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Mozilla Debates Supporting H.264 In Firefox Via System Codecs

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the necessary-evils dept.

Firefox 320

An anonymous reader writes "Adoption of the HTML5 video element has been hampered by the lack of a universal video format that is supported in all browsers. Mozilla previously rejected the popular H.264 video codec because it is patent-encumbered and would require implementors to pay royalty fees. The organization is now rethinking its position and is preparing to add support for H.264 video decoding in mobile Firefox via codecs that are provided by the underlying operating system or hardware. The controversial proposal has attracted a lot of criticism from Firefox contributors, including some employed by Mozilla."

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WebM (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344171)

"Adoption of the HTML5 video element has been hampered by the lack of (software vendors like Microsoft and Apple implementing WebM)" is closer to reality than "a universal video format that is supported in all browsers". While the latter may be true, it obscures the reason for things being as they are.

Re:WebM (5, Insightful)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344569)

Those companies didn't have to implement WebM because they already had implemented H.264. In format wars Johnny-come-lately = also-ran. Plus why use a competitors' format, WebM, when you can use your own ? People are quick to call "patent trap" when Microsoft releases something "open", but when it's Google everyone has to trust blindly ?

Re:WebM (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344803)

Right, and they didn't need to implement PNG because they had already implemented GIF.

Hang on, Microsoft did actually try that one! That was a great time for the Internet wasn't it?

Re:WebM (5, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345049)

Except that PNG is objectively better than GIF, while WebM is objectively worse than h.264.

Re:WebM (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39345321)

h.264 comes with a patent troll organisation that wants h.264 be the only video codec so that they can demand pay from everyone that wants to upload h.264 encoded videos

Re:WebM (5, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344593)

"Adoption of the HTML5 video element has been hampered by the lack of (software vendors like Microsoft and Apple implementing WebM)" is closer to reality

Companies that won't support H.264: Mozilla
Companies that won't support WebM: Many...

Not to mention that for mobile devices, in many cases the hardware support for WebM is missing. H.264 is what almost all cameras record in now. H.264 is what professionals use in BluRays etc. H.264 is what pirates tend to use. Almost everybody, everywhere is using H.264, apart from the WebM beta on YouTube I haven't seen it used anywhere. Firefox represents one web browser, zero devices and a microscopic share of the whole video format ecosystem but think the whole world will bend to their will for WebM. The rest of the world will continue to work with H.264, while Firefox is worked around with Flash/H.264 until Mozilla either changes their mind or becomes irrelevant. Which I suppose is the case on mobile [statcounter.com] , I can't even find them on the mobile browser stats.

Re:WebM (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344917)

Though it's been over a year and the codec is still supported, Google announced they plan to drop support of H.264 [chromium.org] in the future. Opera also does not support H.264. Moving forward, I would wager that Google will phase out H.264 in favor of WebM on mobile devices as well. Google seems to be taking a more cautious approach of keeping H.264 support for now and hoping WebM catches on eventually before dropping it entirely.

Re:WebM (3, Insightful)

Goaway (82658) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345065)

These changes will occur in the next couple months

Posted over a year ago, and guess what, h.264 is still there.

Re:WebM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344967)

WebM is already on its way into hardware. What you mean to say is Apple do not use, and will not use it. Neither will MS^WNokia. However, Google have already given the details to IC manufacturers who are on-board to integrate.

Keep up that FUD though, Apple fanboi.

Re:WebM (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345093)

Yes, and when the chips are made, I'll buy one and solder it on my UMPC. Oh, wait, it won't probably work like that. I will have to buy a new UMPC (hopefully they will still be made by the time the chips are common) just to be able to watch videos and support a "free" codec. But then I paid whole $0 for ffdshow, I don't want the money to go to waste, so I might still use h.264, after all, the anime fansubbers and pirates still do.

Re:WebM (3, Insightful)

EyelessFade (618151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344981)

Companies that won't support H.264: Mozilla

And Opera

Companies that won't support WebM: Many...

Which? Microsoft and Apple? So to on each side then.. And guess what; Microsoft don't support h264 in IE, they just support plugins. Blah blah everybody blah blah.

zero devices and a microscopic share of the whole video format ecosystem but think the whole world will bend to their will for WebM.

Yeh google should remove all support for h264 in android. Oh thats 60% of smart phones. woops. And remove flash and h264 from youtube. Should make webM relevant then. How many sites do you use which have videos?

Re:WebM (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345229)

Yeh google should remove all support for h264 in android.

Yes, Google should do that. I hear people really like when they buy a device and then the manufacturer removes some features from it. Possible features, without which the user would not have bought the device.

And Sony should remove Bluray playback functionality from PS3, so people would need to buy another player.

Re:WebM (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344629)

You have that backwards. Adoption of the HTML5 video element has been hampered by the lack of software vendors like Mozilla and Google implementing H.264.

Re:WebM (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344711)

The only people who will impliment native support for h264 are those who hold the patents themselves - and they will refuse to support anything else.

Re:WebM (2)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344865)

Hmm? nVidia, Intel, AMD, ImaginationTech, Apple, Samsung, Google, HTC, Microsoft, Nokia, ...

