not the technology is free to use and free of any patent landmines.

      MPEG2, MPEG4 and h264 can be acquired for zero cost with source code included by end users and developers but all of those still remain entangled in patents that govern who gets to do what with the technology and when they might have to pay for the priveledge.

      The current situation is a cartel with all the problems that come with it.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      •  
        icon
        Michael Long (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 10:37pm

        Re: Re: Open but not free...

        Unfortunately, WebM isn't proven to be unencumbered, either. And isn't MPEG-LA looking at setting up a patent portfolio for WebM?

        And is it just me, or is this a clear double-standard? Google states that they're dropping H.264 in order to support more "open" technologies. Okay, fine. But why, then, are they supporting a proprietary technology (Flash) on Chrome and their Android devices?

        There, and I quote, they say it's because people should be "free to choose".

        Sorry, but Google needs to do a dictionary search on their own web site. The word is "hypocrite".

         

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        •  
          identicon
          monkyyy, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 11:37pm

          Re: Re: Re: Open but not free...

          where do people keep get this crap?
          flash doesn't have any real competitors besides silverlight, thats even more locked down, and html5, which isnt done yet,

           

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      spc, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 3:13am

      Re: Open but not free...

      You wanna tell me that you play camcorded videos with your browser??
      Shure, You must have had problems before Chrome arrived...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:12pm

    I think a bigger question is why the MPEG-LA isn't a breaking of antitrust laws. Isn't it basically an organization to enable corporate collusion?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    David Good (profile), Jan 12th, 2011 @ 9:35pm

    So let me get this straight. If google leaves h.264 out they get sued for antitrust. If they leave it in, Adobe pressures them about Flash support in Android.

    Seems to me Google is more concerned with the existing contracts, rather than possible suits that may never happen. Thus, easiest is to drop h.264 and make Adobe happy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    icon
    fogbugzd (profile), Jan 13th, 2011 @ 4:10am

    Chrome is not in a monopoly position.

    Google is doing this with Chrome which is not in a monopoly position. I don't see how Google is leveraging it's search engine muscle with this move. The fact that Chrome is not a monopoly should be sufficient to protect them from antitrust action, at least from this action. Of course, an entire industry has grown up dedicated to causing trouble for goggle, and bogus antitrust charges has been the favored tool.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 5:04am

      Re: Chrome is not in a monopoly position.

      The problem with Google is that they are so dominant in the market place for video (between Chrome, Youtube, and Android) that they do have quite the bully position. It isn't quite at the level of anti-trust, but it is very close.

      In some ways, it is similar to Apple not supporting Flash, except that Apple really is a bit player in everything except hand help computers, and they are starting to feel pressure from (surprise) Google in this area.

      With too few players, almost every one of them risks being an anti-trust target if they hold too much of the marketplace.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 6:16am

    So what! It's just another format. In a year there will another one or several more and all of them will be better than the other ones. Google is on the right track supporting WebM and Theora.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Justyn, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 8:02am

    Not a dominant browser, so no antitrust problem

    Since Chrome comes behind IE and Firefox in market share by pretty much any metric, I don't see how their dropping support for a codec can cause any antitrust problems. They cannot be abusing their dominant position in the browser space because they haven't got one.

    YouTube is a more interesting question. If they tried to make YouTube WebM-only (when they finally push the button and roll out HTML5 videos for all) then they would be seen to be using their dominant position there to muscle out certain competitor's browsers and mobile operating systems.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Joe Smith, Jan 13th, 2011 @ 11:57am

    plug ins

    So what?

    Google does not want to build functionality into Chrome that will potentially expose them to large patent claims post 2015. Google is under no obligation to build a liability trap for itself.

    The h.264 group has two choices:
    1) offer Google a free perpetual licence; or
    2) write and distribute a plug-in for Chrome that plays h.264 video.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This