Important note: This post is my own opinion. Nothing more, nothing less.
No doubt you've heard of Youtube and Vimeo launching their beta HTML5 <video> players. There's been a lot of talk around the codec that these use: H.264. While Firefox has great support for HTML5 <video>, it doesn't support the (patented) H.264 codec, so you can't use those players in Firefox. This is because Mozilla believes (and I concur) that H.264 is not good for the open web.
If you haven't already, I recommend you read...
- Robert O'Callahan's post on his LCA talk on Open Video and Mozilla
- His other post on his comparison of H.264 and ActiveX
- Mike Shaver's post on H.264 licensing
- Christopher Blizzard's post on the history of the web, network effects, and long-term effects
Yea, I know that's a lot of reading. But they're worth it.
Anyway, some people have suggested the following solutions:
- Use the codec that comes with the OS (if any)
- License H.264 and only ship it with binary versions of Firefox (leaving other distributors, embeddors, and other less well-funded browser vendors in the cold)
- Only ship H.264 in Firefox to people living in countries where software patents are not enforceable (live in the US? Too bad!)
These solutions are, frankly, selfish. What these solutions propose is that it's okay for only the privileged to have access to the web. This is not okay. It is not okay to exclude people from the web. Not because of the hardware they have, the OS they run, the client software they use, where they live, or how much money they have. Not for any reason. The web is meant to be participatory - let's keep it that way.