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Firefox will now no longer be the odd man out in refusing to support the 'encumbered' H.264 video codec on the web.

Mozilla gets real and plans H.264 support

Browser maker Mozilla has given up on foundation’s stance on so-called ‘non free’ codecs and has licensed the popular H264 video codec for use on mobile and desktop browsers.

The non-profit Mozilla Foundation took a hard stance against H.264, particularly as a supported standard within the HTML5 video tag, refusing to add support. The decision means that Firefox is the only mobile web browser that will not play H.264 video.

In a lengthy public discussion on the Firefox bug discussion forum, various members of the Mozilla team and members of the public argued back and forth with those against H.264 integration still of the belief that Firefox could somehow influence the standards on the web.

At one point that view had some wider traction with Google stating that the tech giant intended to remove H.264 support from the ever popular Chrome browser. Chrome, having just overtaken IE in popularity, would be seen to vindicate Mozilla’s position but Google has so far not removed H.264 and most commentators think that they will not do so.

"The state of video on the Web today and in mobile devices in particular is pushing us to change our policy," said Mozilla chair Mitchell Baker. "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," added Baker.

Mobile in particular is seen as being a make or break platform for the Firefox browser. Mozilla CTO Brendon Eich wrote seperately: "H.264 is absolutely required right now to compete on mobile. I do not believe that we can reject H.264 content in Firefox on Android or in B2G and survive the shift to mobile."

So it now seems that Mozilla will license H.264 from the MPEG-LA patent pool and offer universal playback support in all future mobile and desktop builds of Firefox.

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