Mozilla unmoved by royalty-free H.264

Mozilla unmoved by royalty-free H.264

Summary: Mozilla doesn't think much of the MPEG LA's announcement that it will never charge a single cent royalty for any free to consumer H.264 videos.

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Mozilla doesn't think much of the MPEG LA's announcement that it will never charge a single cent royalty for any free to consumer H.264 videos.

Speaking to The Register, Mozilla vice president of engineering Mike Shaver had the following to say:

"The MPEG-LA announcement doesn't change anything for the next four years, since this promise was already made through 2014," he says in the statement shared with the The Reg. "Given that IEC [International Electrotechnical Commission] has already started accepting submissions for patents in the replacement H.265 standard, and the rise of unencumbered formats like WebM, it is not clear if H.264 will still be relevant in 2014."

I can understand Mozilla's objection to H.264. Bottom line, royalty or royalty-free, it still represents a closed, patented technology, something that is at odds with the principals of open source. Mozilla is happy to support other closed, patented technologies such as Flash via plug-ins, but not by actually building support for them into the browser.

Mozilla continues to bet the farm on Google's WebM technology,and thinks that this is where the future is. This is all very well and good for desktop users, since there's plenty of power available, but many mobile devices don't have the ability to run WebM, and never will be able to (unless Mozilla come up with a magic wand that can conjure a new decoder chip on demand). People will have to buy new kit.

Another problem with WebM is, well, so far it's nothing. And until Google decides to indemnify users from patent-related liabilities, I don't see it going anywhere. Words are little comfort when cash is on the line. The idea that WebM can go from what it is now, to a serious contender to H.264 in four years seems like wishful thinking. Equally, it's very early days to be portraying it as an open, patent-free standard.

Bottom line, betting on something better coming along seems disorganized and bad for end users, even if it is in line with the principles of FOSS.

Apple continues to put its weight behind H.264.

Topics: Browser, Hardware, Mobility

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13 comments
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  • it's not free

    unless you have the code.
    Linux Geek
  • This makes no sense at all

    I gotta agree with Adrian here. WebM is royalty free because Google says it is? No one seems to be sure who owns the code. It is also extremely proprietary while H.264 is an ISO/IEC standard which carries far more credibility in practically every industry focused on motion pictures and video. Why is Mozilla so set on supporting these ify formats? Will H.264 be relevant in 2014? Does this dude live in a cave? H.264 is used in a multitude of applications. Blu-ray, IPTV, camcorders, Broadcast TV, mobile devices, YouTube, video conferencing, and on and on. WebM is used...nowhere.
    CowLauncher
    • So much FUD in one post (watch were you step)

      @CowLauncher

      The code is from ON2 (purchased by Google), Xiph, and Matroska. WebM uses a BSD-style license. Your talk of it being extremely proprietary is laughable.

      http://www.webmproject.org/about/faq/#licensing

      2014 is still a long ways away. The specifications for WebM did not get finalized until May 2010. This means the competition will just now truly begin. Once it got finalized more companies announced support for it.

      http://blogs.arm.com/software-enablement/support-for-vp8-and-webm-on-arm/

      The only factual thing in your post seems to be the obvious head start H.264 has. It isn't unsurmountable but definitely gives it the advantage.
      dragosani
      • You are right

        "extremely proprietary" is not really the right term for WebM. VP8 was though, before Google came along and did what ever it is doing now, which I feel is a play of some kind. WebM is not backed up by any standards body which makes it's ownership questionable and open to submarine patent claims if it should gain traction. This is why no significant industry will touch it.

        Why would you even think competition in web formats is a good thing? It's not! Encoding companies would. But as a content provider having to deal with every bloody browser differently sucks beyond belief. We are supposed to be getting away from this non-interoperability.

        Every other industry moves forward on agreed upon standards. Why should this be different? There needs to be some kind of organization that browser makers need to belong to and then these things could be decided collectively. Right now it is us users that are having to deal with a crappy experience because these clowns need to push their agendas on us.

