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Mozilla Media Patents The Internet Technology

Mozilla's VP of Engineering On H.264 675

Posted by Soulskill
from the on-again-ogg-again dept.
We recently discussed news that YouTube and Vimeo are each testing their own HTML5 video players using the H.264 format. Firefox does not support H.264, and Mozilla's vice president of engineering, Mike Shaver, has now made a post explaining why. Quoting: "For Mozilla, H.264 is not currently a suitable technology choice. In many countries, it is a patented technology, meaning that it is illegal to use without paying license fees to the MPEG-LA. Without such a license, it is not legal to use or distribute software that produces or consumes H.264-encoded content. Indeed, even distributing H.264 content over the internet or broadcasting it over the airwaves requires the consent of the MPEG-LA, and the current fee exemption for free-to-the-viewer internet delivery is only in effect until the end of 2010. These license fees affect not only browser developers and distributors, but also represent a toll booth on anyone who wishes to produce video content." Mozilla developer Robert O'Callahan has written a blog post on the same subject, following a talk he gave on Friday about the importance of open video on the web.
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Mozilla's VP of Engineering On H.264

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  • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:22AM (#30878394)
    Didn't read the article then?
  • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BrokenHalo (565198) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:24AM (#30878412)
    It's mostly just problem for Mozilla

    Only if people insist on using it. I can't see that it would be in YouTube's interest to use H.264 exclusively.

    But in any case, it sounds like a misnomer to call it "HTML5 Video", which sort of implies a standard. If the "standard" involves coughing up a whacking great licence fee to use it, lots of people just won't be interested, and H.264 will be consigned to the same back shelves as some of the ogg codecs.
  • Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:27AM (#30878428)

    And yet even with a perfectly legitimate, reasonable, intelligent argument against H.264, tons of /. comments will go against FF's decision to promote an open, free (for everyone, not just the end users) and sane video standard over a proprietary one, ensuring that only people with lots of money can create browsers, run video sites, etc.

    It's pretty damn simple, yet no one gets it. Just like seemingly everything else these days. Misguided loyalty to one thing because it's been promoted to the end users by those with lots of money as being "obviously" superior wins out over good things simply because people don't want to use common sense and for some reason trust people/companies with greedy motivations simply because of the idea of "they are famous and rich, they must know what's best for me".

  • by DrXym (126579) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:27AM (#30878430)
    Mozilla doesn't have to implement anything, just make the video plugin architecture extensible. Otherwise sites will just push other browsers which do implement H264, or will use plugins like Silverlight / Flash to render the content anyway in Firefox.
  • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:29AM (#30878458)

    Ugh, quicktime ... I'd even rather have flash.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:33AM (#30878486)

    Indeed, even distributing H.264 content over the internet or broadcasting it over the airwaves requires the consent of the MPEG-LA, and the current fee exemption for free-to-the-viewer internet delivery is only in effect until the end of 2010. These license fees affect not only browser developers and distributors, but also represent a toll booth on anyone who wishes to produce video content."

    So Google, Apple and all the rest who are implementing the video tag are just dumb? Someone enlighten me please.

  • by sopssa (1498795) * <sopssa@email.com> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:35AM (#30878496) Journal

    At least other browsers would have a standard and didn't need to rely on flash. Firefox already kind of is addon hell, where you have to try to find all the plugins you would want from a browser and some of them aren't really that up to par with quality.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ozmanjusri (601766) <(moc.liamtoh) (ta) (bob_eissua)> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:36AM (#30878510) Journal
    tons of /. comments will go against FF's decision to promote an open, free (for everyone, not just the end users) and sane video standard

    I think you underestimate how much commercial influence is being brought to bear on tech networking sites these days.

  • Vorbis and MKV (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:36AM (#30878514)

    I must be stupid.

    Ogg/Vorbis/Theora are unencumbered and free. No "deals" need to be worked out.
    Ogg/Vorbis/Theora has reasonable quality and compression.
    It can be placed into a MKV container http://matroska.org/ [matroska.org], also unencumbered and free.

    Why would any end user select anything other than Theora/Vorbis codecs when given the choice? Google and Youtube have an opportunity to "don't be evil" and put an end to proprietary codecs being the default media format. It won't alter anything in the proprietary world, since they will always insist on DRM.

    When was the last time you heard an end user happy about DRM? Well, when? NEVER.

    Come on google, step up. Use Theora/Vorbis and MKV containers to significantly reduce the hold that proprietary formats have on your FLOSS OS using customers. Heck, if you do, I'll even stop using Scroogle .... maybe. Further, Apple and Microsoft can use the same codecs under the same terms that you or I can. For FREE. Talk about fair.

  • by furball (2853) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:37AM (#30878528) Journal

    No, they just have money.

