The Internet is about communications. Many of us already spend more time e-mailing friends and family, checking news-sites for news, and surfing the net for entertainment than we do on traditional media.
Some of the largest telcos and monopolies in the land have declared that H.323 is going to be the way we communicate in the future, whether by IP telephony or video-conferencing or simple data-sharing. This is all fine and good, except that H.323 is not free and open. It is trapped in a tar pit of patent and intellectual property rights, copyrighted specifications and non-Internet based standards groups. Licensing rights for some of the H.323 codecs can exceed $100,000, and simply buying all the specs can make a rich man poor. Imagine your mouth being sealed in duct tape and being charged a nickel for each word you speak. Well, somebody's cash register rings each time an H.323 implementation comes on-line.
This site is dedicated to making H.323 (or whatever its successor is going to be called) a free and open standard for Internet use, and in the process, improving it and making it workable for the Internet community. This process will actually help H.323 long term, as unneeded and cumbersome features will be discarded and cleanly written reference implementations will make the market and usage grow in a way that will not be possible under the current conditions.
How is this possible? After all, H.323 is already in place and is the annointed standard, isn't it? Let me give you some examples from my own personal experience.
I have personally spent countless hours in long and boring ITU standards meetings, and even more countless hours reading and studying ITU specifications like X.400, ISDN, OSI, T.30 and others. Again and again I have seen the "official" ITU standards smashed to pieces by leaner, cleaner offerings from the Internet community. Of the above, only T.30 (G3 fax) was a huge hit, because it worked, and met a real market need. The rest of those standards are in their graves.
The Internet's "rough consensus and running code" model of development coupled with open source and the world-wide brainpower of hundreds of developers and testers, has produced some of the best and most reliable software and systems there are. You need look no further than Apache, Sendmail, and Linux for examples.
So what is the course of action? These are the steps as I see them:
• The specification documents have to be liberated through alternative documentation and cleanly written reference implementations.
• The for-fee high-priced codecs have to be replaced with free implementations that provide respectable performance. After all, there have been a million Ph.D. theses on audio and video coding, and we ought to be able to find something that works equally well.
• One or two open source implementations need to be developed that run on popular operating systems like Linux. After all, we don't want to pay for this by washing windows for the rest of our lives.
• A slimmed-down, lean version of the implementation will then emerge and take the market by storm. The standards bodies, overwhelmed by the demand for this system will officially bless it as H.323A or H.323Lite. At this point, the Internet way of doing things will have prevailed, and the goals of this site and others like it will be achieved.
If you think the above outcome is realizable, please contribute your information or links or code or whatever you have and we will include it on this site. We are also seeking sponsors to make this effort grow. Let us know if you are interested.
March 15th, 1999