On Wed, 3 Mar 2004, Ole Jacobsen wrote:
This is simply silly.
What you are saying is that for religious reasons you are unwilling to use
FREE and widely used tools in order to help us develop our own.
Next thing you'll be telling me PDF is a bad thing.
If you want the IETF to be a place where more people can participate you
need to ditch some of this religion.
the fact that realmedia and windowsmedia aren't interoperable means that
we (this community) failed to recognize and address a common need, and
that the world (including this community) is suffering for it.
compounding this failure by adopting proprietary technology for the primary
work of this community -- which is interior and published communications --
would be a bad, bad (bad) thing.
This is not silly, it is just smart in a longer timeframe than you're
thinking in. Proprietary tools that utilize a proprietary/non-open data
interface are a serious problem for a variety of very sound,
non-religious reasons (as well as for a variety of political and
economic reasons, which is what I think you're calling "religious"
reasons). "Free" is irrelevant to the issue, unless free means open.
1) Proprietary data formats and long term archiving of any sort of
data are fundamentally incompatible. Ask anybody who has lived through
the last twenty or thirty years of computer evolution how many documents
they've lost or had to go in and rescue (sometimes at great expense) as
the tools they were built with have disappeared. Sometimes along with
their vendors. Other times the vendors simply decided to release a new
version that was sufficiently incompatible that it could no longer
manage the old documents. I think all of us can remember multiple
instances where this has happened to us -- I personally have lived
through wordstar, pcwrite, wordperfect, word, and several income tax
programs (which are the worst, as one HAS to be able to access the
records up to seven years later, which is a real problem with operating
systems and Moore's Law). There is also the uncertainty even now
surrounding the "encumbered" mp3 format versus e.g. the unencumbered
Formats used to encode long-term public records need to be open and
tools to manage those records need to be available from many sources.
So putting up realmedia shows is short-run glitzy and nifty and all that
(even though lots of people won't have the players and cannot play the
media) but it is long run foolish IF the production is intended as any
sort of serious historical or archival record.
2) Using a proprietary data format that can only be accessed by using
a proprietary tool (even a "free" one) leaves one vulnerable to all
sorts of shenanigans and hidden costs. For example, nothing prevents
the vendor from waiting until you have a large amount of valuable data
built up with their format that would be very expensive to convert and
then deciding to charge you. It's their tool, they can charge you if
and when they please. Worse, since their tool is generally a closed
source, proprietary object, there are the usual problems with libraries
and compatibility when trying to get the tool to run on the wide range
of platforms it is advertised for. "Free" may just refer to the cost of
getting the program, but it may well cost quite a bit of time to install
and maintain it, and time is money.
3) The Internet has been built on open standards from the very
beginning. This is absolutely the key to its success and tremendous
degree of universality and functionality to this very day. Any vendor
can build a mail tool, an ftp tool, a tool using TCP/IP as a transport
layer. Any vendor can build a browser, an http daemon. The
specifications for those tools are laid out in RFCs, and modifications
to the open standards proceed in a serious and systematic way. The
Internet has RESISTED being co-opted by monopolistic vendors who have
sought to introduce their own proprietary and "essential" layer of
middleware on hidden protocols, although they continue trying. The DMCA
makes it quite possible that if they ever succeed it will be
tremendously expensive and damaging to the entire structure. You can
call this a "religious" argument if you like, but I think it is really a
statement of both politics and economics, in this case the politics of
freedom and the economics associated with having lots of choices.
So I'm afraid that I agree with Paul 100% on this one (although I
respectfully disagree with him on others;-). The IETF absolutely should
avoid using proprietary tools to create documents that they might wish
to archive, and should strongly encourage the development of open
standards for and open document formats (one data format, many tools
both free and non-free) for data transmission on the Internet to ensure
that the Internet NOT be co-opted by any single vendor and that records
that might be archived today can still be accessed ten or twenty years
from now without finding a DOS PC and a 5.25" floppy drive to reload an
ancient piece of software.
Or am I alone in think that this would be a Bad Thing?
Robert G. Brown http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567 Fax: 919-660-2525