Right... every single hardware and software vendor out there other than mozilla clearly has a vested interest...

Re:WebM (3, Informative)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344889)

List of H.264 licensors :
Apple Inc., Cisco Systems Canada IP Holdings Company, Cisco Technology, Inc., DAEWOO Electronics Corporation, Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation, Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute, France Télécom, société anonyme*, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. , Fujitsu Limited, Hewlett-Packard Company, Hitachi Consumer Electronics Co., Ltd., JVC KENWOOD Corporation*, Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V., LG Electronics Inc., Microsoft Corporation, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, NTT DOCOMO, INC., Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, Panasonic Corporation, Polycom, Inc., Robert Bosch GmbH, Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., Sedna Patent Services, LLC, Sharp Corporation, Siemens AG, Sony Corporation, Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson, The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, Toshiba Corporation

List of companies supporting WebM:
Google, Mozilla

All the above companies can make use of H.264 knowing they won't get screwed because they are on the inside. What guarantee do they have they won't get screwed by some patent covering some of WebM ? A lot are competing directly or indirectly with Google, what guarantee do they have Google won't screw them ? A lot of those companies are developing hardware right now that has existing H.264 hardware decode and/or encode support (already an industry standard), what would they gain by throwing that away and starting from scratch and coming to market god knows when ? Face it: WebM hasn't got, and never had, a shot. Either it's a cheap viral marketing campaign for Google or someone up there is pretty deluded about their clout in the tech world.

Re:WebM (5, Informative)

mrnobo1024 (464702) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345263)

WebM supporters: [webmproject.org] Free Software Foundation, Participatory Culture Foundation, Xiph, Android, Codecian, Collabora, CoreCodec, Digital Rapids, FFmpeg, Adobe Flash Player, Flumotion Services, Google Chrome, Grab Networks, iLink, Inlet Technologies, Oracle Java, Matroska, Moovida, Mozilla, ooVoo, Opera, Oracle, Harmonic Rhozet, Skype, SightSpeed, Sorenson, Telestream, Tixeo, Ucentrik, VideoLAN, Wildform, Winamp Media Player, Wowza Media Server, XBMC Media Center, Allwinner Tech, AMD, Anyka, ARM, Broadcom, Chinachip, Chips&Media, C2 Microsystems, DSP Group, Freescale, GeneralPlus, Hisilicon, Hydra Control Freak, Imagination Technologies, Shanghai InfoTM Microelectronics, Leadcore Technology, Logitech, Marvell, MIPS, MStar Semiconductor, nVidia, Qualcomm, Rockchip Microelectronics, RayComm Group, SEUIC, Socle Technology Corp., ST-Ericsson, Texas Instruments, Verisilicon, Videantis, ViewCast, ZiiLABS, ZTE Corporation, Anevia, Brightcove, Delve Networks, Encoding.com, EntropyWave, Flumotion Services, HD Cloud, HeyWatch.com, Kaltura, Media Core, MetaCDN, ooyala, Panda, Panvidea, Sorenson 360, thePlatform, VideoRX.com, VMIX, YouTube, Zencoder

Re:WebM (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344721)

The M in WebM is for all the Motorola license fees you're going to pay. It's free as in free to get sued by Motorola.

What??? (1, Insightful)

lennier1 (264730) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344185)

A last remnant of sanity over at Mozilla? Guess there's something to those Armageddon rumors after all.

Yes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344189)

Please fix this shit, until you do the tag is fucking worthless.

Your clunky browser should do at least SOMETHING right.

Licensed video codecs... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344193)

A good way to alienate half of the windows users in the world.

Windows XP (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344209)

It looks like one of the technical (not political) arguments agaisn't h.264 is it is not supported on XP. Firefox could make h2.64 on newer versions of Windows, but that would create issues as web developers who test it on their Windows 7 boxes with FF will look fine, but their users with XP wont be able to see anything.

As someone learning web development, I am sick and tired of supporting old versions of IE on XP and it would just die already if people stopped supporting it. ... political wise it is a shame h.264 is patented and licensed. It is the only stumbling block on a political basis

Re:Windows XP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344297)

I don't see how this is a problem. All recent versions of Windows support h.264 out of the box. For people on older versions, they can install ffdshow.

Of course if you want to do it right, you'll just buy CoreAVC, since it is by far the best h.264 codec and well worth the $13 if you do a lot of encoding or watch a lot of h.264 content.

Re:Windows XP (1)

fusiongyro (55524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344407)

The counter-techincal argument is that those users already don't get h.264 on XP. So what's the difference between not having it because the browser doesn't let you use the system libraries and not having it because there are no system libraries? As presented, the difference appears to be that you aren't really getting the same browser on different OSes if there are dependencies on your OS and OS version.

I think the technical retort there doesn't hold a lot of water. After all, your OS probably came with a browser that isn't Mozilla-based which will gladly use native libraries for this kind of thing. Moreover, whether or not they decide to do this, the amount of work developers have to do to support the ridiculous WebM format alongside H.264 isn't going to change: you'll still have to have your content encoded twice and you'll still have to sniff out which version to show.

