"There is really no justification to stop our users from using system decoders already on the device"
Mozilla just spent two years telling everyone that they were not going to do this, and posting justifications as for why not. To me this is a serious blow to their credibility.
http://robert.ocallahan.org/2010/01/video-freedom-and-mozill... ("Mozilla should pick up and use H.264 codecs that are already installed on the user's system.")
They fought 2 years for getting patent-free video recognized, probably at the cost of some of their userbase, and a lot of anger from web-developers who saw their lives complicated.
Today, they seem to be reconsidering their position because they think it's a lost fight.
How is this a blow to their credibility? What should they have done? Instantly bend over next time? Stubbornly refuse to reconsider and lose the best hope for a truly free phone OS because nobody would want to use it?
If you lose a war, it's never pretty. Kudos to Mozilla for taking a hard stance against patented standards for as long as they could. They deserve credit for that.
Because he's not saying "we tried, but it didn't work out in the end". He's saying there is no justification not to use available platform decoders. Yet they were not shy to provide them in the past. He's not addressing why those are no longer relevant arguments.
Obviously the real reason they're doing this now is because on their new mobile platform, the Gecko runtime is all there is, and without it supporting H.264 playback, the platform would be considered incomplete at launch more so than their desktop browser is for not supporting it. I get the motivation. I'm not saying it's wrong - I don't agree with it, but that's not the point here. The point is how bad it makes Mozilla look to change their stance so willy-nilly.
The reasons are still there - it's even pointed out in the parent discussion that they're still a problem on Windows. One main difference is that Windows 7 is an order of magnitude more widespread now than it was 2 years ago - when those posts you refer to were written.
And as you already admitted - they're doing this on mobile first. There's no guarantee yet it turns out to be actually feasible on desktop if those same arguments can't be properly addressed.
"It pushes the software freedom issues from the browser (where we have leverage to possibly change the codec situation) to the platform (where there is no such leverage). You still can't have a completely free software Web client stack."
Given that it strikes me as ironic that Mozilla is now building a platform - i.e. a platform where they definitely have leverage - that is going to support H.264.
That isn't irony. It's at worst pragmatism, and at best not being stupid to continue a lost fight.
They should've worked instead to get proper buy-in from the various parties supporting the current standards to ensure that another GIF incident doesn't happen.
MPEG claimed they were going to create royalty-free profiles of H.264 and then went back on that (possibly due to cunning political moves by Microsoft) and now claim to be evaluating a couple of ways forward for royalty-free codecs (a profile of H.264 again, or building on older MPEG 2 tech). It's fairly obvious that it was pressure from (primarily) Google & Mozilla that put RF codecs back on the table for them.
MPEG-LA reduced the uncertainty around their future codec licence payments, and as a result their maximum profits. Again almost certainly due to Google and Mozilla.
They didn't take their ball and go home, they negotiated and competed and as a result won valuable concessions that continue to have value as the next round of codec development begins.
One person opinion != Mozilla opinion
(As for "article", that was just me using a generic term for the context of a HN thead.)
(If you mean the prominent Asa Dotzler, he's neither the CEO nor is he saying the "opposite" in my book.)
Seriously - there is not decision been taken here. This is just a discussion about gecko on Android, and the implication for Desktop.
Saying "Firefox will support H264 and MP3 decoding with OS codecs" is just speculation.
Edit: to be clear: I am saying that there's no plan to support H264 on Firefox Desktop.
Quoting directly from the link:
Initially this will be enabled on Gonk (B2G). In a few weeks we will add support for Android as well. We will support encoding any video/audio format that is supported by existing decoders present on the system, including H.264 and MP3.
Of course it's possible that the bug doesn't land. But calling this speculation? Please.
I do not see what benefits it could have.
* Chrome was supposed to drop H264 support a >1 year ago in favor of WebM. It never happened.
* The spread of H264 video wasn't slowed down by Mozilla's stance.
* Firefox users were effectively forced to install Flash (a far more closed solution) to view videos.
* The split in HTML5 video support (Firefox and Opera being the lone holdouts with no H264 support) weakened HTML5 compared to alternatives.
* Flash is going away on Mobile devices, which mean that Firefox Mobile users had no way to view videos. This is why it's going into B2G + Android first.
* Adobe announced two years ago that Flash would support WebM, but it never happened. (And since then they have stopped updating Flash for mobile platforms, and for non-Chrome browsers on Linux.)
This is pivotal. A big part of why WebM looked like it could win was Chrome's announced support for it and the dropping of H.264. It looks like Chrome has backtracked on that - over a year passed, no follow through on Chrome's promise to remove H.264 - so it is forcing Mozilla to reconsider it's position.
Does anyone know more about Chrome's current stance?
There was and still is no realistic way for Google to switch to WebM. Not exclusively. (Yes, they can also encode their videos in WebM but h.264 versions are always necessary.)
YouTube, no. Chrome, obviously YES. Firefox and Opera did and still do it. Their failure to use Chrome to push WebM means they killed off their own format. Tells you something about their priorities.
That format would be h.264. And nothing changes.
Switching to WebM is pointless if all other browsers still can get h.264. That way you can’t change anything.
