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YouTube HTML5 + Firefox

Google has been a long time supporter of HTML5. They recently launched a HTML5 beta of YouTube however it will only work in Safari and Chrome. The reason for this is not due to the actual markup but the video codec chosen. YouTube is using h.264, the same codec used for YouTube HD via Flash. This works in Safari and Chrome because Safari uses QuickTime to render <video/> and Google licensed h.264 for Chrome. Firefox however doesn’t include the proprietary codec for licensing reasons. It’s not a matter of cost but principle.

IE is supported through “Chrome Frame” which is essentially the Chrome browser in IE’s chrome. Your really just browsing the YouTube site with Chrome. Google could use this as a way to get people away from Flash and IE and onto Chrome one way or another.

I discussed the h.264 debate in more depth a few months ago.

You have to wonder why we don’t want anything proprietary slipping into HTML5, or want proprietary image formats (GIF turned us off to that) but exceptions are made for video.

Edit 1/23/2010: More on the topic:

Edit 5/21/2010: Thoughts on WebM.

24 replies on “YouTube HTML5 + Firefox”

The last time that I checked, YouTube was using h.263 for HD in flash and the iPhone. I could be wrong.

If anything, I am beginning to suspect that Google has been playing both side of the debate since it cropped up since Youtube is doing one thing (supporting h. 264 for HTML5), and yet Chome is doing another (supporting both h.264 and Ogg Theora) and Chromium is doing something similar to what Mozilla’s been doing.

Given that YouTube is the 800 lbs. gorilla in this debate, I am not sure that they going to move into another format if things go sour (which it’s likely that it will) given that the MPEG-LA hasn’t yet addressed royalty pricing for internet distributors (which YouTube is one) or if it has, it’s not been discussing it publicly.
With Google in a moment of rethinking over China, I am sure that it something move in that scenario… management will be forced to do something. Unless Google has something else planed with On2.

I don’t doubt that there is a lot of money in play with the debate, or at least the potential of such. So there is a lot to be won or loss with new tag.

As far as I am concerned Youtubes html5 video is not html5 video as it uses codecs that a licensed and patented, which goes against W3C policies.

I have essentially the same question as David: can’t we do something that does not involve shipping the codec, but allows Firefox to use it if available, and possibly even point to a quicktime download if the user doesn’t have it? Kind of like a plugin?

@Gijs: Presumably one could detect a codec available on your system, however that still doesn’t get around the fact that it’s proprietary and bad for the Internet as a whole. Firefox doesn’t support proprietary image formats like PSD either. The image tag doesn’t specify a format either hence any image format is valid.

Besides even a unit test would likely violate licensing.

You would also suffer from an inconsistent experience on various platforms making things difficult for websites trying to use it.

Firefox 3.6’s fullscreen video playback requires a fairly fast computer. The Firefox 3.6 introduction video can’t even be played in fullscreen on an 1.7 GHz Pentium M here, while Flash can handle much larger videos in fullscreen smoothly. So I just hope that a switch from Flash won’t be forced in the near future, based on “principles”, at those users’ expense who can’t afford a new computer every 3-4 years.

Yeah, that’s my question aswell: why can’t we have a plugin or some other way to get codecs into the browser. Or better yet use DirecShow/QuickTime/Gstreamer to play the videos and get done with the codec issue.

h.264/AVC is officially standardized by ISO and ITU-T. Theora is standardized by no standards organization at all.
Specifications for h.264/AVC are available for free, FOSS-licensed players (LGPL in case of ffmpeg) are available since a very long time.


Well to use H.264 you must get a license. If Mozilla gets a license it only protects Mozilla from lawsuits, NOT the rest of the Internet. It could lead to a situation like when GIF was patented, where if you had a GIF on your website you could be sued if you didn’t pay for some $5000 license. I don’t know if some of you are old enough to remember that, but it sucked. People were resorting to JPEG encode their logos (ugly), just so they wouldn’t get sued.

Eventually the PNG format was created for the sole purpose of replacing GIF.

So how about we skip all that drama and go with a free format to begin with (Theora).

What Google is doing is similar to a person claiming to be a green environmentalist animal rights activist while driving their Hummer coated in animal furs in city traffic and tossing their Styrofoam cups and take-out containers out the window.

Now Vimeo is doing the same thing as YouTube is.