I think if you frame the argument as "why aren't we doing this?" instead of "why should we do this?" it becomes a lot more clear which course of action is the right one: the one that means a better experience for your users, which means better OS and hardware integration and better battery life when using your browser. Users plural may care about consistency, but a single user is much more interested in features and performance.

Re:Windows XP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344631)

People still on XP can move to Win7. End of problem.

I can't imagine why anyone still clinks to old, slow, clunky, archaic, insecure XP except on the oldest of obsolete hardware... and why would THOSE peopel be using the latest versions of FF anyway?

Re:Windows XP (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344827)

Because I'm not really happy about having to re-learn the latest One True Way that Microsoft chooses to support this time around. I do have a Win7 Box (for education, mostly), and I have yet to get it properly sharing it's printer with my Linux and OS X laptops. This used to use SMB, but now it's the HomeGroup thing. I've spent 10 years learning the last One True Way, and all for naught. I know that any method still supported in Win7 is likely to be dropped by 8, so why bother?

Re:Windows XP (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345273)

Good luck after April 8, 2014. No more security fixes for XP. Windows 7 has extended support till Jan 14, 2020.

Re:Windows XP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344907)

I can't imagine why anyone still clinks to old, slow, clunky, archaic, insecure XP except on the oldest of obsolete hardware... and why would THOSE peopel be using the latest versions of FF anyway?

Because XP came on their (still working great) PCs, and the latest versions of Firefox, free as in speech and beer, work great on it.
Don't look at me--I use Konqueror, on a week-old computer.

Re:Windows XP (1)

Chakra5 (1417951) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344919)

As someone learning web development, I am sick and tired of supporting old versions of IE on **** and it would just die already if people stopped supporting it. ...

LOL...the more things change....

Defining the purpose of Mozilla (4, Insightful)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344223)

If the purpose of Mozilla is to provide high-quality, standards-compliant products, then this is the smart move. If the purpose is to advocate for all things open source, then this is a bad move. The project is made up of people from both those camps, so there is going to be much gnashing of teeth over this, and the mandate from on high without discussing it isn't going to make it any more pleasant.

Nevertheless, Google's lack of commitment to removing h.264 from Chrome doesn't help. Maybe Google could buy MPEG-LA and end this nonsense once and for all?

Re:Defining the purpose of Mozilla (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344255)

The purpose it to make a web browser. No more no less. Preferably one people will actually use.

Re:Defining the purpose of Mozilla (1)

gnick (1211984) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344609)

The purpose it to make a web browser. No more no less. Preferably one people will actually use.

Maybe that's what you want the purpose to be, but the reality is that for many of its developers (and users), Mozilla is about half browser and half "damn the man" movement demanding that everything be open. We'll see who wins. My guess is that the top echelons will just ignore the "movement" people and keep going after the best market share using the rational that they're giving the user what he wants.

Re:Defining the purpose of Mozilla (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344719)

Maybe that's what the vast majority of the people want the purpose to be, but the reality is that an insignificant portion of loud mouthed geeks screaming at the top of their lungs trying to make their insignificant lives meaning full, Mozilla is about half browser and half "damn the man" movement demanding that everything be open.

Fixed that for you.

Re:Defining the purpose of Mozilla (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39345241)

Right, because nobody uses h.264.

Re:Defining the purpose of Mozilla (1)

thegarbz (1787294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345139)

The question is not what they want it to be but what the people want from them. If they start moving the browser in the "damn the man" direction then they'll lose their core user base, common people.

I personally could not care less what format a video on the internet is, but damn any browser which won't play it.

Re:Defining the purpose of Mozilla (4, Insightful)

BZ (40346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344859)

No, the purpose is a free and open web and has been all along. Which is why Mozilla is doing various non-browser things (opposition to SOPA/PIPA, the Do-Not-Track header, B2G, BrowserID, etc, etc).

It just happened that while there was a browser monopoly the most important thing standing in the way of an open web was the existence of the browser monopoly, and the best way to fight it was to create a better browser.

Mozilla is becoming irrelevant. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344737)

Realistically, Mozilla's only real "product" is Firefox. Thunderbird is a pretty minor email client these days, and Bugzilla isn't used as widely as it once was. The rest of Mozilla's software is virtually unknown and/or unused.

Now that Mozilla has decided to have Firefox look and behave almost exactly like Chrome, but without being as fast or memory-efficient as Chrome, there's little reason to use Firefox these days. If you want the Chrome-like experience, you may as well just use Chrome, rather than getting the inferior Chrome-like experience of Firefox.

I don't think it really matters what they do with regards to these codecs. As the market share of Firefox continues to drop, Mozilla as a whole will become irrelevant. When the majority of people are using Chrome, IE, Safari or Opera, the codecs that are or aren't supported by Firefox just won't be a factor at all.

Re:Defining the purpose of Mozilla (0)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344791)

MPEG-LA is the SCO of h.264. SCO collected Unix license fees, but the actual copyrights were owned by Novell. Just like the actual h.264 copyrights are owned by Apple, Microsoft, and dozens (hundreds?) of other companies.

Re:Defining the purpose of Mozilla (4, Insightful)

rjstanford (69735) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345041)

If the purpose is to advocate for all things open source, then this is a bad move.

This is almost as silly as saying that, to advocate for open source, Linux kernels should refuse to run closed-source software.

