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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Mozilla To Support H.264 Codec in Firefox

Mozilla Foundation may add support for the H.264 video codec in mobile versions of the Firefox browser.

Until recently, Mozilla's supported only open codecs, but now the Mozilla Foundation is changinbg its policy because support for the codec is important in mobile browsers, the foundation's chair said.

"It's time to focus on shipping products people can love now, and to work on developing a new tactic for bringing unencumbered technology to the world of audio and video codecs," Mitchell Baker wrote in a blog post on Sunday.

Mozilla has so far relied on Adobe's Flash to implement H.264 for Firefox users, but that may not be an option for the Android version of Firefox, as Adobe has announced that it will not develop Flash on mobile devices, Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich wrote in a separate post.

H.264 is absolutely required right now to compete on mobile, Eich said. "I do not believe that we can reject H.264 content in Firefox on Android or in B2G and survive the shift to mobile," he said. Boot to Gecko (B2G) is Mozilla's platform for mobile devices.

Mozilla had expressed support for Google's WebM, which is based on the VP8 video compression format. But that is unlikely to happen as Apple ships hardware with support for H.264.

"Apple sells a lot of H.264-supporting hardware. That hardware in general, and specifically in video playback quality, is the gold standard," Eich said. Google is in his opinion not going to ship mobile browsers this year or next that do not play H.264 content that Apple plays perfectly, he added.

Andreas Gal, director of research at Mozilla, has proposed using operating system and hardware-based H.264 decoding capabilities on Android and B2G.

"We have never rejected encumbered formats handled by plugins, and OS-dependent H.264 decoding is not different in kind from Flash-dependent H.264 decoding in my view," Eich said. But he concluded with, "Losing a battle is a bitter experience. I won't sugar-coat this pill".

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