  • by diamondsw (685967) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:38AM (#30878544)

    All of the bitching about the patent/royalty situation ignores the following facts:

    • H.264 is hardware accelerated on nearly every platform, desktop and mobile - Ogg is not.
    • Ogg produces inferior video at the same bitrate as H.264, or larger video for the same quality.
    • YouTube, DailyMotion, and Vimeo have spoken in favor of H.264. Watch the dominoes topple.

    There are two alternatives here - Flash-based video and H.264. Don't kid yourself that Ogg is a third, because it's not going to happen. Time for Mozilla to face reality and pay up the license as Apple and Google have done. Otherwise, watch Chrome really destroy Firefox.

  • by BZ (40346) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:49AM (#30878646)

    I don't think anyone's ignoring those facts. In particular, no one is under the illusion that ogg is a suitable replacement for h.264 in all cases. The hope is that a better codec than either will appear with more suitable licensing terms; in the meantime a premature standardization on h.264 would hurt the chances of that codec being adopted when it appears, no?

    On the other hand, you seem to be ignoring the fact that Wikipedia, say, has no plans to put its video in H.264 (so Safari, say, can't very well view it).

    > Time for Mozilla to face reality and pay up the license as Apple and Google have done.

    As a side note, Apple and Google did not have to pay for a license separately here. They already had the licenses.

    > Otherwise, watch Chrome really destroy Firefox

    If that were to start happening (and it's nowhere close yet), the calculation might have to change, of course.

  • More patent abuse (Score:4, Insightful)

    by russotto (537200) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:51AM (#30878660) Journal

    Indeed, even distributing H.264 content over the internet or broadcasting it over the airwaves requires the consent of the MPEG-LA

    Now that's ridiculous. Unlike many other technology subject to patents, it's pretty clear that H.264 is useful, novel, and non-obvious. But allowing claims that cover not just the encoder and decoder, but the actual bitstreams they produce, is completely abusive of the patent system. A fancy new saw to cut complex curves in wood might be patentable, but allowing that patent to cover the product would be silly on the face of it. This is no different.

  • by ubersoldat2k7 (1557119) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:53AM (#30878686)

    I think his point is that Ogg can always be improved to work things out better. It's still a young format and much improvements can be made. So, what happens when H264 includes some bug and they won't fix it? I think you can agree on pretty much everyone hates Flash, and H264 is Flash all over again:

    Your codec doesn't support H.264 v2.6.4.3.2.3.6 please upgrade

  • Re:Vorbis and MKV (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Chaos Incarnate (772793) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:54AM (#30878692) Homepage
    You're missing one important point: Google already has all these videos in H.264, so serving them up is relatively painless. They'd have to go back and reencode the entire YouTube library if they wanted to offer it in Theora.
  • by Ant P. (974313) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:56AM (#30878716) Homepage

    Time for Mozilla to face reality and pay up the license

    Yeah, that'll happen right after you start paying $5.99 to install the browser.

  • Nonsense (Score:2, Insightful)

    by coryking (104614) * on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:58AM (#30878748) Homepage Journal

    Don't people have to cough up a license fee to implement USB? PCI? AGP? Those are all standards.

    People license stuff all the time, even standards. Mozilla needs to get over themselves and provide a way to play standard H.264 videos.

    lots of people just won't be interested

    I'm assuming you are projecting the fact that most people are purely interested in open source.

    You are wrong. Most people want things to just work. Firefox got where they are today because what they produced *worked*. The fact Firefox is open source, free source, or RMS Free as in Freedom(tm) is secondary.

    The day Firefox stops *just working* is the day its lunch will be taken by competitors like Chrome, Opera or Safari. If IE9 plays H.264, Chrome plays H2.64, Opera plays H.264, and Safari plays H.264 but Firefox does not play H.264, guess which one doesn't "just work"?

    By the way, has any of the Mozilla folk sat down at the table and talked with the folks that own whatever IP needs licensing? Have they, you know, said "dudes, we have 33% of the browser market and our business model isn't structured for this sort of thing". My hunch is they could probably get some kind of deal hammered out. The Mozilla foundation does have some political capital you know--this is a good use of it.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24, 2010 @10:59AM (#30878756)

    Apparently, he doesn't.

    In addition, he seems to believe that Ogg is a video codec instead of a container format. What he probably means is Theora.

  • by paskie (539112) <pasky@ u c w.cz> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:03AM (#30878780) Homepage

    Isn't it better to use the native video player infrastructure on each platform? Quicktime on OS X, gstreamer/whatever on Linux?

  • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta (162192) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:08AM (#30878818) Journal

    Why can't Mozilla just implement a plugin framework, and leave it up to the user to decide whether he wants to install the h264 plugin, which may or may not be illegal in his area. Some Linux distros ship without MP3 support because it requires licensing, and it's usually just one command to enable MP3 support. It seems like the same thing should work with h264.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IANAAC (692242) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:10AM (#30878844)

    It's time Americans stopped thinking of themselves as the centre of world technology... H.264 is a free and open standard, just not in the US.

