Mozilla to Eventually Support H.264 Standard

By Ed Silverstein March 21, 2012

Mozilla will soon support the H.264 standard after other alternatives have failed.

In a recent article by The Inquirer, Mozilla only came to support the standard reluctantly.

"Mozilla is on the cusp of changing our policy about our use of video codecs and making use of a format known as 'H.264,'” Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, said in a recent blog post. “We have tried to avoid this for a number of years, as H.264 is encumbered by patents."

"The state of video on the Web today, and in mobile devices in particular, is pushing us to change our policy,” Baker added. “We've declined to adopt a technology that improves user experience in the hopes this will bring greater user sovereignty. Not many would try this strategy, but we did. It's time to focus on shipping products people can love now, and to work on developing a new tactic for bringing unencumbered technology to the world of audio and video codecs."

Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich suggests Mozilla might have been able to avoid the move had it received more support from Google and Adobe. The two large companies said they would support open standards.

"Changes promised by Google and Adobe have not been made," Eich added.

"H.264 is absolutely required right now to compete on mobile,” he added. “I do not believe that we can reject H.264 content in Firefox on Android or in B2G and survive the shift to mobile. Losing a battle is a bitter experience. I won't sugar-coat this pill...Failure on mobile is too likely to consign Mozilla to decline and irrelevance."

H.264 was developed by Apple, Microsoft and other companies, according to The Register. It is dominant in video compression and playback for the Web and devices. Mozilla had also opposed supporting H.264 because it was a non-open codec.

Eich and Baker said Mozilla even tried to give “VP8 and others a chance, but these failed.” Google announced in 2008 it released ON2's VP8 video codec as royalty-free, open-source software, TechZone360 said.

“We shouldn’t beat ourselves up for somehow failing to live up to Mozilla’s values," Baker said in the blog post. "We’ll find a way around this impasse. We have some of the world’s most creative and dedicated people working on open video and video technologies. We’ll rebuild the maze if we have to. We’ll keep working hard to bring unencumbered codecs to the web. We’ll be more effective at building products people can love as we do this. We should do so proudly.” 

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Contributor

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