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Mozilla reconsiders its stance on H.264 video codec

Mozilla reconsiders its stance on H.264 video codec


Mozilla is reconsidering allowing its rendering engine to access the H.264 video codec. Support behind h.264 is much greater than any other video codec, but Mozilla has not adopted it because of its licensing costs.

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Mozilla may be acquiescing when it comes to only supporting open and free standards, as it seems the popular H.264 video codec will soon be accessible on Mozilla's Boot2Gecko project and Firefox for Android. Andreas Gal, Mozilla's director of research, outlined the plan that would allow mobile versions of it's open-source browsers to use H.264 when it's available via a device's operating system. Using the codec this way would allow the organization to avoid the $5 million in licensing fees that it would have to pay to include the H.264 within its browser.

Part of Mozilla's commitment to producing browsers is to use free, open, and unencumbered standards. As such, it had previously shirked H.264 for HTML5 video playback, instead putting its support behind Ogg Theora and later Google's WebM, hoping Google's industry clout would help drive the adoption of the new codec. However, Google has not followed through with its promise to take out H.264 support from Chrome in favor of WebM exclusively. Partially as a result of having support in Chrome (along with every other major web browser), H.264 has risen in popularity as the de facto encoding standard for web video.

This isn't the first time that Mozilla has had to examine whether gaining more compatibility is worth compromising its core values. The organization considered adopting CSS page rendering rules from WebKit for its mobile offerings, despite the fact that those rules are technically not part of the W3C standards.

With the rise in popularity of WebKit-specific CSS and H.264 — technologies that don't necessarily jive with Mozilla's core values — the organization is left with a difficult choice: adopt standards that it doesn't believe are conducive to supporting its vision for a free and open internet, or possibly be left behind.