Mozilla, ever since its inception, has stuck to its philosophy of a free and open web. However, it would seem that the pressure from different quarters may be forcing the Mozilla team to make some compromises. This is evident in the recent decision by Mozilla executives to side with the H.264 codec rather than the free codecs from Google’s WebM project. However, Google is to be blamed more for this change of hearts of Mozilla folks.
Basically, H.264 is a video codec that is used to encode and decode videos. It has gained huge traction and popularity because with the help of it, videos can be efficiently stored and streamed and is used in virtually everything from cameras to mobile-phone processors. However, it is not free and has to be paid for, through the royalty payments for its patents.
On the other hand, Google’s WebM project is royalty free and supplies an apt alternative to H.264 which is called VP8 codec. Naturally, since WebM is royalty-free, it fell closer to Mozilla’s philosophy and Mozilla team decided to choose it over H.264. However, the team required Google’s imminent support to make the WebM project catch on. Unfortunately, Google didn’t live up to its promise of removing H.264 support from Chrome to help promote the WebM codecs. Consequently, Mozilla is in no position to continue using the WebM codecs and is now being forced, strategically, to switch to H.624 codecs.
According to the Chief Technology Officer of Mozilla, “The pressure to promote WebM was needed from a bigger player than Mozilla, and it was needed a year ago. It might not have worked then, even with Google on-side. Now, with just Mozilla going it alone, all we do is kill our mobile initiatives in order to appear pure…That does not serve our mission or users.”
Mozilla now has made switch to essentially stay relevant in the world of mobile browsing or face loss of users if it continues to use H.624 codecs. This goes on to depict that it is a very difficult feat to stay ahead of contemporaries when an initiative is open-source; and most of the times, it needs support from at least one or more non-open-source companies.