More reasonably, consider that all modern operating systems provide a codec library. Firefox is one of the very few products that provides its own, out-of-sync one. Its a throwback to the times when every program used to include its own graphics, sound, and printer drivers. We moved away from those times for a very good reason.

If the Mozilla Foundation wants to make sure that all Firefox users can view at least the same subset of videos, they could always include and install a variety of freely licensed video codecs into the O/S store, and have that as a default part of the Firefox installation scripts. Of course, then the users' experience might be better in non-Firefox products also...

Re:Defining the purpose of Mozilla (3, Informative)

westlake (615356) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345259)

Maybe Google could buy MPEG-LA and end this nonsense once and for all?

MPEG LA [mpegla.com] manages patent pools.

The AVC/H.264 pool alone represents 29 licensors ---

most of them global industrial giants with no compelling reason to dance to Google's tune.

Here is a small sampling:

Cisco
Fujitsu
HP
Hitachi
NTT
Philips
Mitsubishi
Samsung
Sony
Ericsson
Toshiba

Shooting themselve in the leg. (1)

JustAnotherIdiot (1980292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344237)

Because they ran out of foot to shoot.
Good grief, seems there can't be a single good article about Mozilla as of late.

Wasn't Chrome supposed to drop H264 support!? (1)

gQuigs (913879) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344245)

I thought we were going in the other direction. You know the one were we don't have to pay a patent fee for online video.

Re:Wasn't Chrome supposed to drop H264 support!? (4, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344305)

Or pay $$$ for proprietary tools for developing websites.

One of the reasons I hated flash was the web was no longer open. 10 years ago you could use Linux to develop web pages because it had cool xml, php, database and other tools. Then flash and Adobe came around and turned it into a win32 and to a much lesser extent mac platform.

All the good candidates with the right skills had these $2,000 tools as HR check listed flash, flex, dreamweaver, illustrator, etc.

I view h.264 as another tie in to expensive tools that force you to pirate and not update your own pc just be job competitive. That is against the spirit of the web. No free tool can exist because h.264 is licensed and proprietary.

Re:Wasn't Chrome supposed to drop H264 support!? (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344805)

You can still use WebM, but it will only be supported on some browsers. Like it is now. Also, not all countries recognize software patents, so h.264 is free to use in them.
Also, the vast majority of hardware (camcorders, phones etc) supports h.264 but not WebM, so if you want to put a video that you recorded on your web site, you have to transcode it to WebM (and have a h.264 decioder).
Even DVB-T in my country uses h.264.

You want to break that compatibility (and make it impossible for me to watch online videos on my UMPC that has a slow CPU and GMA500 only supports h.264), make people buy new devices to just support a codec that only matters to the minority. Can you find a clamshell UMPC (max 4.8" screen) that has a x86 CPU and either has hardware WebM support or a CPU that is fast enough to do it in software?

Re:Wasn't Chrome supposed to drop H264 support!? (2, Insightful)

TD-Linux (1295697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344905)

I view h.264 as another tie in to expensive tools that force you to pirate and not update your own pc just be job competitive. That is against the spirit of the web. No free tool can exist because h.264 is licensed and proprietary.

The hell kind of reasoning is that? Have you ever actually tried creating a webpage? H.264 is not proprietary. The only thing that even touches H.264 is your video encoder. You probably already have one, and if not, there are plenty of good ones out there that you can use.

What is H.264 forcing you to pirate, exactly? How is H.264 preventing you from updating your PC? Why can no free tools exist? Have you read the actual license on MPEG-LA's website?

Re:Wasn't Chrome supposed to drop H264 support!? (1)

TD-Linux (1295697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344309)

You don't. The vast majority of systems today already include a decoder, you don't need to include one in the web browser. This actually makes a lot of sense. What business does the web browser have decoding the video? If you offload it to the system, it'll often be done by dedicated hardware that's a lot faster and consumes a lot less power.

Re:Wasn't Chrome supposed to drop H264 support!? (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344937)

Better yet, it'll allow for faster evolution of what video formats are used online... When a new MPEG5 or WebM2 format becomes immensely popular amongst implementers, suddenly we'll all magically be able to use it on t'internet too.

Re:Wasn't Chrome supposed to drop H264 support!? (1)

dreemernj (859414) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344459)

I remember it being announced that Chrome was dropping support for H264. I only remember because a month later Microsoft released a plugin to add support back to Chrome on Windows and I thought that was hilarious. I don't recall if they ever actually dropped support though. I mainly use Opera, which has never had H264 natively anyway so I've mostly ignored the arguments.

Re:Wasn't Chrome supposed to drop H264 support!? (4, Interesting)

BZ (40346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344487)

Google promised they'd drop H.264 in Chrome... and then never did. Recent queries about the state of that promise are met with curious silence.

Re:Wasn't Chrome supposed to drop H264 support!? (2)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344637)

I have some bad news for you: if you own a smart phone you already have paid because it contains a H.264 hardware decoder that's licensed. Now what's wrong with Mozilla using that existing hardware to get some decent performance instead of using an outside codec that will lead to lousy performance and worse battery life on the meagre content that's available to it ?

