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Discussion Point: Encrypted Media Extensions in the HTML Standard

The debate continues over the W3C decision to move forward with the inclusion of encrypted media extensions (EME) in its HTML Working Group Charter. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) released a formal objection, critics claim it will hurt the web experience and Tim Berners Lee weighed in. Here are three opinions on the matter.

The Question

Will the decision by W3C to include encrypted media extensions into the HTML5.1 standard have a positive or negative effect on web experiences?

The Responses

Irina Guseva: Real Story Group 

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Irina Guseva is a senior analyst and advisor with Real Story Group where she leads the Web CMS research stream, and regularly contributes to DAM, MAM and Digital Marketing evaluation reports, analyzing pros and cons of various systems. Guseva also advises her clients on enterprise software selection, implementation best practices and information management/customer experience management strategy. She has more than 15 years of experience in content technologies. Guseva started her career as a journalist working in print, TV, radio and online. Prior to joining The Real Story Group in 2011, she worked as a CMS practitioner, consultant and industry watcher. She can be reached via Twitter @irina_guseva or email: irina (at) realstorygroup.com. 

When speaking of HTML 5.1, we should start with the point that this specification is still not stable. What that means in practical terms is that vendors and implementers should really carefully evaluate and implement the spec, given its changing nature. When your vendor says they are “HTML 5-friendly,” you really have to ask them what they mean by that, as the definition and depth of adherence to the standard can vary.

In regards to extensions in general, again a word of caution. As with any standard, proprietary and vendor-specific extensions are discouraged because they defy the whole purpose of the specification, which is interoperability and accessibility.

Speaking specifically of the encrypted media extensions, organizations should realize that this addition is not likely to act as a Digital Rights Management (DRM) system for their assets (note that one of the editors of the latest spec draft is a Netflix employee). Historically, digital asset management tools were rarely able to provide DRM capabilities, and this was often an integration point with specific niche tools that can do digital rights management. But what you get with this spec is a common API that provides the ability to speak to encryption and rights management systems.

It doesn’t though appear that this extension spec will have a large impact on web experiences, as (first and foremost), in my opinion, this spec is designed to protect content distributed by media vendors. Which is nothing but a simple and logical business rationale for organizations that monetize their digital and media assets, as one of major streams of revenue. Realistically, whether customers will appreciate any additions inspired by this spec to their experience or not, is probably not as important. It is not the first time video and audio files are being protected by some sort of a mechanism to prevent unauthorized distribution or replication.

Arjé Cahn: Hippo

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Arjé Cahn is CTO and co-founder of Hippo (Amsterdam, Boston), and runs the Hippo CMS development team. In 2010, he was named Top Five CMS Executive under 35 by CMSWire. He is a frequent speaker at international conferences on content management, open source and information management, including Gilbane and CMS Day. He has written for both technical and business publications, and shares his thoughts on content management and open source on his blog and on Twitter. 

I believe the impact will ultimately be a positive one which will improve digital experiences, and increase the quality of content available on the web.

A few years ago, when publishing was in crisis, devices like the iPad and Kindle managed to save the industry by offering a new means for creators of original content to control — and improve — the quality of its distribution. Consumers embraced the development, a testament to their willingness to pay for content of a high caliber that was available to them digitally. I see a similar opportunity for video.

 

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