Mozilla unmoved by royalty-free H.264

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.

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.