Mozilla may support H.264 video codec in Firefox to compete on mobile phones

Mozilla had avoided the video codec until now because it is heavily encumbered by patents

Mozilla Foundation is considering adding support for the H.264 video codec in mobile versions of the Firefox browser, a move it has avoided up to now because H.264 is encumbered by patents. Mozilla's policy up to now has been to support only open codecs, but it is relaxing that rule because support for the codec is important in mobile browsers, the foundation's chair said.

"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," Mitchell Baker wrote in a blog post on Sunday.

Mozilla has so far relied on Adobe's Flash to implement H.264 for Firefox users, but that may not be an option for the Android version of Firefox, as Adobe has announced that it will not develop Flash on mobile devices, Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich wrote in a separate post.

H.264 is absolutely required right now to compete on mobile, Eich said. "I do not believe that we can reject H.264 content in Firefox on Android or in B2G and survive the shift to mobile," he said. Boot to Gecko (B2G) is Mozilla's platform for mobile devices.

The foundation had been counting on Google to push WebM, based on the VP8 video compression format, to the exclusion of H.264 on Chrome for Android, as part of its focus on open codec technologies, Eich said. But that is unlikely to happen as Apple ships hardware with support for H.264, he added.

WebM is an open, royalty-free, media file format designed for the web. The project was launched in 2010 to use the VP8 open video compression format as the video format for HTML5. VP8 was released under a royalty-free license after Google acquired its developer, On2 Technologies.

"Apple sells a lot of H.264-supporting hardware. That hardware in general, and specifically in video playback quality, is the gold standard," Eich said. Google is in his opinion not going to ship mobile browsers this year or next that do not play H.264 content that Apple plays perfectly, he added.

Andreas Gal, director of research at Mozilla, has proposed using operating system and hardware-based H.264 decoding capabilities on Android and B2G.

"We have never rejected encumbered formats handled by plugins, and OS-dependent H.264 decoding is not different in kind from Flash-dependent H.264 decoding in my view," Eich said. But he concluded with, "Losing a battle is a bitter experience. I won't sugar-coat this pill".

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?