another step forward for open video on the web

Today, Google announced that it is joining Mozilla and Opera in exclusively supporting open video codecs — to wit, WebM and Theora — in their Chrome browser.

It’s a great move, and one we at Mozilla are obviously glad to see. It’s been a great first 8 months for WebM: multiple browser implementations, hardware support, an independent implementation from ffmpeg, performance improvements, support from lots of transcoding services, and content growth on the web. Organizations like Google, Mozilla, Opera and others who really believe in the importance of unencumbered video on the web are putting their products where our mouths are, and the web is going to be stronger and more awesome for it.

Congratulations and thanks, Google.

free as in smokescreen

The web is full of headlines today like this one from MacRumors: “MPEG LA Declares H.264 Standard Permanently Royalty-Free”. It would be great if they were accurate, but unfortunately they very much are not.

What MPEG-LA announced is that their current moratorium on charging fees for the transmission of H.264 content, previously extended through 2015 for uses that don’t charge users, is now permanent. You still have to pay for a license for H.264 if you want to make things that create it, consume it, or your business model for distributing it is direct rather than indirect.

What they’ve made permanently free is distribution of content that people have already licensed to encode, and will need a license to decode. This is similar to Nikon announcing that they will not charge you if you put your pictures up on Flickr, or HP promising that they will never charge you additionally if you photocopy something that you printed on a LaserJet. (Nikon and HP are used in the preceding examples without their consent, and to my knowledge have never tried anything as ridiculous as trying to set license terms on what people create with their products.)

H.264 has not become materially more free in the past days. The promise made by the MPEG-LA was already in force until 2015, has no effect on those consuming or producing H.264 content, and is predicated on the notion that they should be controlling mere copying of bits at all! Unfortunately, H.264 is no more suitable as a foundational technology for the open web than it was last year. Perhaps it will become such in the future — Mozilla would very much welcome a real royalty-free promise for H.264 — but only the MPEG-LA can make that happen.

advancing open video

Video is a big part of the modern internet, whether it’s used to communicate, educate, or entertain my daughter. We’re building robust support for video (and audio) into Firefox 3.1, making it straightforward for authors to incorporate audio and video media into their pages and applications. We believe that it’s vital to the health of the web for people to approach video on the web the same way they do images: without needing proprietary plugins or paying license fees for restricted codecs, and with the ability to fully integrate into the rest of the page.

Our commitment to the success of open video on the web requires that we select codecs for Firefox that are usable by everyone, without restriction or licensing fee. To that end, we’ve chosen Theora as the format for Firefox 3.1.

We believe that Theora is the best path available today for truly open, truly free video on the internet. We also believe that it can be improved in video quality, in performance, and in quality of implementation, and Mozilla is proud to be supporting the development of Theora software with a $100,000 (USD) grant. Administered by the Wikimedia Foundation, this grant will be used to support development of improved Theora encoders and more powerful playback libraries. These improvements will benefit future versions of Firefox, and anyone else who supports open video on the web.

[Update: Chris Blizzard, being the awesome evangelist I always hoped I'd be, has a great post with a much deeper discussion of why this all matters.]

well, at least that part was nice

I had a very frustrating and angry-making day today, and it took a lot out of me. I don’t want to talk about it, and nobody else wants me to talk about it either

But then Deb pointed me at this wonderful movie about Firefox and IE and people. My favourite part is that most people don’t seem to know quite why they like Firefox. They just do, because it’s comfortable, and it makes them feel good.

And that makes me feel good.