The patent fees will expire soon. (1, Informative)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344285)

I don't see any reason to avoid H.264 (MPEG4) and standardize on an inferior-quality open source codec that is little better than MPEG2. That would be like voluntarily choosing inferior NTSC-video instead of HD-video (and then being stuck with that choice for years and years).

In just a few years the royalty fees will expire and H.264 will be just as open as any other codec. Plus it's not as if Mozilla is supporting some evil corporation, but instead a standards organization. I say pick the Best even if that means a few years of payments.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (2)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344345)

I say pick the Best even if that means a few years of payments.

Except that the standards will be updated in a few years to support the next patent-encumbered format. You are missing the broader picture here: fighting against math^H^H^H^Hsoftware patents.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344353)

Weren't patents extended for 30 years now?

Still it is copyrighted and the requirements to use mean your os and browser must support DRM. The issue mentioned on Ars Technica, is that XP does not support h.264 because its GDI does not support DRM like Vista/7 due with HDMI.

XP needs to die and is very stale.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (2)

TD-Linux (1295697) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344439)

H.264 is not copyrighted. It is patented.

DRM has nothing to do with it. XP does not include a software H.264 decoder because it didn't exist at the time XP was released.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (3, Insightful)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344515)

Still it is copyrighted and the requirements to use mean your os and browser must support DRM. The issue mentioned on Ars Technica, is that XP does not support h.264 because its GDI does not support DRM like Vista/7 due with HDMI.

XP supports h.264 just fine. You can get lots of h.264 decoders and encoders for XP. It's just that Microsoft hasn't extended licensing of h.264 to XP (it costs money).

The DRM thing is a non-issue. "Protected Path" is a DRM technology for use in specific use cases - e.g., playing back Blu-Ray movies, where a software playback app MUST use measures to protect the stream. So if you want to play back Blu-Ray, you need Vista or Win7.

Heck, XP plays h.264 just fine - if you ever view YouTube videos in 720p or 1080p (and sometimes 480p) YouTube is sending you an h.264 stream.

h.264 has nothing to do with copyrights - it's just that the algorithm uses a lot of patented technologies and it's the patents that require paying royalties to use (you can make agreements with every patent holder, or just pay a flat fee to the MPEG-LA). The mateiral encoded in h.264 is copyrighted.

So an XP user has at least three ways to play back an h.264 video without spending a dime. First would be Flash player which includes h.264 support for videos. Second is iTunes/QuickTime which provides its own h.264 decoder for free. Third is to install VLC.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344863)

First would be Flash player which includes h.264 support for videos. Second is iTunes/QuickTime which provides its own h.264 decoder for free. Third is to install VLC.

Fourth: use ffdshow. Then you'll be able to use your favorite media player that supports DirectShow to play back the video.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344377)

I dunno where you got that the h.264 patents expire any time soon. The first google link when searching for this suggests that this will happen in 2025 (13 years from now).

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (2)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344413)

In just a few years the royalty fees will expire and H.264 will be just as open as any other codec.

How few is a few? If I'm not mistaken, the patents on H.264 date back to the 2000s, and will still be enforceable for another 10 years or more. Which I guess is "a few years" in the grand scheme of things, but given the pace of Firefox version numbers, we're looking at Firefox 50.0 at least before H.264 is patent-free.

And that's just in the US. I have no idea how long the various parts of it are patented in other countries.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (2)

Suddenly_Dead (656421) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344567)

This page [wikia.com] has a list of H.264 patents. The last one expires in 2028, but from an extremely brief glance it doesn't look encoder-related. Last relevant one might be 2027; it has a 1215 day extension.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (3, Informative)

hhedeshian (1343143) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344641)

Giving up mod powers for this:
How few? In 2027.
Summary: http://www.osnews.com/story/24954/US_Patent_Expiration_for_MP3_MPEG-2_H_264/ [osnews.com]
Patent break-down: http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/MPEG_patent_lists#H.264_patents [wikia.com]
To quote the summary

H.264 is a newer video codec. The standard first came out in 2003, but continues to evolve. An automatically generated patent expiration list is available at H.264 Patent List based on the MPEG-LA patent list. The last expiration is US 7826532 on 29 nov 2027 ( note that 7835443 is divisional, but the automated program missed that). US 7826532 was first filed in 05 sep 2003 and has an impressive 1546 day extension. It will be a while before H.264 is patent free.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344579)

"Little better than MPEG-2"? Any hard data to corroborate that claim? I thought that MPEG-2 lags far behind both MPEG-4 AVC and WebM/VP8.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344843)

When I first heard of WebM I went-off and watched tons of videos, and to my eyes it looks like MPEG3 (if such a thing existed). I see no reason to choose an inferior standard that is blurry and filled with mosquitos (lossy artifacts). Choosing WebM would be as illogical as choosing MPEG2 or 1 to standardize upon. Those are old tech/low quality.

IMHO.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344599)

In just a few years the royalty fees will expire and H.264 will be just as open as any other codec.

15 years is a "few"? 2027 for most of the patents to expire.

Plus it's not as if Mozilla is supporting some evil corporation, but instead a standards organization.

MPEG Private Corporate Licensing Agency For Extortion (MPEG-LA) [wikipedia.org] .
ISO MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) [wikipedia.org] .

