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It Done Broke.

Mozilla And The Cost Of H.264

John Gruber over at Daring Fireball makes a good philosophical and practical case for why Mozilla’s position on Ogg Theora and H.264 is poorly placed. I’d like to see an equally solid business breakdown on how the proposition of using H.264 affects those companies (Microsoft, Apple, Google and Mozilla) respectively financially.

I honestly don’t know how Mozilla’s organization actually makes money.  But I do know how the others make money and the fact that they have a reliable revenue streams from other sources that could support the licensing costs of H.264 (at the point when it starts costing) is not a trivial consideration, I would think.

Update: Gruber now seems to have started painting himself into a corner.  Like,

“I don’t know what the MPEG LA will do come 2016.”

Not much to make business decisions on then, is it?  And,

“Perhaps they will attempt to charge web publishers for licenses to distribute H.264 video. But if they do, web publishers will react the way they did to Unisys’s GIF threats: by switching to another format.”

Well then, why not do it now?  But the clunker is:

“But if Mozilla’s position were really about idealism — tough love for the good of the web in the name of free, open file formats — then in addition to not supporting H.264, they’d drop support for plugins like Flash Player. I believe such a move would just drive Firefox users to Chrome and Safari (or even back to IE), and I suspect Mozilla knows this, too, which is why dropping plugin support isn’t being discussed. But they can’t say Firefox only supports free and open video formats while still supporting Flash.”

This makes no sense.  The entire debate has nothing to do with plugin support.  Plugins aren’t the issue.  The issue is native support for formats.  Mozilla isn’t saying Adobe shouldn’t offer the Flash plugin.  They’re saying they don’t want to support H.264 natively for the <video> tag.  That’s a big difference.

You can take whatever interpretation of Mozilla’s statements you like – tough love, idealisim, open format philanthropy – but it still doesn’t make sense for Mozilla to support a format that they’re at risk of being charged for licensing if it doesn’t fit into their business model.

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