Vimeo and Google's YouTube delivered
their HTML5 video options last week, marking a major step in the wider
adoption of standard video. However, Mozilla developers were not very
enthusiastic about the announcements because Firefox is not able to
take advantage of this feature. That's because browsers like Firefox
and Opera only support Ogg Theora encoding, while YouTube and Vimeo use
patent encumbered H.264 encoding in their HTML5 video. Today, Mozilla
have been criticizing the narrow options for YouTube and Vimeo's HTML5
players, reigniting the debate over web video standards.
Although the bloggers think that this is "an important step in making
video a first-class citizen of the modern web," they are not happy with
YouTube and Vimeo for using a patented encoding format. Firefox pushed for
the Ogg codec to become the sole HTML5 standard, but Google and Apple
wanted to use the more sophisticated H.246 format since they could
afford the licensing. After heated debates, the WHATWG HTML5 working
group decided to allow support for both codecs in <video>
elements. However, the HTML5 players at Vimeo and YouTube show that
the working group's compromise still hasn't provided a standard that
works for everyone.
Firefox only supports Ogg Theora for HTML5 video elements even if the
H.264 codec is installed on the OS. Therefore, Firefox cannot play
HTML5 video on either of those sites until the videos are encoded using
Ogg. Unlike Vimeo and YouTube, Daily Motion has an HTML5 player that
uses Ogg. Their HTML5 option debuted last summer
Larger companies like Google and Apple willing to pay for the technically
superior H.264, unlike Mozilla with their free, open source model. Ogg
Theora lacks the hardware acceleration available for H.264, which is
another reason why smartphone and netbook vendors don't want to use
it. For YouTube to support Firefox in its HTML5 player, Google would
have to re-encode a massive amount of videos on their site, and even
then, they say
that the less efficient Ogg codec would consume the world's internet
bandwidth. Firefox could solve their compatibility problem with H.264
by supporting operating system installed codecs, however, this still
doesn't address the issue of H.246 licensing for web developers.
an open source Evangelist at Mozilla, fears that H.264 could have
hidden patent and licensing costs that will emerge later, much like GIF and
MP3. Those two specs were thought to be royalty-free, and by the time
they became ubiquitous on the web, the companies that owned the
enforce fees. However, Google and Apple have made similar arguments against
Ogg. They believe that Ogg Theora could be vulnerable to a submarine
since few people have claimed that it is absolutely patent-free.
Still, the Mozilla bloggers and many others argue that a patented
codec for web standard video hinders the ability of developers to build
websites without having to ask for permission to use video
technologies. Patents can be selectively enforced, therefore MPEG-LA
company that owns H.264, can demand licensing fees to use the codec.
Distributing H.264 over the internet or broadcasting it requires
the consent of the MPEG-LA. Developers also might be worried that
the current fee exemption for free-to-the-viewer internet delivery is
only in effect until the end of 2010.
don't see the point of this reignited debate. Many point to the fact
that the internet does just fine without a standard image format.
"This whole imagined war over the official video codec of HTML 5 simply
a non-issue," said AppleInsider
. "What is an issue is HTML 5 adoption.
In addition to promoting interoperable video, HTML 5 also enables rich
application support including client side databases for fat client
sophistication and offline support." Blogger Samuel Folkes
agrees that the diversity of technologies shouldn't be limited in web
standards: "As developers its time we put our feet down and put an end
to this nonsense. Corporations don’t run the web. We do. Collectively
as a group we the web designers/developers do. At the end of the day
browsers need to display the markup that *WE* write or parse the
scripts *WE* write. *WE* run this."