It is the only stumbling block on a political basis

I never realised that cash is "political". So, if I shout loudly enough someone will just dump a wad of money in my hand?
H.264 is supposed to RAND, that doesn't make it free. Per copy fees to be paid to a patent holder violates the GPL, if you need to work with GPL code then it's just plain illegal.

I don't see any reason to avoid H.264 (MPEG4) and standardize on an inferior-quality open source codec that is little better than MPEG2. That would be like voluntarily choosing inferior NTSC-video instead of HD-video (and then being stuck with that choice for years and years).

"Little better than MPEG2" is a pretty high standard, what format do you think DVDs use? They were around before MPEG4 was standardised. WebM is not the best format but that is not the same thing as being bad.

Re:The patent fees will expire soon. (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344927)

H.264 is supposed to RAND, that doesn't make it free. Per copy fees to be paid to a patent holder violates the GPL, if you need to work with GPL code then it's just plain illegal.

That's why you use system codecs instead of putting the codecs (that probably don't even support DXVA, OpenCL or CUDA for hardware acceleration) in the browser.

"Little better than MPEG2" is a pretty high standard, what format do you think DVDs use? They were around before MPEG4 was standardised. WebM is not the best format but that is not the same thing as being bad.

And h.264 can put a 720p resolution movie in a DVD5.

2030 is soon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344901)

Er. The very first patent listed in the h264 list of patents (an apple one) doesn't expire until 2030 (after adding in the administrative extensions).

ANY native-supplied codec should be usable (5, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344313)

It only stands to reason that if you're using standard system APIs to access codecs that have been purchased or installed by the user/owner, then ALL of those codecs should be usable, not just the free ones.

What's the point of having a general purpose browser if you let it get polluted by political arguments about which codecs the USER installs? Using system codecs is not "polluting the code" -- it's letting the user decide.

Re:ANY native-supplied codec should be usable (1)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344387)

Using system codecs is not "polluting the code" -- it's letting the user decide.

It also creates problems for web developers, who are already burdened with supporting multiple incompatible browsers simultaneously.

Re:ANY native-supplied codec should be usable (2)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344961)

Yes, they are so burdened right no too. Some users do not have Flash installed, some do not have Java Runtime, some do not have Silverlight. Some browsers may not even support Javascript. the developers have to take all this into account and provide functionality even if you don't have Flash, Java and Silverlight.

Oh, wait, they just tell the user to go donwnload the required plugin.

Re:ANY native-supplied codec should be usable (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345341)

It also creates problems for web developers

..and being a network administrator would be easier if every box in the universe ran the same version of the same operating system with the same hardware.

..and being an automobile mechanic would be easier if every car used the exact same identical parts as all other cars.


We should care that web developers have to do their job? They get compensated for doing their fucking job. They simply arent part of this equation. Of course web developers want an easier time of it. Duh. Next you'll tell us that the Pope is going to come out against a war.

Re:ANY native-supplied codec should be usable (1)

Fastolfe (1470) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344429)

I think the point is that content publishers would like to see a small set of standard/mandatory codecs, so that they don't have to keep a library of many different versions of their content, or go through the CPU expense of transcoding everything on demand. Think of YouTube's storage costs, for instance.

But it's OPEN! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344747)

Open always equals better! Right? Right??

Re:ANY native-supplied codec should be usable (3, Interesting)

J0nne (924579) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344833)

Because they tried this before, with the <object> tag, which could support any possible codec (quicktime, realvideo, wmv, ...). This ended up being such a huge mess that web developers decided to just go with flash instead, because for all its failings, at least it worked on most computers (and you didn't need to deal with the ugly default controls media players insisted on at the time).

Re:ANY native-supplied codec should be usable (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344911)

Because that is a big 'ALL', complete with incompatibility.

Let's not go down the road we were doing before with 'the fun thing about standards is there are so many of them!'

Re:ANY native-supplied codec should be usable (2)

watermark (913726) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345183)

Some codecs (read H.264) are patent encumbered so require a royalty to be paid to use. Using any particular codec will encourage the proliferation of those formats on the web. H.264, unfortunately, has nearly become the standard due to it's wide use. This basically kills any dream of a free ($) operating system that could be made affordable to the poor, education, or developing nations.

Windows alone cost $100, a Raspberry Pi costs $35.

Hello (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344331)

desarrollo web en panama [desarrollowebpanama.com]

webm (0)

TheSimkin (639033) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344435)

Webm is just as good as h.264 imho. That said, I see no reason why the browsers shouldn't use the decoding abilities of the OS they reside on. This just makes common sense? If I already have a license/ability to decode for h.264, why shouldn't I be able to use it in my browser?

Re:webm (0, Troll)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344495)

Because XP users will whine to the webmasters their internets wont show videos at the website.

What about Linux users? Leave them in the dark too? Mobile users? In India and China there will likely be more people browsing the web on phones than desktops and not everyone of them will have an expensive patent paid IPhone or Andriod. These mobile browsers do not support these patents to cut down on costs.

Re:webm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344663)

Shame on you. You're showing your ignorance when a few minutes of looking around this grand network thingie would have told you that almost all celphones that have the ability to show video have dedicated h.264 hardware decoders doing the job. So do most video cards and video players. There's a reason it's a standard.

