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Mozilla Considers H264 After WebM Fails To Gain Traction 182

Posted by timothy
from the both-are-so-euphonic dept.
HerculesMO writes with word that "Looks as though Mozilla is considering using H264, one step closer to unification of a single protocol for video encoding. It's a big deal for HTML5 traction, but it still leaves Google holding onto WebM." The article, though a bit harsh on Ogg Theora, offers an interesting look at the way standards are chosen (and adopted by the browser makers).
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Mozilla Considers H264 After WebM Fails To Gain Traction

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  • by American AC in Paris (230456) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @01:47PM (#39809591) Homepage
    Word has it that you can't run Flash on the iPhone, either.
  • Realmedia codec (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Spy Handler (822350) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @01:49PM (#39809619) Homepage Journal
    I remember seeing lots of little Real-encoded videos on websites back in the day... whatever happened to them?
    • Re:Realmedia codec (Score:5, Informative)

      by X0563511 (793323) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @01:54PM (#39809675) Homepage Journal

      People figured out that Real (and Realplayer) were utter pieces of garbage and stopped using them?

      Same thing I wish would happen to quicktime.

      • by jo_ham (604554)

        Quicktime isn't a codec, really.

        Maybe you want the Quicktime Player to die, and on Windows maybe it's not needed - the fact that it is necessary for iTunes is merely because it's cross platform and Quicktime is a core component of OS X.

        I'm not sure what Apple's goals with Qucktime Player are - version X is a step backwards from version 7 on OS X, and I keep both installed concurrently and prefer to use v7 where possible.

        To bring it back to the topic - Quicktime Player can play any codec you have a plugin fo

        • by mikael_j (106439)

          Quicktime X does have a few advantages over previous versions. The main one being the UI when playing a movie, as long as you don't mouse over the window there are absolutely no window decorations, just the video, which is really useful for those of us with large screens (both in physical size and resolution) who like to tile our windows and keep TV shows or movies running while doing other stuff.

          I kind of wish VLC or MPlayer OSX Extended would implement this.

          • I kind of wish VLC or MPlayer OSX Extended would implement this.

            Try MPlayerX. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. The current version doesn't have a playlist or individual loop feature, but that's really about the only things it doesn't have, IMO. It does a reasonable attempt at detecting episodic files in a folder.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          I'm not sure what Apple's goals with Qucktime Player are - version X is a step backwards from version 7 on OS X, and I keep both installed concurrently and prefer to use v7 where possible.

          Easy - it's time for a rewrite. QuickTime, like Final Cut Pro and Logic before it, was getting somewhat crufty and time to start anew. Apple generally likes to introduce a stable brand new version of the software first, then re-add back missing features (we see this happening with Final Cut). OS X was another such "victim"

      • For the most part quicktime movies are being replaced by MPEG4. This makes sense, since the MPEG4 container is heavily based on the Quicktime movie container. As for the CODECs, well if you use popular MPEG4 codec then you should be fine.

    • by the_fat_kid (1094399) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @01:54PM (#39809693)

      they are all still buffering...

      • by wamatt (782485) *

        Omg. I literally exploded when I read your comment. :)

      • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

        they are all still buffering...

        But when they're done buffering, they are going to be ZOMG SO AWESOME!!!

        (yes, THREE exclaimation points of awesome - it's a scientific fact.)

    • People got sick of Real invading their OS's, and burrowing so deep into them it was impossible to remove without reformatting.

  • Lol editors (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lunix Nutcase (1092239) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @01:51PM (#39809639)

    Yes, you already posted the story [slashdot.org] about this in March. Which is the same month when the linked article is from. Good to see timithy is still at the top of his game!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 26, 2012 @01:54PM (#39809685)

    Dupe:
    http://news.slashdot.org/story/12/03/13/2027215/mozilla-debates-supporting-h264-in-firefox-via-system-codecs
    http://yro.slashdot.org/story/12/03/20/1742209/mozilla-to-support-h264

    Old news:
    March 13th, 2012 -> This particular blog's story is March 16th, 2012 -> Today is April 26th, 2012

    Vanity link:
    It's a link to AppleInsider--why on earth would AppleInsider be a novel or interesting source about internal Mozilla strategy?

    Dear editors: wake the hell up.

    • by dokebi (624663)

      Slashdot is following the normal media company business model: sell the same material over and over.

      And us here bitching about it are actually helping them, with increased "participation" statistics and click throughs. Aren't media companies wonderful?

  • by DrXym (126579) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @01:54PM (#39809687)
    h264 is ubquitous. It's really stupid to deny the reality that people want to use it because of politics which is what it boils down to.

