Open Video Codecs on Mobile Are All But Dead Thanks to Mozilla.

Open Video Codecs on Mobile Are All But Dead Thanks to Mozilla.

Mar 23, 2012

Mozilla made an announcement recently that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but is important. They’ve added native H.264 video codec support to Firefox Mobile, adopting the closed format, in addition to supporting open codecs like WebM and Theora. H.264 is the codec that the industry has largely adopted as the widespread video codec of choice – it’s everywhere from Blu-rays to iTunes to being used to distribute pirated TV shows. It’s the one thing pirates and the copyright industry can really agree on, that H.264 is a swell video codec.

Now, mobile Firefox will natively play back these videos in HTML5 with the

Mozilla says that they had to make this decision to sacrifice some of their principles for an improved user experience. Not supporting H.264 video is a killer lack of a feature to have in a mobile browser. This is because after years of numerous competing standards, H.264 is the closest thing to a unified video standard in the industry right now, and so much video supports that format. File containers are still a mess, especially as everyone likes their own container, and the MKV container, despite its usefulness, is something legitimate contest industries won’t touch because of its association with piracy. WebM and Theora just had no hope on mobile. And as Mozilla points out in their blog, Google hasn’t been cashing the checks their mouth has been writing as they still push H.264 video in many forms.

The idea is ultimately that codecs shouldn’t matter, that video should just play anywhere. Would it be better if the leading codec was free as in freedom? Yes. But isn’t it more important that our videos play in some format, period?