Mozilla just announced that it is about to begin supporting the H.264 video codec, a move the company has said goes against its better judgment. Mozilla suggested that it had been forced into this decision, which is patent laden, and also assured users and developers that it would continue to offer its software free of charge as it currently does.
According to a blog post by Mitchell Baker, Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, "Mozilla is on the cusp of changing our policy about our use of video codecs and making use of a format known as 'H.264'. We have tried to avoid this for a number of years, as H.264 is encumbered by patents. The state of video on the web today and in mobile devices in particular is pushing us to change our policy."
Baker also added that Mozilla resisted the move to H.264 support because it wants to build products that people "love". He also added that using standards that are laden with patents is not supportive of this goal. "We've declined to adopt a technology that improves user experience in the hopes this will bring greater user sovereignty. Not many would try this strategy, but we did. It's time to shift our weighting. It's time to focus on shipping products people can love now, and to work on developing a new tactic for bringing unencumbered technology to the world of audio and video codecs."
Mozilla CTO Brendan Eich posted an additional blog post covering Mozilla's decision in greater depth and also suggests that Mozilla could have avoided this transition altogether if it had support from firms like Google and Adobe. In case you missed it, both Adobe and Google started talks about supporting more open standards recently. Unfortunately both Google and Adobe had to drop those ideas due to the commonplace of H.264.
According to Eich, "Some say we should hold out longer for someone (Google? Adobe?) to change something to advance WebM over H.264. Others say we should hold out indefinitely and by ourselves, rather than integrate OS decoders for encumbered video. What I do know for certain is this: H.264 is absolutely required right now to compete on mobile. I do not believe that we can reject H.264 content in Firefox or Android or or in B2G and survive the shift to mobile. Losing a battle is a bitter experience. I won't sugar-coat this pill.... Failure on mobile is too likely to consign Mozilla to decline and irrelevance."
Source: The Inquirer - Mozilla grudgingly adopts H.264Mitchell's Blog - Video, user experience and our missionMozilla Hacks - Video, Mobile, and the Open WebEngadget - Mozilla caves, will support H.264 to avoid 'irrelevance'