    Mozilla wouldn't even have to taint itself by supporting it. Just hook the video tag to the media framework in the host OS - Quicktime, DirectShow, gstreamer etc. and invoke the default h264 codec if its present and suitable or point the user at a way to obtain it if it isn't. They could still ship Theora with the browser if they wanted.

    • by Cow Jones (615566) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:34PM (#39810379)

      h264 is ubquitous. It's really stupid to deny the reality that people want to use it because of politics which is what it boils down to.

      The aren't denying reality, they were trying to shape it.
      And I'm glad they tried, even if they didn't win this time.

  • by ctime (755868) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:06PM (#39809881)
    The fact that one company owns the license to this technology and makes no guarantees to _not_ increase licensing costs means that once h.264 support is the be-all end-all solution to web video, this one company has a monopoly on the sole video technology that drives the web. Most people running windows/mac have probably indirectly paid for licensing fees for h.264 multiple times. Nice racket they've got there and nobody is complaining, yet.

    Here's a pretty good article:
    http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/a-closer-look-at-the-costs-and-fine-print-of-h264-licenses/2884 [zdnet.com]
    from the article:
    To use and distribute H.264, browser and OS vendors, hardware manufacturers, and publishers who charge for content must pay significant royalties—with no guarantee the fees won’t increase in the future. To companies like Google, the license fees may not be material, but to the next great video startup and those in emerging markets these fees stifle innovation. []
    • by SurfsUp (11523) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:13PM (#39810005)

      The article is an Apple troll.

    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      This company did not raise prices for their older MPEG1, MPEG2, or MP3 standards, so why do you think they'll suddenly turn evil?

      • by Guppy (12314)

        This company did not raise prices for their older MPEG1, MPEG2, or MP3 standards, so why do you think they'll suddenly turn evil?

        "..."

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          >>>>>This company did not raise prices for their older MPEG1, MPEG2, or MP3 standards, so why do you think they'll suddenly turn evil?
          >>
          >> "..."

          That's what I thought. You've got nothing accept fear, uncertainty, and doubt. I am not persuaded that I should distrust MPEG.

          • by idontgno (624372)

            You probably don't have any doubts about CISPA [slashdot.org], either. There's no way anyone will run afoul of that, since the powers behind that can be counted on to never turn evil.

            This is why, in a word-association game, the sane response in to "trusting" is "fool".

      • This company did not raise prices for their older MPEG1, MPEG2, or MP3 standards, so why do you think they'll suddenly turn evil?

        The MPEG LA has quite often raised the price for H.264. The MPEG LA's H.264 license summary [mpegla.com] talks about past license increases. The royalty cap has increased since 2005:

        The maximum annual royalty (“cap”) for an Enterprise (commonly controlled Legal Entities) is $3.5 million per year 2005-2006, $4.25 million per year 2007-08, $5 million per year 2009-10, and $6.5 million per year in 2011-15.

        The MPEG LA's H.264 license FAQ [mpegla.com] specifically addresses their approach to increasing license costs:

        Q: Is there a limitation on the amount that royalty rates may increase at each renewal?
        A: If royalty rates were to increase, they will not increase by more than 10% at each renewal for specific license grants.*

        *Annual Royalty Caps are not subject to the 10% limitation

    • The fact that one company owns the license to this technology and makes no guarantees to _not_ increase licensing costs means that once h.264 support is the be-all end-all solution to web video, this one company has a monopoly on the sole video technology that drives the web. Most people running windows/mac have probably indirectly paid for licensing fees for h.264 multiple times. Nice racket they've got there and nobody is complaining, yet.

      Here's a pretty good article:

      http://www.zdnet.com/blog/bott/a-closer-look-at-the-costs-and-fine-print-of-h264-licenses/2884 [zdnet.com]

      from the article:

      To use and distribute H.264, browser and OS vendors, hardware manufacturers, and publishers who charge for content must pay significant royalties—with no guarantee the fees won’t increase in the future. To companies like Google, the license fees may not be material, but to the next great video startup and those in emerging markets these fees stifle innovation. []

      This is why Mozilla will just pass H.264 along to whatever decoder the OS has available and not bundle H.264 into Firefox at all. This position makes the most sense for them and the users. Every device I use already has a H.264 decoder with hardware support. I just need Firefox to get out of the way.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      That smacks a little of FUD.

      The purpose of the royalties are to provide a continuing and stable revenue stream to those who have put resources into developing it and thus the goal is to ensure wide adoption of the standard so that it gains traction and ubiquity. Punitive fees that "might increase in the future! oooh scary!" runs counter to that goal. If people stop using the format because it is expensive and difficult to implement then the revenue stops flowing in.