If nothing else, Steve Jobs' rant on flash and why it wouldn't be on the iPhone should have given you the clue.

As to the balance of this kerfluffle... Carry on.

Re:webm (1)

Pentium100 (1240090) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345031)

Yes, XP can only support DivX, that's why when the anime fansubbers abandoned it others reencode their releases to DivX because the XP users cannot play h.264, so they still don't know how great HD looks, since that is usually h.264-only.

Or they download CCCP or a similar codec pack and have h.264 codecs.

As for phones - it is more likely that a phone will support h.264 decoding in hardware than WebM. WebM will probably be decoded in software greatly reducing the battery life (assuming the CPU is fast enough to decode the video in the first place).

Ffdshow is also available for Linux and supports, among others, h.264.

Re:webm (1, Insightful)

nightfell (2480334) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344771)

Webm is just as good as h.264 imho.

Except it's not. In every way, other than the meta aspect of patents, H.264 is superior to WebM. And there are a multitude of other meta aspects which H.264 is superior. Specifically, it's *far* more widely supported, both in existing video (which Mozilla has, in their infinite wisdom, decided their users do not ever need to view), and in existing hardware. H.264 is what has allowed Apple to support 1080p HD video from the iTunes Store while keeping file sizes down to damned close to their current 720p sizes while still maintaining respectable image quality.

Your choice: an iPad with 10 hours of video playback using the built-in H.264 hardware, or a "freedom" iPad which gets 1.5 hours of video playback using a software decoder.

That said, I see no reason why the browsers shouldn't use the decoding abilities of the OS they reside on. This just makes common sense?

Yes, it makes common sense, which is why Mozilla has decided against it so far. And even though it's an inscrutable fact that Mozilla could have done this from day one, there was no shortage of Slashdot nerds trying to claim that Mozilla could not legally support H.264.

Which is a load of bullshit.

If I already have a license/ability to decode for h.264, why shouldn't I be able to use it in my browser?

Because that would make you eeevillll. Somehow. I don't fucking know, just ask one of these freetards to explain it. I'm sure somehow they will be able to concoct an elaborate logical framework why using H.264 is no different from living in Soviet Russia multiplied by being an indentured servant to the power of Orwell, or some such nonsense.

VLC Plugin? (1, Offtopic)

rHBa (976986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344501)

It's available for all platforms, it's 'free', it decodes h264. What am I missing , honestly...

Re:VLC Plugin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39344751)

Mozilla is a US company and there are US laws that protect h264 decoding.

Practical end result (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344535)

This battle between open and proprietary standards hasn't resulted in people adopting open standards - it's just encouraged the continued use of Flash. Enough people use Firefox that its lack of h.264 support means sites stick with the lowest common denominator (BTW is Google actually going to ever follow through and remove h.264 support in Chrome?).

On a side note - it's annoying that Firefox is only considering this for their mobile browser, which is not a particularly widely used product. They really should do this in their standard product, if they do it at all.

Re:Practical end result (1)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344697)

This battle between open and proprietary standards hasn't resulted in people adopting open standards - it's just encouraged the continued use of Flash.

I think that has more to do with <video> support sucking compared to Flash. Specifically, things like:

1. The ability to fullscreen a video in a single step.
2. The ability to skip ahead to a section of the video that hasn't downloaded yet.
3. The ability to seamlessly switch between different bitrates depending on connection speed.
4. The ability to seamlessly switch between different resolutions depending on connection speed.

I think of that list, the only one that works fairly reliably across browsers is #1. And even that's fairly recent - it used to be that if you provided your own playback controls, you lost the ability to fullscreen without making the user fullscreen the entire browser.

Flash and Silverlight do all of those. Well, sort of - I'm not sure how well Flash handles #4 based on YouTube, but I know that the NetFlix player handles all of those through Silverlight. Granted NetFlix also requires DRM, so they'll never be able to use HTML5.

Overall, though, this list should give you an idea why people still use Flash to stream video. It has more to do with the capabilities Flash provides that HTML5 does not.

Of course, there's also things like the lack of decent tools to encode WebM video...

Re:Practical end result (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345225)

2. The ability to skip ahead to a section of the video that hasn't downloaded yet.

Hmm... maybe this works better on Windows; but on the Mac Flash absolutely sucks at this, while h.264 is seamless at it (in Safari and Chrome.

Seriously, if I try to scrub ahead in a long Flash video, the delay can be a minute before Flash will start playing from the new location.

Cmon FOSS, shave your neck (1, Interesting)

not already in use (972294) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344643)

The death of FOSS is going to be the inability to adopt pragmatic solutions to problems, and instead trying to achieve some ideal solution that aligns with their fundamentally flawed ideology. RIP GPL, you've grown to old and stuck in your ways. The younger, better looking, not-as-cynical-and-angry bsd-style licenses are quickly replacing you.

Re:Cmon FOSS, shave your neck (1)

CharlyFoxtrot (1607527) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344749)

Not to mention the fact they are incessantly trying to solve yesterday's problems. I guess it makes sense seeing as FOSS started as a re-implementation of existing tech in the first place, still it's a shame they haven't been able to outgrow their roots.

either way (2, Funny)

alienzed (732782) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344661)

I'm sure it'll be implemented in Firefox 19, due to be released next week.