I’ve been a very strong supporter of Google, and I’m still a Google services and product user, but they are going, or perhaps have gone the way of Microsoft.
Mozilla uses it’s success, visibility, and revenues (the ones so highly criticized and made a big deal over) for good, for the people, Google doesn’t. All that they had to do and still could do but won’t is to support Theora on YouTube as a show of support for open formats and introduce and encourage people to adopt them. They’re pissing away great opportunities.
In the end, we all know that it’s the end user/consumers who really lose even if the end users don’t know it.

Mozilla has always lead by example. It can’t make MS, or Google give a damn about, and support an open Internet or even follow Web standards, it can just keep educating and encouraging us regular Joe’s and Jane’s and provide us with products that do support an open Internet and that follows Web standards.

With all of that being said, Mozillians, official ones, have to step up and start showing support for Theora or just drop it.
I understand that YouTube is king, and that Vimeo is popular amongst Mozillians, but if there’s a Mozilla project or product related video to be made that is intended for current Mozilla users and not potential ones, then it needs to be made available in Theora format and posted on a GOOD open video site. There currently aren’t any. was a good idea, but it’s not fully dedicated to Theora. We need a Theora site with Mozilla flair, that has a good and appealing design and layout. It doesn’t have to be a Mozilla site, a Mozilla supported and funded one would be fine.

Sorry for the ramblefest, but the Theora issue has been bugging me for a while. I really haven’t been able to say anything about it without being an *** and totally uncool by calling people out on it.

Well I think people just simply do not understand the rational for not picking H.264. A lot of them are young and didn’t develop on the Internet when the GIF drama was at it’s highest (1995-1996).

MPEG LA _is_ going to come after website owners who use H.264, they already made that clear. People not used to paying license fees for every image on their website are going to be surprised when they are asked to pay up for every video on their website.

Basically this will make it so that only big companies will be allowed to participate in Internet video. Which is something that I could see is in Google’s best interest as the biggest Internet video provider.

@ joe

I think it’s important to keep in perspective the reasons Apple and Google are preferring H.264 over ogg theora. Not only is it because the bitrate is lower (saving bandwidth costs), and not only is it because the quality is higher than theora at these lower bandwidths, but it’s also because H.264 is scalable for the future of video on the internet. Ogg theora is already a last gen technology, and it looks like they won’t be able to engineer the algorithms too much out of fear of encroaching on a variety of video compression patents.

I’ll also correct you: MPEG LA have not said they’re going to come after website owners if they use H.264. Many websites out there already use H.264 without a lawsuit in sight, and I think they would’ve done it by now if they had an intention. There’s also the fact that

At the end of the day, do we want outdated, unscalable, but open source video compression technology, or a modern video codec that is closed source, which *may* someday have patent problems (although evidence says that it is unlikely)? That’s the discussion. Apple and Google believe the future of video quality is more important, Mozilla think open source video is more important. Personally, I just think we can all use H.264 and if there’s a massive problem with it at any time in the future we can all fallback to ogg. What would be much more difficult would be to upgrade the web to H.264 when we find ogg is outdated in 5 years when we’re all trying to serve HD video.

Also, I find it slightly more than ironic complaining about browser incompatibility when I get an error message trying to post this comment in Safari (had to open Firefox to post it.)


That’s because the MPEG LA said they only begin to enforce royalties for “broadcast use” of H.264 starting December 31, 2010 (basically the end of this year). If you go to their website, they explicitly mention that websites using H.264 will require a license after that date, the price ranging from $2500 to $100,000 depending on number of users and business model.

Google already is a licensee of the MPEG LA, as is most large tech companies.

Google has becoming another big hateful bully dictatorship that try squash and squeeze everyone, users and competitors alike, till we all wake up one day and realize we all almost controlled by & screwed by Microsoft in the last 30 yrs. Wake up before too late, fight back to make sure they are way too big and to powerful then already is.

Google has becoming another big hateful bully dictatorship that try squash and squeeze everyone, users and competitors alike, till we all wake up one day and realize as we all almost controlled by & screwed by Microsoft in the last 30 yrs. Wake up before too late, fight back to make sure they are way too big and to powerful then already is.

What is the point in throwing one proprietary format for another ?

@ Luke I think if Google was so much concerned about future scalability, they’d rather invest onto making more algorithms for further versions of Theora and allow it to be a open-standard with open-source without royalties – so as to substantiate their claims to create a open Internet.
I understand that it would not be of Apple’s interest to invest in Theora anyway – but Google definitely is powerful enough to take over this and gain enough Industry support.
It is more a matter of political and competitive choice for Google as of now to compete on par with HTML5 evolution rather than a technical scalability issue.

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