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Re: Supporting patent-encumbered codecs (was hardware-accelerated audio/video decoding in Gecko (bug 714408)) Mar 12, 2012 7:38 PM
Posted in group:
On Monday, March 12, 2012 2:55:48 PM UTC-7, Chris Pearce wrote:
> On 13/03/2012 10:30 a.m., Robert O'Callahan wrote:
> > We held the line in the hope that the industry would follow, and that
> > Google would do a lot to improve and support WebM, especially removing
> > H.264 support from Chrome. So we've held the line, and watched, and waited,
> > and personally I am extremely disappointed by the results.
> +1. And we have bled and lost support and of the early adopters and
> created fostered ill-will in the webdev community because of this issue.

Right, and Google Chrome has not.

Google may not have intended to punk us into hurting ourselves (I don't think they did) but they certainly have wisely avoided hurting Chrome's market share by turning off H.264 decoding from <video>.

Even now, they could IMHO well afford to drop H.264 support from <video> on *desktop* Chrome, because they have best-in-class Flash integration on desktop, and because authors typically write <object> fallback inside <video>. They have win/win now, and win later should they some day drop H.264 from <video>.

Think about this, you who are claiming Mozilla did not hold out or pay a high enough price.

Think in particular about your own vaunted purity. I argue you are hiding behind Mother Adobe's skirts right now, since Firefox users absolutely rely on Flash to play H.264 video embedded in <video> fallback <object> elements. So please don't sermonize or lecture -- take a realistic view of the entire fallback logic chain, and of Firefox's current acute dependency on Flash.

If we rely on Flash to play H.264 now, how pure are we? Compared to using a system decoder, not any more pure, in my view.

> If Google were to announce that they were to drop support of H.264 in
> Chrome tomorrow, we'd still have IE and Safari holding out (most people
> won't bother to install the required WebM plugins for said browsers). I
> don't think Safari ever would about face, and there's only a remote
> chance IE would change.

Again, Chrome on desktop would be most ready to drop H.264 from <video> because they have practically custom-forked Flash into best-of-breed fallback.

Chrome on Android 4? I doubt they'll drop H.264 from video. Stock browser on all Android? No way.

> I agree with Ralph: the best solution for our users is to suck it up and
> pay the H.264/AAC/MP3 license fees and ship libav/ffmpeg on desktop, and
> ship hardware decoders on mobile. If necessary we can patch security
> holes in libav, so we're not vulnerable to the black-box problem we get
> with system codecs on desktop, and we can offer H.264 support to the 40%
> of our users on XP - something that IE can't do.

We should proceed carefully. Mozilla will not pay for an H.264 license that does not benefit downstreams. I personally do not believe we should pay any such rent. It's better for us to ride on an OS decoder if possible (we ride on Flash now, see above).

OS dependencies are ugly but browsers including Mozilla and Firefox have taken them since day 1 of the modern (Netscape and beyond) web.

> On 13/03/2012 7:44 a.m., Andreas Gal wrote:
> > Google pledged many things they didn't follow through with and our users and our project are paying the price. H.264 wont go away. Holding out just a little longer buys us exactly nothing.
> In my darker moments I've wondered if this was a deliberate strategy by
> Chrome to make us continue to hold an untenable position and continue to
> bleed users.

I don't think Google did anything specifically to hurt us (we did, rather), but they clearly are helping themselves by not turning off H.264 in Chrome, and they're not turning it off in Android stock browser either. And on desktop they have invested so much in Flash that they could afford to turn off H.264 from <video>, but so what? Money talks.

> Having said that, it would be a shame if YouTube turned on WebM by
> default and Chrome dropped H.264 support just as we agreed to pickup
> H.264/MP3 support on desktop. We should reach out to Google through
> offical channels, and try to get them to publicly commit to the above
> before we make a decision.

We can reassess. Right now and this calendar year, the die is cast.