Mozilla rethinks HTML5 video

Big cheeses at the Mozzarella Foundation are rethinking their decision not to include the HTML5 video codec, H.264, within Firefox.

For a while now, Firefox has not been that happy with H.264, mostly because it has a minefield of proprietary code under the bonnet which no open saucer would touch with a bargepole.

But now it seems that Mozilla is changing its mind and will support it where the codec is supplied by the platform or implemented in hardware. This means that Mozilla, or its users, do not have to pay to use the codec.

As you would expect, proprietary companies like Apple and Microsoft both support H.264, while Mozilla and Opera oppose the use of patented codecs. Google has been pushing VP8, a codec that it has put forth as a viable alternative to H.264 for web video. VP8 itself has yet to face the wrath of the patent trolls and may not be as open as Google claims.

According to Ars Technica, Mozilla’s move doesn’t mean that H.264 has won. Andreas Gal, Mozilla’s director of research, said that he wants to go ahead with enabling H.264 on Mozilla’s Boot2Gecko (B2G) mobile OS.

For this to work, the video element in Mozilla’s HTML rendering engine has to rely on codecs that are supplied by the underlying operating system or video hardware. This gets around Mozilla’s philosophical dislike of the codec.

Some of this is thanks to Microsoft which has allowed Windows Vista and Windows 7 to use H.264 codec with third-party software. But Firefox needs to support Windows XP users who are a big demographic for Mozilla. So this half-way house idea is seen as a good move.

Gal says that Mozilla’s ideological position in favour of open codecs remains unchanged. The organisation, he said, is still hopeful that an open source friendly code will win the battle.