John Gruber on Vimeo’s new HTML5 player:
“Nice. And, just like YouTube’s, it only works with Safari and Chrome because they’re using H.264. Firefox supports the HTML5 video element, but only for Ogg Theora video. Get with the program, Mozilla.”
Mr. Gruber, I subscribe to your blog in my feed reader because I enjoy feeling like a rational human being. I am still a recovering Apple zealot, and it’s interesting to see how much my views have changed over the last five years.
Some of my friends know that I started with Linux simply because it was free and accessible to me, but I stuck around because of the philosophy behind it—most notably, the concept of free software, and the concept of what is “bad” software because you can’t change it or legally use it.
When I hear comments such as Mr. Gruber’s—”get with the program, Mozilla”—I wonder if people really understand the patent issues that surround the HTML5 open video debate. (Read more on the debate from Ars Technica’s Ryan Paul.) Long story short, H.264 is patent encumbered, Ogg Theora isn’t (as far as anybody can tell). Full stop.
Unfortunately here in the United States, we still permit software patents. Also unfortunate is that somebody is charging for patent licenses to the H.264 codec.
There’s a reason Mozilla is staying away from H.264, and it’s not just about the monetary cost of a license. Mozilla has taken on the responsibility of providing a free-software solution for browsing the web, which often directly conflicts with anything that requires a separate license. Even if Mozilla did want to pay for the patent license, even redistributing Firefox with the H.264 codec would taint the very freedom that it touts.
So, Mr. Gruber, et al.: Get with the program. Understand what Mozilla and its hundreds of contributors want to do. Help put an end to software patents. Or, help to make Theora better, making it more useful to YouTube and Vimeo. It takes a community to have real action, not just the beck and call of the few and powerful.