The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) just had its most controversial meeting ever. The non-profit that listens to debates and then sets standards to make all the web’s browsers and websites compatible just voted on a new proposed standard called Encrypted Media Extensions (EME) that is potentially going to change how the web works.

EME entails to standardise the way copyrighted videos are delivered within a web browser. This means, web users all around the world will no longer have to download the Adobe Flash add-ons or Microsoft Silverlight whenever they intend to watch a copyright protected video. Though the transitioning process began five years ago, but with the final vote in, this change is now official.

Of the 463 members that the consortium has, 108 voted yes, 57 objected, 20 abstained, and the rest didn’t participate in the vote. The members include stakeholders from academia to nonprofits to major tech biggies. While on the face of it, 185 votes out of 463 members might seem to be tragically low, but it in fact was the most highest voter turnout the consortium has ever seen.

People objecting to the EME propose the argument that the change will make the world wide web less open, less accessible, less secure for people having vision or hearing disability. It will even making archiving things on the internet difficult than ever. People in the opposing party of EME include the father of net neutrality, Tim Wu, and stakeholders like the Ethereum Foundation.

On the other hand, proponents of the new standard argue that it will make the web more secure, more open and more accessible. The names on this side include biggies like Google, Netflix and Microsoft etc.

The reason that the EME controversy is becoming hotter by every second is because people feel that the W3C is giving it as a gift to large internet/tech corporations who would end up using the standard to make the web more difficult for users. The topic has left a foul taste in the mouth of the people as they now see the consortium as any other entity or organisation that bows down to the pressures of Big Capitalism.

Once the consortium’s press release announcing EME coming into effect went live, angry people on social media made sure that the consortium knew their opinion on the matter. “Thanks for handing the internet to the media corporations,” said a Twitter user. “I sincerely hope that a competitor to your mafia arises and takes control,” said another.

After the vote, when the consortium officially endorsed EME, one of its own — Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based digital civil rights group decided to protest the decision taken by quitting the consortium altogether. This was a first since the W3C was formed in 1994.

With EME coming into effect, some of the most entertaining things that we enjoy on the internet today like GIFs, Mashups, memes, small videos/snippets of movies are facing the danger of being removed by their copyright holders. Not only this, their creators also face the threat of being punished.

The wishes of copyright holders also end up outweighing the need for public awareness of a security flaw in a website or app that a lot of people might be using. If or when a security researcher stumble on a vulnerability on a site, they will then have to live through burden of figuring out how they are going to act on it without getting themselves in jail for violating copyright law.

This development was first reported in The Outline.

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