H.264/AVC is "the right thing" for Mozilla's Mission


I spent several days composing a lengthy post on this topic and just as I was getting ready to put it up, I ran across this slashdot comment from Mozilla's Robert O'Callahan.

If not supporting H.264 isn't reducing H.264 usage, but reduces the influence of Firefox by turning users away from Firefox, and increases the usage of Flash vs HTML5 video, then not supporting H.264 is a net lose for freedom and standards on the Web and supporting H.264 is the right thing to do for our mission.

That's basically my entire 7 paragraph post in one sentence. I'll save you reading what I wrote because this is much shorter and clearer.

ROC leads Mozilla's multimedia efforts and is also a fierce advocate for video freedom on the Web so I listen very closely when he speaks on these issues. I believe that in this one sentence he's made a convincing case that supporting H.264 in the <video> element in Gecko is the right thing to do for Mozilla's mission.


I haven't been following closely: will you include the H.264 codec in Firefox, or just let Firefox use available OS codecs?

Anyway, due to this situation, a lot of time and money has been wasted, by loads of people. Let this serve as a lesson.

Stifu, the plan is to use system codecs where available and to fill gaps on platforms without system codecs through MPAPI. More on this soon.

I do not think this was a waste of time or money. This was the right fight to fight. Because we didn't win doesn't mean we shouldn't have tried. That's the difference between Mozilla and the other guys. We don't run away from important fights. We take a stand. We won't win every battle, but not fighting the important ones is not an option.

- A

I'm thrilled with this. The battle for the first video codec on the web was lost almost at the time Mozilla started pushing Theora, and certainly by the time Google's delayed purchase of On2 happened. I respect Mozilla all the more for standing up for this issue because it truly shows them to be a principled organization, but in this context it looks like it only accomplished hindering adoption of <video>.

Mozilla correctly points out that this is a battle, not the war. There's a whole mess of debate coming up with HEVC/H.265 and DRM issues. I'm particularly encouraged about the strategy that can be developed around a royalty-free H.265 competitor. The playing field is level because there's obviously no hardware support yet. And if the goal for H.265 is to reduce video file size by ~40% and increase the complexity of the decoding process by no more than 3x over H.264... 3x the video complexity means that hardware decoders will have to be on the market before it's viable.

The big problem is can a competitor be developed that doesn't infringe on patents, whether perceived infringement or actual?

Also, is there a target for system decoder support in firefox yet? 12? 13? 14?

Hardware accelerated support was never a real stopper, its only desirable for mobile and/or HD.

WebM's real problem is extremely few apps can save to that format, much less tweak it decently, and even less among leading design applications like Premiere/Avid/FinalCutPro.


Mobile is the fastest growing platform for viewing the web. Fewer people sit in front of PCs to view the web, especially when consuming video. Lack of hardware acceleration is very much a stopper.

@Tony c

It was already seeing that much growth, and cutting h264 use for mobile in favour of webM was still preferred. Blaming hardware support for media formats barely anyone can create is a weak cop out.

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