Wikimedia mulls support for 'patent-encumbered' video file format

Wikimedia said its support for open formats has put limits on the number of videos in its repository

Wikimedia, the foundation that hosts Wikipedia and other sites, is considering supporting the MP4 video file format on its projects, because it finds that the current open formats it supports limit the number of videos and the ability to view them on mobile phones.

The foundation has asked community members for comments on the decision as MP4 is a proprietary format that involves patents and licenses, and its use would be a break from current Wikimedia practice of only using open formats on its sites, Wikimedia said.

Only 38,000 video files have been uploaded so far to the Wikimedia Commons database of media files, a paltry 0.2 percent of the 19 million other media files in the Wikimedia repository, which does not let the sites take benefit of video as a learning tool, particularly for people who can't read well, according to Wikimedia.

One of the reasons is that widely-available video cameras, including those on mobile phones, do not record using the open formats - Ogg Theora and WebM - supported by Wikimedia.

"Once video is recorded in other formats, special tools like Firefogg are required to re-encode them in open formats, special plugins are required to edit them, and these tools and plugins are not widely used in the video creation and editing community," according to a request for comments from Wikimedia.

Videos created using the two open standards cannot be viewed on over two-thirds of mobile phones that use Wikimedia websites, and most videos recorded on mobile devices cannot be directly uploaded to the sites. Mobile viewers accounted for 33 percent of the page views on Wikimedia sites last month.

Noting that MP4, also known as MPEG-4 Part 14, is the most common digital video format on desktop computers and mobile devices, and is also supported by popular websites like YouTube and web playback systems such as Adobe Flash and popular consumer electronics hardware, Wikimedia said that supporting the MP4 video standard would make it easier for users to view and contribute video on Wikimedia projects.

The MP4 format typically includes the MP4 container, the H.264 video codec and the AAC audio codec, which would require the foundation to get licenses for their use from MPEG-LA and Via Licensing, Wikimedia said. MPEG-LA has said previously that it will not charge royalties for the H.264 codec for Internet video that is free to end users, for the life of the license.

Videos will be converted and stored in both open and MP4 formats on Wikimedia sites, as soon as they are uploaded or viewed by users. Files that are currently in WebM or Ogg Theora will be encoded by the foundation's servers, then displayed on a mobile device or desktop browser that only supports MP4 viewing. Users opposed to software patents can still play, edit, and upload videos from Wikimedia in open formats, using open source software like Firefox, Chrome and Android, Wikimedia said.

Comments have to be submitted by users by Feb. 14.

The move by Wikimedia has been opposed so far by some members who said that supporting a proprietary format would run contrary to the foundation's values.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags open sourceinternetlegalsoftwareintellectual propertypatentWikimedia FoundationInternet-based applications and services

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?