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Mozilla chairman and CTO grudgingly endorse H.264 video support

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After an impassioned debate among Mozilla developers last week, the organization's CTO and Chairman have begrudgingly thrown their support behind allowing the H.264 codec to be accessed through its mobile browsers.

Firefox 10 Android
Firefox 10 Android

Following an impassioned discussion last week on a Mozilla developers forum, the organization's CTO Brendan Eich and chairman Mitchell Baker have thrown their support behind allowing the popular H.264 codec to be accessed by some of its browsers. In two separate blog posts, the Mozilla executives begrudgingly admit that not supporting the codec will result in a huge blow to its relevancy, especially in the mobile market. As Eich outlines, the organization's current plans are to allow H.264 to be accessible on Boot2Gecko and Firefox for Android, and only because the video decoder is available at the hardware or software level of Android devices. The debate largely revolves around keeping up the organization's core values of offering unencumbered technology, or risk losing relevancy in the mobile market.

Eich's post is particularly vitriolic towards Google regarding this move. He heavily cites the company's lack of follow-through in removing H.264 support from Chrome in favor of the fully open-sourced WebM format, and says that even if it was to do so now, it wouldn't matter due to the weight of the mobile market behind H.264.

Google is in my opinion not going to ship mobile browsers this year or next that fail to play H.264 content that Apple plays perfectly. Whatever happens in the very long run, Mozilla can’t wait for such an event. Don’t ask Google why they bought On2 but failed to push WebM to the exclusion of H.264 on Android. The question answers itself.

It's still unclear what this means for Mozilla's desktop browsers. As Eich points out in his post, users have many more video playback options on the desktop, including third-party Flash-fallback for H.264 video — an irony he is fully aware of. Eich also states that the organization is still fully behind finding ways to offer unencumbered technologies to its users, and that giving in to the pressure to allow H.264 on mobile platforms is a "bitter experience," but one that is necessary "to succeed in our mobile initiatives."