    I agree with the center of the world comment, but...

    "It's a free and open standard, just not there..." isn't completely free and open.

    I see nothing wrong with Mozilla taking that into consideration.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:11AM (#30878854) Homepage

    Insisting on fighting H.264 will be exactly like refusing to support MP3/AAC and only play Ogg Vorbis files. You know those right, the popular files you see everywhere? H.264 is the standard for all forms of modern video and both Windows 7 and OS X support that out of the box, Theora is if possible even more obscure than Vorbis. All this will do is kill their marketshare and return the market to the proprietary browsers.

    Mozilla think that they can bend a whole market of decoding, encoding, streaming, recording and editing by refusing to add it to their browser. They're not that important. There's fights you can win, and there's fights where you can only mitigate the damage. First time you try to play a HTML5 video, it should give you a nasty disclaimer, put the responsibility of getting a patent license if that applies, and install/cancel buttons.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:12AM (#30878868) Homepage

    Firefox can only use codecs that are not covered by restrictive licensing, no matter how good it looks

    Nonsense. Firefox can use any codec that is already installed on the user's system. It's only because they have decided that they should try to force Theora on people that they are rejecting that solution.

  • Re:Why not both? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TechnoFrood (1292478) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:13AM (#30878882)

    Everyone wins.

    Well apart from anyone who wants to host video on the web, who will have to either transcode on the fly (is that even possible?), or store 2 copies of the video, taking up around twice the space (assuming both formats produce the same filesize for the same quality , which as I understand they don't). And then what happens when Microsoft brings out IE X.X (Now with HTML5 video tag support!) which will only play back wmvs, thus requiring a third copy of the file.

  • by cynyr (703126) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:19AM (#30878950)

    Time for Mozilla to face reality and pay up the license as Apple and Google have done.

    Except the problem is how do you keep the users from redistrubting the code that has how to decode a h264 file? and the users they give it to, and so on? Good luck getting a license from MPEG-LA that grants everyone a license to use it. Also, is Chrome(not chromium) available for linux distros other than debian/ubuntu/redhat/SUSE? slackware? gentoo? LFS? and host of others, see distro watch, because Chromium does not have support for the html5/h264 youtube.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by onefriedrice (1171917) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:24AM (#30879006)

    My prediction? Canonical will fork it as Mark Shuttleworth's vision of Ubuntu is that "it just works".

    Haha, yeah right. Anyway, I'm not sure what you're talking about with regards to the US software industry having disappeared into a black hole or become irrelevant. Last I checked, the software industry here is still very much active and relevant, and I haven't seen any real evidence to suggest that that will change any time soon.

  • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aristotle-dude (626586) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:31AM (#30879060)

    It's mostly just problem for Mozilla Only if people insist on using it. I can't see that it would be in YouTube's interest to use H.264 exclusively.

    YouTube already encodes everything in H.264 for embedding in Flash and for portable devices like the iPhone which consume the video directly since it does not support Flash. Why should everyone be forced to download or include in their portable device an Theora plug-in just to support yet another format when H264 is already available on all commercial desktop and mobile platforms?

    But in any case, it sounds like a misnomer to call it "HTML5 Video", which sort of implies a standard. If the "standard" involves coughing up a whacking great licence fee to use it, lots of people just won't be interested, and H.264 will be consigned to the same back shelves as some of the ogg codecs.

    Perhaps you should buy an old fashioned dictionary to look up the word "standard". I'm all for open standards but not when they are obscure or inferior to the industry standards and those standards are available for anyone to implement for a small fee.

    I hate to break it to you but almost everyone is already using H.264 to distribute video whether it be directly or embedded within a flash video file. It has wide industry support in both software and hardware (HD Video cameras). To use Theora, you would have to re-encode all of your video in order to use it.

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:33AM (#30879080)

    People license stuff all the time, even standards. Mozilla needs to get over themselves and provide a way to play standard H.264 videos.

    Licensing something like h264 is very different. Its not just the fee (about 5Million pa for FF popularity) its the restrictions that the contract has. Like promising to enforce DRM or not permitting redistribution. These licenses are simply not compatible with GPL 2 or 3. Since I am not free to redistribute FireFox without getting a license from MPEG-LA.

    And proving a H.264 *content* will require licenses after 2010. Have fun with that

  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:37AM (#30879114)
    With software patents there is no such thing as free from patent risk. Both mepg2 and h264 have had litigation threats......
  • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Goaway (82658) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:40AM (#30879154) Homepage

    Because their opposition to h.264 is ideological, not technical, so a technical solution is not enough for them.

