RealNetworks spurs fair play code for multimedia

A group of vendors -- led by RealNetworks, embroiled in a multimedia controversy with Microsoft -- have released a 'fair practices for Internet file formats' white paper that outlines their vow to cooperate on Internet technologies. Netscape Communications, Sun Microsystems, and Novell are among the 20 companies backing the initiative, which features an 'ask, tell, and help' policy designed to promote compatibility.

A group of vendors -- led by RealNetworks, embroiled in a multimedia controversy with Microsoft -- have released a "fair practices for Internet file formats" white paper that outlines their vow to cooperate on Internet technologies.

Netscape Communications, Sun Microsystems, and Novell are among the 20 companies backing the initiative, which features an "ask, tell, and help" policy designed to promote compatibility.

The move came a week after RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee that Microsoft's Windows Media Player "broke" his RealSystem G2, as well as other companies' competing technologies.

Glaser demonstrated the problem for the panel, using a beta of G2, prompting Microsoft to counter that a bug in that software, not the Windows Media Player, was the culprit. Since then, the two companies -- Microsoft owns a 10% stake in RealNetworks -- have fought a war of words.

The Windows Media Player sets itself up as the default on a PC, a bone of contention with Glaser and other Microsoft competitors. The "fair practices" white paper will address that and other issues, such as the ways in which multimedia software reads various formats.

"This stemmed from the issues that were highlighted when Rob testified in front of the Senate," said Jay Wampold, RealNetworks' public relations manager. "But it's really a much broader issue, one of how companies work with each other to give consumers a consistent Internet experience."

Microsoft officials dismissed the initiative as a public relations stunt by RealNetworks.

"RealNetworks is shifting the focus of the debate away from [Glaser's] inaccurate testimony to these 'rules of the road' for how applications should interact with each other," said Gary Schare, product manager for the Windows Media Player. "This is clearly an attempt to gloss over that little thing that happened last Thursday."

RealNetworks, in Seattle, is at http://www.realnetworks.com. Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., is at http://www.microsoft.com.

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