        And don't think that H.264 AVC (MPEG 4) is an Apple thing because it is not. Apple chose to support it because it is a recognized standard. Apple is not stupid, but all the Apple haters suddenly hate H.264 as well. This Mozilla guy suggests that an MPEG format is going to drop off the world in 4 years? That somehow this WebM CODEC could displace an MPEG CODEC? That is the joke right there. Do you think hardware makers will be building in WebM acceleration? Do you think WebM will instil that kind of confidence in video card makers that H.264 does? Look at DivX, an awesome format that had a much bigger head start than H.264. Yet because it us not a ISO standard it is stuck where it is. H.264 has a much larger and diverse adoption. And it is really only getting started.

        Beware, Eric Schmidt is a weasel. A weasel that thinks big, but a weasel none the less.
        CowLauncher
      • RE: Mozilla unmoved by royalty-free H.264

        @CowLauncher

        <em>And don't think that H.264 AVC (MPEG 4) is an Apple thing because it is not. Apple chose to support it because it is a recognized standard. Apple is not stupid, but all the Apple haters suddenly hate H.264 as well.</em>

        So true. People seem to think that the only reason Apple pushes h.264 is so that they can make money since they are part of the patent pool. Now, if you were to look at the actual patent list for h.264 (http://www.mpegla.com/main/programs/avc/Documents/avc-att1.pdf) you'll see that Apple only owns a single patent. In terms of licensing, its quite possible that Apple actually pays more in licensing fees then they actually <em>make</em> off their patent. However, because they are at the top of the alphabetically sorted list of patent holders, people see them as being a large holder.

        While Apple is a business that is, of course, in business to make money, I would support the argument that they would also like to use what in their eyes is the best <em>quality</em> video codec available.
        tk_77
      • You do know that Matroska is a multimedia container

        Matroska (mkv) is nothing more than a zip utility for multimedia. It is GPL, so anything derived must be GPL too.

        When Google started including Matroska in WebM and decided to use BSD, it kind of violated the GPL. So don't expect it to be free of legal issues.
        wackoae
      • RE: Mozilla unmoved by royalty-free H.264

        @wackoae LGPL is not GPL,it is compatible with BSD.
        ssj6akshat
      • RE: Mozilla unmoved by royalty-free H.264

        @ssj6akshat You can put BSD code in GPL/LGPL but not backwards. LGPL can safely used as binary, but any derivative has to be LGPL or GPL. You can have derivatives in BSD.
        wackoae
    • RE: Mozilla unmoved by royalty-free H.264

      @CowLauncher

      Agree with you that WebM is a dead end. I wouldn't trust anything from Google. They have become the most aggressive company in the world in producing pseudo open source software, that isn't.
      jorjitop
  • S/W VS H/W decoding=H/W wins, It's about the $

    The real battle here is S/W decoding VS H/W decoding.<br><br>In the end H/W decoding will win out.<br>Mozilla and Google had better find a friendly chip maker <br>( or in Google's case, buy one ) to develop a chip-set onto which it can work to embed it's code<br><br>I just don't see how chip makers are going to keep embeded-decoding technology open source.<br><br>Unless someone release such code under open-source license before they can be fitted with cement shoes and sent out to sea for a swim<br><br>So that's bad for FOSS and Open Source<br><br>Also this leads into the Non-neutral proprietary future of Broadband communication<br><br>Which is why Apple is sticking to it h.264 h/w support<br><br>The future is iOS, embedded OS. So that means embedded-decoding support
    daniel.pereznet
    • Um...what???

      @daniel.pereznet

      WebM already has the support of the major GPU makers lined up, so I don't know what you're going on about. And I don't see how this is supposed to be bad for open source. Chip makers have been providing proprietary drivers for use in open source projects for some time now.

      This is bigger than just browsers on desktop machines. The future of video on mobile devices is also at stake as well. Google has lots of leverage. It has Android, which is destined to become one of the major platforms for mobile web access. And it has YouTube, which is by far the most important source of video on the web. All Google has to do to make WebM a major player is to use it. That's why hardware manufacturers are already lined up to produce supporting hardware for both desktops and mobile devices.
      eMJayy
  • Funny Adrian

    "The idea that WebM can go from what it is now, to a serious contender to H.264 in four years seems like wishful thinking."

    Lots of people were saying similar things about Android not so long ago.
    Tim Patterson
  • RE: Mozilla unmoved by royalty-free H.264

    From the theregister article you link to:

    This story has been updated to show that the MPEG-LA's license change applies to free video broadcasts, not applications that encode and decode video.

    Not taking a pro-this or that stance, do you see that being a problem for Mozilla?
    neutro511@...