Mozilla considers supporting H.264 after poor WebM uptake

“Mozilla research director Andreas Gal has proposed a rare change of heart that could see Boot2Gecko, and possibly Firefox, adopt H.264 playback,” Electronista reports. “The move would let HTML5 pages use the video tag for in-page H.264 as long as the OS underneath already supports the codec,” Electronista reports. “At least in theory, it would let Mozilla officially keep active support only for open formats like WebM while acknowledging the reality of H.264’s much wider reach.”

Electronista reports, “Mozilla has only ever supported WebM for HTML5 video on the view that it wanted ‘unencumbered’ formats that didn’t require paying for a license if it was directly implemented. Gal, however, said that Google had undermined WebM by backtracking on its intention to pull H.264 from Chrome to steer support for WebM, the codec which it owned. Trying to make a stand on ideology wouldn’t work given how popular H.264 was and how little Google played a part. ‘Google pledged many things they didn’t follow through with and our users and our project are paying the price,’ Gal added. ‘H.264 wont go away. Holding out just a little longer buys us exactly nothing.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Ha!

Related articles:
Google’s WebM (VP8) allegedly infringes the rights of at least 12 patent holders – July 29, 2011
MPEG LA goes gunning for Google, announces call for patents essential to VP8 video codec – February 11, 2011
Along with Apple, Microsoft fully backs H.264, unlike Google – February 2, 2011
Google intent on derailing HTML5 H.264 video with WebM browser plugins for Safari, IE – January 15, 2011
Google pulls support for H.264 video out of Chrome web browser – January 11, 2011
Google’s VP8/WebM may face patent fight as Apple-backed MPEG-LA considers patent pool – May 21, 2010
Apple may be planning to sue Google over WebM video project, VP8 codec – May 20, 2010
Google’s big open video plan is called the WebM project…
Jobs: Ogg Theora may violate patents – Friday, April 30, 2010

15 Comments

  1. This is good news. WebM served its purpose… that is to get MPEG-LA to issue new licensing that was fair, reasonable, and with long term guarantees.

    The wild west days of video codecs is coming to an end, and H.264 in a MP4 container as the dominant standard is going to make my life soooo much easier.

  2. I don’t think MPEG-LA ever made ANY meaningful changes. Software developers whose applications need to allow for MPEG playback still must pay annual license.

    While Mozilla people may argue on principle (WebM was open, MPEG is encumbered by license), their primary reason for holding out was purely financial. In order to implement direct support for H.264, they would need to pay millions of dollars to MPEG-LA for the appropriate licensing.

    If this particular arrangement (offloading H.264 decoding to the OS) can properly skirt this legal wrinkle, then all is well.

    1. @Predrag,

      “I don’t think MPEG-LA ever made ANY meaningful changes.”

      They most certainly did. In 2010, they announced that end users would never be charged, only royalties for products that encode and decode. This was a very big deal for anyone providing content as it was possible that MPEG-LA could start charging on a per view basis for each video posted online or distributed. This was a total nightmare for those of us with huge libraries of video being offered online and having to list this as a potential risk to our business.

      When WebM was bought by Google and promoted, MPEG-LA made this change and got most of the content producers back on board.

      Mozilla, now sees that only supporting WebM for HTML5 doesn’t make sense because almost all of us content providers are only using H.264 MP4 for HTML5 (in addition to Flash).

      Mozilla all along could have supported H.264 MP4 by offloading to the OS, but now they feel they have to do this to have a viable browser, as they need to support it (and can’t afford the royalties to do it directly).

      1. Yes, there was that 2010 change, but from the end-user’s perspective, it was rather meaningless. I buy Final Cut, I don’t need to worry about license for the content I encode with FCP (Apple does that). The only time I’d need to worry would have been if I were to try and monetize on that content I had created in FCP.

        This essentially reduced the number of users who might be concerned only to those who create content for sale. And with the change, even they are off the hook.

        In other words, ordinary population was really never going to need to worry about the MPEG-LA license, even before they made that change a year or two ago.

        1. “This essentially reduced the number of users who might be concerned only to those who create content for sale.”

          No, the free licensing for free content wasn’t a permanent license until 2010. The problem was that if there was no guarantee that the free licensing would be renewed each period, it would put a lot of businesses (both large and small) at risk.

          My company for example has a library of thousands of videos we serve directly. Had MPEG-LA decided not to renew the free licensing for us, we’d have to re-encode everything or shut down if the licensing terms were too high.

          While I wasn’t terribly worried about this directly, it was an issue that had to be disclosed to any investors and clients. The disclosure was pretty scary for some people. We had to have a strategy for dealing with this potential threat.

  3. ‘Google pledged many things they didn’t follow through with and our users and our project are paying the price,’ Gal added. ‘H.264 wont go away. Holding out just a little longer buys us exactly nothing.’”
    No shit, Sherlock!

    1. “Google pledged many things they didn’t follow through with”

      That, right there, is the key phrase. In fact that seems to be Google in a nutshell these days.

  4. The code underneath WebM in reality is likely to have the same of the H.264 codec.

    I feel exactly the same regarding Android to iOS.

    The code underneath Andriod in actuality is likely to be a derivative of iOS.

      1. WebM was likely violating numerous H.264 patents. Possibly not all of them, but it was far from in encumbered by patents. It never would have been free. It served no purpose other than to falsely give Google hopes of controlling the video standard for the web by itself.

        Thankfully they failed.

    1. Not only that, but the “impartial” freedom loving neck beaded geniouses at Mozilla (aka Googles bitch) wanted to shift the going standard from a standard body to a single company (Google) which would just be a rerun of Flash.

      In the process these arrogant hypocritical corrupt lying jerks have held up the wide scale adoption of an open and consistant standard for HTML5 video that works everywhere.

      Google’s proprietary “open” standard was never going to run well on half a BILLION iPods and iOS devices. So these arrogant paid by google jerks accomplished nothing that they can be proud of.

      Thanks assholes.

  5. Predictable: Google had undermined WebM by backtracking on its intention to pull H.264 from Chrome

    Predictable: …let Mozilla officially keep active support only for open formats like WebM while acknowledging the reality of H.264′s much wider reach.

    Flushed and forgotten: WebM

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