    They are definitely muddying the waters by coming up with weak technical excuses for not doing it too, though. Those excuses are mostly easily refuted, and just makes the whole thing even more confusing. They should be more honest about it.

  • by Johnny Loves Linux (1147635) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:42AM (#30879196)

    Here's a relevant quote from Geore Bernard Shaw [elise.com]. Quote:

    "The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him... The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself... All progress depends on the unreasonable man."

    So you're asking the Free Software People to give up their principles in favor of expediency and thus promote no progress. I think not. I prefer to live in a world of Freedom than one ruled by expediency. Expediency might win a battle but in the end principles win the war. Considering the progress of GPL software for the past 26 years I would say they are doing a damn fine job of promoting positive progress. Better for the reasonable man to use free and open standards codecs than the Free Software People piss away their principles.

  • Re:HTML5 Video (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:50AM (#30879278)

    and H.264 will be consigned to the same back shelves as some of the ogg codecs.

    H.264 is the de-facto standard for online video now. Just about every device has decoding for it in hardware these days, phones, PMPs, TVs et al. Being supported by large companies and market leaders means it's here for a very long time.

    OGG has never been popular and is now getting dropped from various projects due to lack of use. It's a near dead format, despite it's benefits over MP3, it simply never achieve support in almost all devices, or obtain any interest by consumer device manufacturers.

  • by Goaway (82658) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:51AM (#30879282) Homepage

    Soon enough, most users will be on an OS that supplies h.264 decoding by default, and won't need to rely on any plugins. That is, if Mozilla would actually use the OS-supplied h.264 decoders, which they say they won't.

  • by Goaway (82658) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:53AM (#30879310) Homepage

    They can't do that as they explain in the blog entry a) that most windows users don't have an H264 codec and b) It's pissing on their principles (my words, not theirs)

    The first is a silly argument: Is it somehow better to play on NO computers, than to play on only SOME?

    The real reason is the second, that they are ideologically opposed to it. And that stance is only going to hurt them, and they should just get over it. It is not a fight they can possibly win.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Antiocheian (859870) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:57AM (#30879344) Journal

    Don't worry. No matter how much astroturfing takes place the fact won't change that any video service who fails to support Firefox would lose a share too large to be underestimated.

    As for the argument against h.264, it's valid. But the full effect of it will be understood after Dec 31 2010 [streamingl...center.com]

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 24, 2010 @11:59AM (#30879362)

    More importantly, you generally BUY SOMETHING with USB, PCI, or AGP, therefore you give the company money to pay the fees with. Mozilla is given away freely, recouping some money with advertising links. They can't promise to pay lots of money and MPEG-LA has already cut the "loss leader" deals with big companies.... gotta get the money from the little guy. Worse yet, the MPEG-LA is notoriously fickle and as soon as fees kick in we'll have another situation like MP3 where everybody THOUGHT they paid up, but companies in the patent pool use loopholes to revoke MPEG-LA's consolidation of license fees.... then go after everybody "again" just like happened with MP3.

  • Re:FFmpeg (Score:3, Insightful)

    by argent (18001) <[moc.agnorat.6002.todhsals] [ta] [retep]> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @12:01PM (#30879372) Homepage Journal

    I entirely agree with you, however it's irrelevant to the fact that if Mozilla doesn't provide a way for people to license other codecs if they want they're going to watch their market share go back to where it was ten years ago.

    Right now there's two bad choices if you want to watch Yotube videos. You can use a proprietary plug-in that's already had a devastating effect on web usability (to the point where one of the most popular browser plugins is Flashblock), or you can use an open API that incidentally requires you to have a license for the video codec that Youtube chose to use. Almost all end-users already have licensed versions of this codec in their video cards and media players, AND hooks that let you use these implementations from the browser. Using those hooks, including FFMpeg, will let people use HTML5 video on Youtube without anyone being subject to patent lawsuits.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kjella (173770) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @12:21PM (#30879542) Homepage

    For a second there I thought this was the dumbest thing ever, but upon further reflection I decided that you're absolutely right. There must be SOMEONE out there with a great experimental video codec that just needs some love.

    It's more in the "and a free pony" department. There are at least 100 patents covering H.264, I know for MPEG2 there was like 600 patent claims. For H.264 pretty much all the usual suspects are on board and part of the patent pool, If a new video format were to arise, you can bet there are patent holders just waiting to see it become great, and be one of the few patents covering it and get a bigger share of the cake.

    There really should be a process, though I don't mean a cheap one to fly under the radar and avoid patents, to make a standard and have it patent-proofed, that is to say all patent holders who think their patents apply must declare it now or lose their right to enforce the patent against that standard. It's all the patents that show up afterwards that is destroying the system.

