Firefox to Stop Pushing WebM and Give in to H.264? What’s that Mean to You

Firefox to Stop Pushing WebM and Give in to H.264? What’s that Mean to You

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It’s a dark day indeed for online video, H.264 has seemingly won the war without any real battles being fought. Google has yet to remove H.264 from Chrome and now someone high up at Firefox has pretty much stated that they’re throwing in the towel as well.

Honestly, it makes sense.  Google hasn’t managed to pull H.264 from Chrome, nor have they managed full WebM support for Android. If Google can’t commit 100% to its own codec and video format, how the hell did they expect anyone else to do so? That’s just so… Google, isn’t it? I mean, look at Google+, it’s all half-baked as well. I’m losing a lot of faith in them on the whole lately (see my recent malware woes).

But I digress, as I often do which is why people read my stuff sometimes, right?

OK, according to a CNET post I was reading Firefox is basically caving in to support H.264, which could really help speed up HTML5 <video> tag adoption while simultaneously putting the whole thing in  a spot of trouble, I guess. They cite Mozilla Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich as saying that WebM is pretty much a boat with no paddles (OK I paraphrased) and that they need to make a change of plans for the future of Firefox.

They will probably just turn a switch and include H.264 native support in the browser instead of via a plugin that users have to manually install. So be it, perhaps this will make Google take a step back and see what they’re doing. No, I don’t believe that either.

Without Firefox, the only real, native browser support left for WebM, according to that massively cool LongTail State of HTML5 chart, is Chrome, and well, Opera (see their chart below)

Browser/DeviceVideo formatsAudio formatsMultiple sources
Internet ExplorerMP4MP3
ChromeMP4, WebMAAC, MP3, Vorbis
FirefoxWebM MP4Vorbis
SafariMP4AAC, MP3
iPad/iPhoneMP4AAC, MP3

You can see that WebM is clearly one signature away from euthanasia by Google. I mean, we might as well give up the ghost of a free Internet, your ISP has already been spying on you for a year now and will start shutting down your service for alleged breaches of its mega-corp masters, the RIAA, copyrights. Next we’ll simply pay to be able to access any sort of video on the web.

Alright, that last part is a bit of an overstatement on my part, exaggeration for effect if you will. But really, I have this gut feeling that once H.264 becomes a standard, and it’s everywhere, MPEG LA will say “OK, now pony up the cash, suckers!” because that’s the sort of group I think they are. Yeah, I’m not making any friends there, and that’s fine because when it happens, I’ll be able to say I told you so and that’s worth more than what they think of me.

You might recall that, a year ago, I wrote this:

I just ran across this most interesting of items.  MPEG LA has announced that they will not charge royalties on Internet Video using the AVC/H.264 codec, when that video is free to end-users, for the lifetime of that license. This goes beyond the previous December 31, 2015 announcement. No royalties will be charged on freely available Internet Video which uses the H.264 (MPEG-5 Part 10) codec for the duration of MPEG LA’s license to the patent.

The end of 2015 thing was a previous announcement that said it would be free for end-users or something, I forget really. The statement about the duration of the MPEG LA license to the patent is not a binding deal, they can renege at any time. On top of that, they’ve already filed a patent lawsuit against Google and WebM claiming some amazing amount of patents are infringed upon in the codec. On top of that, Apple and Microsoft and dozens of others have patents that MPEG LA manages in regards to online video.

Along with that royalty free deal I suggested it would be a propellant for free-to-consumer online video, meaning ad-supported instead of subscription and pay-per-view. So far that really hasn’t materialized (hey, I’m not actually psychic you know!), well it has and it hasn’t. But I could see MPEG LA pulling the purse strings of every single premium video content publisher in the future and doing that polite cough before pointing to their huge coffers made just to hold all the gold they’re going to basically extort.

Increasingly, it seems that we have lost the fight for a free and open source Internet, an Internet free from corporate warfare and royalty or license payments and it seems that it’s only going to get worse and worse. Soon, we’ll have byte-sized meters on our pipes and all be stuck back in the dark ages of 9600 baud modems because the ISPs will be throttling us all to death. This could be why the likes of Google and Intel are looking at their own video content systems, though Google’s will probably run on WebM, and no one will have the software to watch it…

Firefox, for their part, have a tough road ahead. Since they are open source proponents, they can’t really start paying licensing and royalties to someone else, it just wouldn’t work. So they are trying to find a legit work around, like access to it in the operating system, etc.  They’re looking at trying the same thing for Mp3 and AAC as well. After all, if it’s already installed with the operating system, why shouldn’t they be able to access it, right? Microsoft already managed it just to show up Google with an extension for Chrome and Firefox that gave them H.264 support via Windows 7.

Well, at least I can stop using Google Chrome now, and have.


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