Re:either way (2)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344939)

Pretty soon the naming convention will have a timestamp built in.

The Firefox of right now:

Firefox2012.03.13.16.07.53

too bad google owns youtube (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344691)

and adobe flash is going to be supported only in google chrome, leaving firefox on linux out in the cold, - anyone else see a conspiracy theory brewing in that niche

flash needs to be made obsolete!

Re:too bad google owns youtube (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39345053)

flash needs to be made obsolete!

Or the flash platform needs to be open sourced or open spec'd like was done with PDF. There are things that flash is a better tool for (e.g. RIAs) than HTML5.

Hypocrits! (4, Insightful)

pesc (147035) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344713)

Mozilla already plays H264 video embedded in flash contents through an external flash plugin. Today.

So why would it be controversial to allow another plugin to do the same?

The solution is simple (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344761)

Find out who owns H264, and feed them to your pets.

Don't make it about H.264 (4, Insightful)

Sloppy (14984) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344811)

They shouldn't "support H.264" but rather, they should support any unknown (to the browser) codec by trying the OS.

There are two different issues going on here, and the Mozilla team got one of them right and one of them wrong.

  1. The don't want to implement something that is illegal to implement (or even use!), e.g. patented codecs without permission. Mozilla made the right call on this, all along. Free Software can't implement H.264 without "going underground" (which is itself a loss of freedom, romantic though it be).
  2. They want all Mozilla users to have the same experience, so they define it as "intolerably bad" if one Mozilla user can play codec x and another Mozilla user can't. Mozilla got this wrong; it's not "intolerably bad" ; it's "regrettably bad." It's something to be angry about, but the decision is out of your hands. There isn't anything Mozilla can do that will cause it to be, that all users can play all codecs. That battle is over until we have patent reform (or until patents expire in a decade or two). Until then, a balkanized web is something we simply must live with. That's the political world you live in.

Let VDPAU/VA-API/whatever deal with it. All of it, and Mozilla won't have to maintain Theora or WebM code, either. Then they can get back to hunting for memory leaks. ;-)

how will Web developers know when they can and cannot count on system codecs?

They won't, just like they don't know that now. Stuff will fail. And if when does, maybe the browser can tell the user to get off their ass and go vote for a change.

Re:Don't make it about H.264 (1)

AndrewStephens (815287) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345249)

They shouldn't "support H.264" but rather, they should support any unknown (to the browser) codec by trying the OS.

No, no, no. That will lead to the bad old days of having to install a different codec for each web site. Remember when we had Real, various MS codecs, Quicktime, and Flash, and various others I have forgotten all competing for memory? It sucked.

In a perfect world the video tag would define a small list of codecs that are broadly supported by OSes and mobile devices. The list of codecs can be revisited every 5 years or so as technology improves but should be fairly static. The browser can chose to implement the codecs themselves or let the OS do it, but should not attempt to pass every unknown codec onto the OS. H264 is the industry standard (like it or not) and if Firefox can't implement it itself (for good reasons) then I think using the OS is a fair enough compromise.

I wrote about this 2 years ago when this issue first came up. At the time one of the Mozilla devs explained that they didn't really trust the OS codecs from a security point of view, but time has moved on and I would expect that most H264 codecs are pretty secure now.

Who are you coding for? (1)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344949)

While I'm fine with coders having their own ethical convictions, (I have a few of my own), you should keep in mind that coders are not your audience. It's the people who use your product that you should be listening too.

Say Firefox would introduce some kind of iTunes support, just some random crazy nonsense feature. As a coder I have moral objections against anything related to Apple, mainly due to their business practices. But I could see it being useful to a portion of the users of Firefox. The responsible thing to do would be to include the feature even though as a coder, I'd be against it. Simply because the user should be king.

Withholding features, be it due to moral objections or (more often) marketing, is the main reason why a lot of other commercial products suck. It's the reason why you can't have anything like an interpreter or emulator on the iPad. It's the reason why IE doesn't support web standards (although they got a lot better lately). It's the reason why a lot of software sucks. So write for your users!

Piracy drives technology (5, Informative)

Snowlock45 (613911) | more than 2 years ago | (#39344971)

In this case, I would be willing to be that the reason is that the pirate groups have now made x264 the defacto standard for standard definition TV. AVI is falling by the wayside, and therefore Mozilla is just keeping up with the tech savvy of the interwebs. http://torrentfreak.com/bittorrent-pirates-go-nuts-after-tv-release-groups-dump-xvid-120303/ [torrentfreak.com]

NO (1)

danielt998 (1348307) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345115)

If Mozilla doesn't support it, it will hopefully never become a standard, which should be good for the open web. If they do choose to, we will be stuck with an evil proprietary video standard forever. I like HTML5 video because it prevents the needs for proprietary software and standards and FREE software codecs can be used. If companies decide to use proprietary codecs then we are back to square one...

System video codecs (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 2 years ago | (#39345133)

Why shouldn't Firefox support every codec supported by the system? It shouldn't be much code.

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