  • Re:FFmpeg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by slim (1652) <john@hart n u p.net> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @12:23PM (#30879556) Homepage

    Why would you use H.264 instead of Ogg Theora to create your videos? What we're talking about here is how you would play videos created by someone like Youtube. The standard doesn't mandate H.264. It just fails to mandate Ogg.

    If you only put Theora videos on your site, they won't be viewable in Safari (using default Quicktime components), iPhone or Android.

    Professor Markup says [diveintohtml5.org]:

    There is no single combination of containers and codecs that works in all HTML5 browsers.

    To make your video watchable across all of these devices and platforms, you’re going to have to encode your video more than once.

    As long as there are mainstream platforms that don't support Theora, either you have to encode to H.264 yourself (and pay) or have someone else (e.g. YouTube) encode and host it for you.

  • and contrary to the concepts of a free market

    we should actively rip off h.264, not because we want to use the codec for free, but simply to undermine the status quo that some people, for whatever reason, respect this bullshit called software patents

    those who created the codec need to depend upon ancillary streams of revenue, such as hardware prodcuts that depend upon the software ideas. meanwhile, patenting a simple arrangement of bits is contrary to the free exchange of ideas

    you should only be able to patent physical objects

    everything else is abstract representation: this should never be protected. do we respect the idea that the church of scientology has a copyright on its sacred texts? of course this is bullshit, just as much as it is bullshit that the RIAA attempts to control the flow of bits, or that the chinese autocracy attempts to control the flow of information: the entirety of the phylosophical concept of putting roadblocks on the flow of ideas is a form weakness, failure. it leads to a less rich society

    ip law must be actively fought

    luckily, this is all too easy, because the internet is the disruptive techology that destroys ip law, whether some people like it or not

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ottothecow (600101) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @12:41PM (#30879752) Homepage
    Probably the MPEG-LA will rub their hands together and think how much they could make by forcing licensing payments for every browser shipped.

    Nah, I would imagine they would be open to it for a very favorable rate. If the license for free streaming content expires, anyone who wants to use h.264 online will need to pay for an encoding license. The only reason you would want to pay for a license to encode (when there are alternatives that are free on both ends) is if the tech is good and your viewers can all decode the content

    If the MPEG-LA wants to sell to content distributers (who are more willing to pay since they actually depend on the content), they will want firefox's 33% of the market. They might not do it for free since mozilla also has some amount of willingness to pay but I doubt they are in a position to gouge them (and a "donation" to the nonprofit mozilla foundation might be a nice annual tax writeoff).

  • Re:Sigh (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fandingo (1541045) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @12:46PM (#30879794)

    ...then it is going to go the same way as the whole US software industry - it will disappear into a black hole of law suits and legal action and very quickly become irrelevant.

    It's not like all major operating systems are developed in the US (Windows, Mac, Linux -- US corporations are the primary workers on the kernel, Red Hat, Novell, Oracle, Linus lives in the US). Adobe is based in the US. I'm trying to think of other large software companies that exist completely outside the US, and I'm coming up blank. KDE is the best one that I can think of at the moment (KDE e.V. is German-based).

    For all the stink that people make about software patents, they really aren't used very much. There has been all the cellphone lawsuits lately, but that's not normal.

    I think that if Mozilla would sit down with MPEG-LA they could get a really good license (i.e. no cost). The bigger issue is complying with the GPL. I hope they can work something out because theora is simply inferior to h.264.

    I think that there are patent concerns about theora. While the creators do not hold patents on it, that certainly does not mean that there are no patents on it. That's a very large danger. Google may have to spend $5M for Chrome to support h.264, but if they use Theora and there is a submarine patent, then they will be paying way more than $5M. With H.264, MPEG-LA will be defending those suits, and I'm sure in the licensing terms they guarantee that they are the only body that holds the patents. That basically gives a corporation insurance against patent suits.

  • by arose (644256) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:00PM (#30879942)

    At least other browsers would have a standard and didn't need to rely on flash.

    Did you just reply without even trying to understand the point? Flash became the de-facto web video standard *because* you couldn't rely on having RealPlayer, Windows Media or Quicktime being installed and have the codec in question. Just using whatever codecs are on any given machine leads down exactly the same path.

    Firefox already kind of is addon hell, where you have to try to find all the plugins you would want from a browser and some of them aren't really that up to par with quality.

    Browser extensions and content plugins are completely unrelated, web sites don't rely on extensions, so whatever problems you personally have with those is irrelevant to the discussion.

  • by CritterNYC (190163) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:11PM (#30880108) Homepage

    If Mozilla were bundling H.264 support right now, it would be closed source (so forget about seeing it in Ubuntu by default) and it would cost them $5,000,000 this year. Next year, the fee will be even higher. So, Mozilla would have to allot 6% of their revenue (revenue, not profit) to supporting this one proprietary video codec.