This is still entirely true (note that "afford" in the above should be read in the "free license" context, not monetary). For the same reason, Chromium has no H264 support. Patented codecs don't mix well with free software. They took a stance here based on their philosophy, that much should have been obvious.
The reasons not to do it with system codecs before are enumerated here:
Most of them still apply, but are simply less important 2 years later. The Windows XP thing was even brought up in the original discussion thread.
put the user back in the stone age of the internet
I would say that's essentially what the current patent legislation is doing. Worth fighting against.
They can afford to pay for stuff if they want to. It seems that Mozilla is more concerned with Free as in Speech, not Free as in Beer.
IIRC, there were other reasons not to support using the OS codecs. H264 license fees are not an issue when you just use the codecs the OS provides, as they are already covered by the OS or codec vendor. With all the Google millions that Firefox gets each year, the license fee should not really be a problem anyway.
What I understand from it, is that it would take a lot of effort to use system codecs for different video formats, while still providing the complete set of HTML5 video functions for every format.
I never really bought this argument since IE, Safari and Chrome appear to handle this just fine, if you have Perian installed for example, you can even play HTML5 WebM directly from Safari. So I think we can safely conclude there were no other arguments for Mozilla's decision not to support H264 through system codecs, besides ideological ones.
Personally, I think this is great news. Everyone should just stop complaining about the supposed H264 patent issues, standardize on it, and move on. The patents have never been a problem and they never will, you only need to pay license fees if you make money off of H264, in which case you should just pay up, technology like this doesn't fall from trees. The moment WebM/VP8 would gain any traction at all on the internet, it would prove to be a patent minefield just like H264, as you simply cannot make a modern video codec without violating any patents these days.
The real issue with the H.264 patents and why it is anathema to any libre ecosystem is the impact of the H.264 patents on video creation, encoding and distribution. Here's a thorough discussion of the issues (created by someone who actually took a substantial amount of time to talk to a representative of the MPEG-LA for clarification):
To me, this is a key conclusion:
"Related to point #2, it may not be possible to release an H.264-encoded video under, for example, a Creative Commons license that allows commercial usage. More precisely, should you release your H.264-encoded content under such a license, it would not be legally usable under such a license. This cuts out a large portion of options related to how you may share your creative content."
I find the idea that we should standardize on a video codec with that sort of usage restriction completely incomprehensible. I just do not understand how people can accept a data format whose licensing doesn't just constrain people who produce encoders, decoders and other related tools and technology, but also constrains end users.
I would modify what you've said, software can be open source and be totally laden with patents, but free software (especially GPLv3) probably can't.
Continuing my argument: Claiming Mozilla are poor as the GP did is a bad argument. Claiming that the software can't be re-distributed is a slightly less bad argument, but only for larger distributions.
The pool sets certain payment stages. If your distribution of the codec has fewer than 100,000 users there is no license fee payable at all.
Also ,the license fee for h.264 is capped at $6.5 million, so Firefox can distribute it to anyone and any smaller project (less than 100,000 users) can distribute it as well.
It's the mid-sized redistributions that can have trouble, because they will lack Mozilla's money but have larger user bases that might trigger the fees.
If they just ship Mozilla's official binaries the license would be carried along. The only problem is that distros insist on recompiling stuff that already works fine.
This was always about booting h.264 from its position as the standard for publishing video on the web.
I have no faith that WebM is non-encumbered. The real issue is our patent system, not codecs.
I suspect that the real motivation of the H.264 supporters is that the patent encumbered codec will allow content providers and proprietary software vendors to control who is allowed to produce video playback software (at least, they could make it impossible for free software to support the codec), and impose mandatory content protection. That will make the content industry giants closer to their ultimate goal of eliminating all the culture they do not control.
With MP3 and Vorbis (with Opus a potential new entrant) you already have wide compatibility (everyone that supports AAC supports mp3 too) and top quality covered and mp3 patents expire a lot sooner than AAC. Ubuntu also has a free (as in beer) mp3 decoder available.
I'm all for pragmatism, but there's still utility and principle in avoiding unnecessary reliance on patented codecs where possible.
Isn't the whole point of the <source> tag to solve this very issue?
In practice, web designers already seem to use H264 exclusively, so at the very least Firefox users won't have to install Flash to see videos.
h264's last patent will expire in november 2027 (or september 2028, but I think there's some technicality that makes that one not count) according to http://scratchpad.wikia.com/wiki/MPEG_patent_lists#H.264_pat...
That's a really long time from now.
And if that fails, Google can always buy a couple of senators to fix it.
A SoC lifecycle can take 5 years to materialize in customer shipping hardware. Yet Mozilla is giving up before collecting the fruit of their previous policy (no system codec).
That's a shame.
The bigger issues are that
* Google never followed through on its declaration it would remove H.264 from Chrome, which would have made almost 50% of browsers that don't support H.264.
* Flash never followed through on its declaration it would include WebM, which would have enabled WebM in IE and Safari and made it possible for YouTube to go WebM-only (on desktop).
Mozilla using system H.264 codecs on mobile (not even desktop) doesn't matter at all compared to those.
Note that there are SoC already out there that support VP8/WebM. As far as I know Tegra 2 is one of them. What does it change? Nothing. All those chips support H264 as well. So H264 is what content producers use.