Video, Freedom, h264 And Mozilla
Both YouTube and Vimeo announced last week that they would begin to support (on a limited basis) the new HTML5 ‘Video’ tag that allows video playback without relying on Flash. The technology is impressive, but users quickly noticed that it didn’t work with FireFox. Odd, since FireFox is 3.5 compliant, but it seemed to only work with Safari and Chrome? Mozilla has finally come out with a response, and the big problem is that while YouTube and Vimeo are supporting a public standard (the HTML5 Video tag), they’re using it with a non-public proprietary codec, the classic H264. Mozilla believes that using this proprietary codec is a bad idea for both providers and consumers, and is instead pushing something more open like the OggTheora codecs.
Apart from the issues with H.264 support in clients, there are also huge issues around H.264 for Web authors and content providers. Currently providing H.264 content on the Internet is zero-cost, but after 2010 that will almost certainly change. (…) We won/t know much about the terms until the end of this month. The key issue is not exactly how much it will cost, but that if you want to publish H.264 you will probably have to hire lawyers and negotiate a license with the MPEG-LA. If you just want to put a few videos on your Web site, or add a help video to your Web application, or put a video cut-scene in your Web game, that is probably not something you want to do.
I particularly love this comment from Robert O’Callahan:
But the MPEG-LA won’t bother suing me or my project, we’re not worth bothering with. Perhaps true, but I hope “remain irrelevant” is not the favoured strategy for most free software projects.