    H.264 is only supported by Chrome and Safari (less than 10% of those online). Let's keep it that way and keep the barrier for entrance into the browser market from reaching insane proportions. Otherwise we'll be left with fewer choices in the browser wars since lots of people can't pay $0.20 per unit for a product they give away for free. Mozilla and Opera certainly can't. But for Google and Aple, supporting H.264 in their browsers is free since they already hit the $5,000,000 cap this year (Google due to all the encoding and streaming of it, Apple due to licensing it for iPods/iTunes).

    So, it's EASY for Apple and Google to support it since it's free and they already ship closed source products (Safari is closed source even though the underling webkit is open, Chrome is closed source even though the underlying Chromium bits are open). Mozilla would have to pay a ton of cash (and increasing) and add closed source bits to Firefox.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CowboyBob500 (580695) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:14PM (#30880156) Homepage
    It's not like all major operating systems are developed in the US (Windows, Mac, Linux -- US corporations are the primary workers on the kernel, Red Hat, Novell, Oracle, Linus lives in the US). Adobe is based in the US

    And every single one of the companies you list is deep in litigation at this very moment and spending millions (perhaps billions) fighting lawsuits. You think that situation can carry on forever?

    Those companies are lucky in that they have a decent warchest in order to keep trading. I suspect it is now next to impossible to start up and run a brand new technology company in the US. The best you can hope for is to be bought out by the big boys, or they're going to sue you into oblivion because there is pretty much nothing that you can do that won't be covered by some patent or other.

    Software patents aren't just bad ideologically, they are going to bring the US IT industry to its knees. Perhaps not now, but give it 10 years...
  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Goalie_Ca (584234) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:14PM (#30880166)
    Firefox should be able to rely on the windows/mac implementation of H.264 and avoid all of these headaches.
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:36PM (#30880446) Journal

    Sorry, back here in reality Theora's quality is at least on par with H.264 with the same size [xiph.org]. But thanks for your attempt at FUD, though.

    Someone from Xiph.org isn't exactly an unbiased source - maybe you could cite someone who doesn't have a vested interest in one or the other. If you actually look at the videos on the site, you'll see that Theora performs a fair bit better than H.263 (not surprising; most things do these days), but watching the 17MB files next to each other it's immediately apparent which is which. The colours in the Theora version are washed out and details are fuzzy.

    Now, if Flash would add support for Theora, then GooTube could easily ditch the H.263 versions and serve both Theora and H.264, rather than H.263 and H.264...

  • by arose (644256) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @01:52PM (#30880658)

    Since Firefox users already have to install lots of addons to use their browser, how bad would be to have one extra one?

    No one has to install anything to just view websites, you need to install the Flash plugin (which is not a Firefox add-on as such) to play certain games and watch videos. Mozilla wants to bring the videos back into "no additional installation" land, not into "install Flash and a, possibly shady H.264 codec, unless on Win7" land.

    Not to mention giving people like me the ability to actually take advantage of the video tag without paying for the rights to encode H.264 and god knows what else after MPEG LA modifies the terms.

  • "RMS Free" (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oldhack (1037484) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:11PM (#30880918)
    You know, "RMS Free" is a lot clearer than "Free", "Libre", blah blah. You say "RMS Free", and we all know what that means, and those that don't know won't falsely assume they know.
  • Wow! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gbutler69 (910166) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:18PM (#30880978) Homepage
    Did you even read what I said? What the fuck do you think you are educating me on? I just said it doesn't matter what it is in reality, but, what it is legally. The law doesn't give two shits about what logical people like you and I think about it. We can trumpet from the highest towers, "It's a software patent", and they will say, "Shut the fuck up!"
  • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djradon (105400) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @02:41PM (#30881212) Homepage Journal

    Not to mention USB/PCI and AGP implementations are all hardware devices, presumably to be sold. Your comparison is horrible.

    The day Firefox is "taken" by commercial software will be a sad day indeed. The Mozilla Foundation could probably get a reduced price on a license easily enough, but that's not the point.

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DJRumpy (1345787) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @03:14PM (#30881612)

    "Which is exactly what will happen if a proprietary format becomes the standard."

    That argument doesn't work even through beer (as in free) goggles. Pretty much every media standard on your typical electronics device like a PC, your Television, and your iPod all contain proprietary licenses. MPEG-2 for DVD's, MP3, AC3, H.264. All huge successes, and all standards in their time. Companies wouldn't be interested in investing in new technologies if they can't profit off of it. Even patents have their place.

