YouTube and Vimeo opt for the H.264 codec over Ogg / Theora

Below I reproduce a statement from Mozilla regarding the decision made by YouTube and Vimeo to opt for the H.264 codec instead of Ogg, the users of browsers such as Firefox and Opera being harmed by this decision, as well as all Internet users for the risk of patents and having to pay for a user license, both for the creation of content and its display.

Mozilla statement:

Can you imagine being able enjoy all the content on the internet simply using your browser? ¿Without having to install more applications, plugins or codecs? Well, that is one of the objectives that the new HTML5 standard with audio and video In the net. At present, most browsers implement this new video tag that allows to show audiovisual content without the need for anything else, without having to use Flash, without having to install codecs.

The story is not as beautiful as it seems since we find ourselves with a big problem, when the responsible body (W3C) of creating the HTML5 specification made the draft, specified that the format of the videos should go in Theora, a free and patent-free video codec, but some companies that make up the W3C strongly complained (especially Apple) as they had business interests to use their own codecs, and in the end no particular codec was specified to use with the "video" tag.

What browsers implement it?

As we mentioned before, most browsers already implement this tag, but each one has decided to use a codec for this tag, let's break it down:

  • Presto / Opera: HTML5 via GStreamer (includes only Ogg / Theora).
  • WebKit / Chrome: HTML5 using ffmpeg (Ogg / Theora and H.264 / MP4).
  • Gecko / Firefox: HTML5 with Ogg / Theora.
  • WebKit / Epiphany: HTML5 via GStreamer (Ogg / Theora guaranteed).
  • WebKit / Safari: HTML5 via QuickTime (H.264 / MOV / M4V, can play Ogg / Theora with XiphQT components).

We see that some have opted for the free Ogg / Theora codec, while others for the codec H.264 patented by MPEG-LA (to which Apple and Microsoft belong) and which cannot be used in a program that uses it without paying MPEG-LA, and as of 2010 all Whoever wants to use it (even if you upload a video with this codec on your website) will have to pay a license of use, which means that you will not be able to show your videos for free in this format.
Betting on a non-free codec for the web is wrong and breaks the sense of what the internet is and has been, in the words of Asa Dotzler:

The web would not be what it is today if every blogger had to pay for a license to post images and text on one page. The videos would not have to require the payment of licenses either.

Multimedia portals

We have had a surprise this week in which both Youtube how Vimeo announced that they would start using the HTML5 "video" tag as an alternative to show your videos instead of Flash. The joy did not last long when we saw that they will only implement it for the H.264 codec, leaving Theora out. The reasons they give for not using the free codec are that it has lower quality and that they already have everything in H.264, which we do not understand since it was shown that Theora's quality is similar to which is offered right now on Youtube in the comparison between Theora and H.264 and that there are already other content distributors that They have chosen for free formats such as the video portal Dailymotion that showed the power of video tag with free codecs.

Updated: La Free Software Foundation ask us to vote on the Google suggestion page, for the implementation of Ogg / Theora on Youtube.


If we want keep the web open, We always bet on free formats that allow everyone to access information freely and for free, without putting barriers in the way and above all without forcing content creators and hosting portals to pay for patent licenses.

Google can afford to pay millions of dollars a year to use H.264 on YouTube or its Chrome browser, and possibly Mozilla could too, but it's a a matter of principle that Mozilla browsers opt for free formats, because of what they represent, because it is the basis of the internet and because the browser code must be able to be used by third parties who do not have to pay licenses to a third party. Do you think Firefox could have been developed by the community if at the time it had had to pay millions of dollars to use technologies such as HTML, CSS or JavaScript?

Browsers and content portals should bet on Ogg / Theora as a codec for the video tag, since it provides advantages for everyone (in addition, it is the one that is currently implemented in the largest number of browsers)

Let's not let the web advance depending on patents that slow down innovation. Yes to free formats, yes to the open web!

Other opinions within the Mozilla world:

How about? Are the google ones showing the lint? Is this the best way to start destroying firefox because chrome, which although it is very good, does not reach the heels of firefox 3.6, let alone version 3.7?

Say h.264 is better than Ogg / Theora, while it is likely to be true, is it simply an excuse not to bet on free software? If Google really bet on free software, shouldn't it allocate resources to improve Ogg / Theora instead of throwing it away?

What do you think? Leave us your comments!

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  1.   rovesal said

    All these companies are betting on their commercial interests and are not thinking altruistically of Internet users by mistake. They know what they are doing (just like the politicians who sell their mother for the vile money) and they never think about the progress of science. In short, they are gringos and they only see the money (devil's dung).

  2.   g said

    Pure business apple google microsoft freedom in the background