      Just because it is a licenced standard wit

    • One company doesn't own the license. The MPEG-LA is a 3rd party clearinghouse for people to set up patent pools. They don't own H.264 or the patents. H.264 is 'owned' by the ISO/MPEG standard boards and the companies that hold the essential patents.

    • ...with no guarantee the fees won't increase in the future

      That's rather misleading. There actually are guarantees that the rates won't increase before the end of 2015 (they're even spelled out in the article you linked, as well as the original Terms Summary [mpegla.com] provided by the MPEG-LA). In addition to those guarantees, there are also guarantees that when they set new rates for the five-year period starting in 2016, the new rates will be no more than 10% above the current ones. Besides that, previous major standards the MPEG-LA have controlled haven't been abused in t

    • They do, however, have a clause that indicates the maximum increase each term (5 years) is 10%, which is likely to be right around the inflation rate...
    • by afidel (530433)
      Actually MPEGLA DID guarantee that they won't be upping fees significantly, the blogger obviously didn't bother to do his homework because the AVC patent pool has a cap of 10% fee increase every 5 years (the enterprise cap is not subject to the 10% rule however so if you're making billions off the patents it's possible you'll see a larger than 10% rise).
  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:12PM (#39809981) Journal

    The justification for WebM is that it would allow people to freely share videos using your own infrastructure without charge and without additional cost.

    It's not about the consequence for the consumer, it's about the chilling effect it has on free culture.

    It has HUGE consequences. Mozilla knew that, that's why they tried to play hardball.

    • by SeaFox (739806) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @02:40PM (#39810463)

      Is there any reason they have to choose a side?

      No seriously, why can't they have both h264 and WebM support and let the market decide which one gets used more?

      • by ifrag (984323)

        No seriously, why can't they have both h264 and WebM support and let the market decide which one gets used more?

        The market has already decided that, hence the decision. If WebM is removed from official builds then anyone should still be free to re-include it in their own builds. Doesn't really seem like an issue either way.

      • by BZ (40346)

        The WebM support is not going anywhere. The discussion is about adding H.264 alongside.

        As for the other... there are tons of non-market forces involved. For example, if all browsers have H.264 support, then standards bodies will likely start requiring H.264 to be the codec used for various things (see WebRTC, for an example where this could happen).

        Worse yet, once something is in a standard you run into the fact that in many countries following certain standards in certain situations is required by law.

        An

  • Non-troll question: Is there actually an open-source codec which equals or even surpasses H264 in quality? I find it hard to believe the math is so arcane and long-winded that nobody can beat it in quality for a given file size and compress/decompress speed.
    • by Goaway (82658)

      It's not that it's arcane, it's that it's boring. It's a whole lot of very, very boring work to develop a good video codec. It's the kind of thing open source development is very bad at.

      So no, there isn't one.

      • by Twinbee (767046)
        I just can't imagine it to be boring. Optimization is something that tends to get people salivating (even myself sometimes to a degree). Setting a fitness function (e.g.: total of absolute differences to the original RGB values) would define a goal that I think would encourage a ton of creativity, competitiveness and even new math.
        • by Goaway (82658)

          There are plenty of metrics for video quality already, which are in wide use when developing these things.

          But the problem is that there are so many things you can do, and so few of those are actually good. Developing these things requires a huge amount of trial-and-error. And you can't just do a change and run a quick test to see if it made things better, because if you just test against one thing, you will over-optimize for that particular case at the expense of every other video.

          It's hard work with frustr

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, it really is that hard. I've written some of these things. It's not that the knowledge is inaccessible: most of the concepts involved are covered in a good undergrad discrete math course. It's just that 99.999% of the programmers out there either don't take the course, or forget what was taught the moment after the final is handed in.

      Look at the sorry state of linux audio, for one. Layer upon layer, library upon library, everyone's an architect slinging metaphors and objects around but very few act

  • by steveha (103154) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @03:33PM (#39811151) Homepage

    TFA is not worth your time. He says all sorts of outrageous stuff as if it were fact: apparently he knows exactly what Google was collectively thinking when it introduced WebM, for example.

    And the ending is sort of surreal. Hooray! The patent-encrusted H.264 has defeated the challenge by the free and open software! Here are my wrists; there's still room for a couple more handcuffs, put them on! (Eh, probably not a fair summary, but about as fair as his treatment of Google.)

    steveha

    • by Rakarra (112805)

      TFA is not worth your time. He says all sorts of outrageous stuff as if it were fact: apparently he knows exactly what Google was collectively thinking when it introduced WebM, for example.

      His comments on Google "getting away with" a clean room implementation of Java on Android are pure flamebait.

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