    It would be almost impossible to find any successful gadget today that isn't laden with proprietary technology, yet technology marches on. FOSS is great, but I wouldn't say it's necessary in the grand scheme of things. If/When these big sites stop using Flash (I pray for that day), and switch to H.264 only, Mozilla had better pray they have a solution because the typical end user could care less about their 'ideals':

    I found this part of TFA curious:

    "Mozilla should pick up and use H.264 codecs that are already installed on the user's system. I've previously written about a variety of reasons this would be a bad idea, especially on Windows. Really there are two main issues:

    * Most users with Windows Vista and earlier do not have an H.264 codec installed. So for the majority of our users, this doesn't solve any problem.
    * 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. "

    Their first mistake is ignoring Windows 7. Love it or hate it, it will inherit XP, and by such, it will support H.264. This would solve a huge slice of their problem which would only get smaller as Windows 7 adoption increases. OS X already has this support built in which takes care of another big (albeit far smaller than Windows) player and that would also be a no-brainer. That leaves Linux, which will managed just fine on it's own as it always does. Why would you NOT take a step that would allow functionality for millions? Granted, right now Mozilla has market share, but that will quickly dwindle if they can't compete with the others.

    Their second mistake is putting their ideals in front of their users and assuming the users will stick with them. Users are fickle. Ask most users what Mozilla's 'ideals' are they will just give you a blank stare. Users just want a browser that works. It seems to me that Mozilla is assuming too much trying to force this issue to remain in the browser or by demanding that they specify Ogg as the official HTML5 video standard. They simply don't want to admit that they never had control of the codec situation in the first place. An easy solution for the typical end user is just a quick browser download away.

    Their third mistake is assuming that they have even the smallest chance of success with Ogg against the juggernaut that H.264 has become. It's almost as if they believe it will somehow surpass h.264 in the market place. H.264 is already supported by millions of Blu-Ray players, music players, web sites, and software vendors. When you get that much market acceptance, you're going to lose unless you offer something substantially a step above, and Ogg simply doesn't do that. It is based on old MPEG-4 Part 2 technology and arguably doesn't offer much better compression than the old MPEG-2 standard. The final nail in the coffin is due to the fact that there is also no market support for hardware acceleration for Ogg. It is no trivial task for PC manufacturers, and smart phone manufacturer's to replace internals if some chip ever came along to add hardware acceleration for Ogg. Why should they bother? H.264 is unquestionably here to stay for many years to come. Mozilla's only hope is if sites like YouTube cave and offer up their content in Ogg. Get a major player like that to do it and you at least grease the wheels. B

  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @03:22PM (#30881688) Homepage Journal

    Nothing stopping them installing one...

    Except price.

    Also, most video cards these days support h.264 in hardware

    True, some mobile and set-top-box video cards implement the entire MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 stack on an ASIC. But Firefox is targeted at desktop and laptop PCs, and as I understand it, PC video cards support signal transforms that are useful for video decoding in general, such as cosine transform (IDCT), deblocking filter, and motion reconstruction. A Theora decoder written partly in OpenCL or CUDA would run on a video card just as well as an H.264 decoder written partly in OpenCL or CUDA.

  • by BikeHelmet (1437881) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @04:50PM (#30882604) Journal

    Youtube, Vimeo & Co are trying to use h.264 to become the new majors. I understand why those companies don't want a free codec to succeed: that would lead to more competition and less ways to profit from their position. I'm afraid that in this case their best interests are our worst interests.

    They're using H.264 because of the bandwidth costs. When you're looking at saving hundreds of thousands of gigabytes, the savings add up to very real amounts. It's not about stifling competition - that's a side effect. It's about cutting costs.

    Think if it happened to images.

    I thought it did happen to images? Aren't JPEG/GIF - the most widely used formats online - patent encumbered? I don't recall anything apocalyptic happening with them, but I have a feeling MPEG-LA will be more pushy. After all, they want money so they can work on H.265.

  • Re:Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by slim (1652) <john@hart n u p.net> on Sunday January 24, 2010 @05:48PM (#30883110) Homepage

    Love it or hate it, it will inherit XP, and by such, it will support H.264. This would solve a huge slice of their problem which would only get smaller as Windows 7 adoption increases.

    You misunderstand what their "problem" is, even though you quote it in your post. It's not that they would have difficulty supporting H264. It's that their raison d'etre is to promote a free and open Web.

    They don't want or need to kill off H264, since HTML5 makes it easy for a site to support both at once. With this you end up with the equitable solution where you can say "If you want to use a browser with a proprietary codec, you can. Maybe it'll even look better. But if your browser only uses free codecs, you're OK too.

    They just want to promote a Web where a user without access to H264 can take part in a meaningful way. So, a child in India/Brazil/Namibia/etc. who can't afford an H264 license (nor a Windows license) can still view mainstream video sites. So the same kid can create videos and share them on the Web.

    If they didn't pursue those ideals, they might as well pack it in today and let everyone use IE.

