Told-You-So of the Day

Yours truly, back in January 2010:

The practical effect of Mozilla’s current position will not be to drive adoption of Ogg Theora. What’s going to happen is that Safari, Chrome, and even IE9 users will be served HTML5 video, and Firefox users will get Flash. Publishers will support both HTML5 video (for Safari, Chrome, and IE9 users) alongside Flash (for browsers that don’t support HTML5 and H.264) because they already have the Flash video publishing infrastructure in place, and because Flash can be used to publish H.264-encoded video. Publishers don’t have to encode (and store) video twice; they can encode (and store) it once and serve it two different ways. The sites that are the most popular — YouTube being number one, obviously — would bear the most expense to support an additional encoding format. It isn’t going to happen.

So, even those using the latest version of Firefox will be treated like they’re using a legacy browser. Mozilla’s intransigence in the name of “openness” will result in Firefox users being served video using the closed Flash Player plugin, and behind the scenes the video is likely to be encoded using H.264 anyway.

That was written before Google opened the VP8 codec and WebM Project — and it’s true that Google has since dual-encoded YouTube’s copious library in both H.264 and WebM. But I think my core argument was correct: by not embracing native H.264 <video> playback, Firefox users have been stuck with less-efficient H.264 Flash Player playback.

I suspect one factor driving Mozilla’s rethinking of its stance on this is that Flash Player’s future prospects have diminished greatly over the last two years. Then, there were many who believed in Adobe’s promise of a full version of Flash for mobile platforms. Now, even Adobe has abandoned it. Without Flash as a fallback for H.264 playback, Mozilla-based browsers for mobile platforms will need to either support H.264 playback natively, or eschew it completely.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012