  • by maztuhblastah (745586) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @08:01PM (#30884328) Journal

    Did you just reply without even trying to understand the point? Flash became the de-facto web video standard *because* you couldn't rely on having RealPlayer, Windows Media or Quicktime being installed and have the codec in question. Just using whatever codecs are on any given machine leads down exactly the same path.

    That's not really as relevant here as you might think.

    There's a difference between being unable to rely on a particular piece of software being installed when webmasters are given carte blanche in terms of format (as was the case in the early days with object embedding) and simply relying on a platform-specific implementation to support a clearly-understood de-facto standard.

    A better analogy would be the 'img' tag. There are three or four common image formats that quickly became the de-facto standard (despite the fact that the spec never mentioned file formats, IIRC.) Browsers rely on platform-specific implementations to handle decoding, etc.

    Honestly, there's no reason not to do this for Firefox. The *only* reason to treat the video tag differently is ideology. As far as ideology goes, I agree with Mozilla -- an 'open' web is better than a patent-encumbered one, by far.

    That said, at some point you have to be realistic. Mozilla simply doesn't have the clout necessary to force companies like Google to start using a technically-inferior solution (Theora -- yes, it *is* inferior.) While it's nice to imagine that Google will re-encode all their content into both formats so as to support Firefox, it just ain't gonna happen. Therefore, we're left with the coming situation: Safari, Chrome, and Internet Explorer -- the publishers of all of whom have no problem leveraging platform-specific decoding libraries -- will support YouTube's videos, but Firefox users will get a page saying "We're sorry, but your browser isn't supported. Click here to upgrade." with a link to one of the aforementioned. And what, pray tell, do you think the average user (the one whose geek friend installed Firefox for him) will do? Is he going to say "Ah, but Mozilla's pragmatic stance is better for the future of the web, thus I shall stick with Firefox"? Nope. He's gonna want to watch that video of a cat falling down stairs, or whatever, and he's gonna "upgrade" to Chrome or Safari or IE.

  • Re:Sigh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @08:10PM (#30884394) Journal

    Don't worry. No matter how much astroturfing takes place the fact won't change that any video service who fails to support Firefox would lose a share too large to be underestimated.

    They will support FF in exact same way they will support IE (which doesn't have any implementation of VIDEO element, and is too big to be ignored) - via Flash.

  • by maztuhblastah (745586) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @08:19PM (#30884470) Journal

    Sorry, back here in reality Theora's quality is at least on par with H.264 with the same size. But thanks for your attempt at FUD, though.

    So... you linked to the Theora developer's site to support a Theora developer's claims that Theora was superior to competitors. And then you accuse him of FUD?

    Nice.

    The test you linked to, BTW, is crap. No triangle tests, no A/B testing, etc. Just one guy who uploaded and downloaded a sample from YouTube (the encoder and encoding parameters of which he did not know) and compared it to a Theora encode that he did using some rather... "interesting" settings, most notably this: "A keyframe interval of 250 frames was used for the Theora encoding."

    A 250 frame keyframe rate? Are you kidding me?! I don't know what YouTube's using for its keyframe interval, but I guarangoddamntee you it's lower than that. That's a keyframe every 10 seconds. Let's try an encode with H.264 with that interval and see how it measures up to Theora, hm?

    Look, I'm all for using open formats rather than closed ones, but citing a wildly flawed, extremely limited casual test as proof of your contender's superiority just reeks of desperation. Theora's pretty good for what it is: an open source continuation of an old codec that was donated because its commercial competitors had surpassed it. The OSS community's done a good job of improving it and evolving it, and it's great to even have an open-source video codec -- but claiming that it's superior is just flat-out false.

  • by DrYak (748999) on Sunday January 24, 2010 @09:43PM (#30885216) Homepage

    They'd have to go back and reencode the entire YouTube library if they wanted to offer it in Theora.

    We're speaking about Google.
    MOTHER. FUCKING. GOOGLE.
    If anyone on the web has the processing power and storage space to reencode the whole Youtube library on a whim, it's them.

    And if they are really that short on storage space, they could kick out some of the older format stored in the library.
    Each video isn't just stored as H-264, but as a whole set of different formats - for backward compatibility (I seem to have read somewhere that there are even Flash 7 compatible encodes).
    Google could drop one of the older format (say, Sorenson, for example) and use the freed space and processing power to do Ogg/Theora encodes instead.

    As Theora is less complex, it wouldn't probably require as much processing resources as H.264 anyway. (In fact it's somewhat the same generation of technologies as the Sorenson codec, for example).
    As Youtube and the like mostly contain crappy quality clips taken with camera-phone, the fact that Theora is less complex won't impact that much the quality (well at the beginning Youtube used much poorer quality codecs and still did well - the move to h.264 is an overkill quality-wise).

    (The h.264 vs Theora quality will only start to matter for websites streaming HD TV and HD commercial movies)

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