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Microsoft Is Releasing an H.264 Plugin For Firefox 245

Posted by timothy
from the such-charity dept.
ndogg writes "Microsoft has announced that it is releasing an H.264 plugin for Firefox. This plugin does not add H.264 capabilities to Firefox, but rather allows it to use the H.264 capabilities built into Windows 7. With that in mind, it sounds like it may not work on anything other than Windows 7."
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Microsoft Is Releasing an H.264 Plugin For Firefox

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  • Good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The End Of Days (1243248) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @06:38PM (#34581042)

    Seems like a pretty reasonable solution to me.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      It always was. Firefox could have used the installed codecs in Windows, OS/X, and Linux to offer H.264. The only reason I can figure Microsoft did this was to keep people from dropping Firefox and going to Chrome.

      • by figleaf (672550)

        Doesn't Chrome support Firefox-compatible plugins?
        I would have sworn it did.

      • The only reason I can figure Microsoft did this was to keep people from dropping Firefox and going to Chrome.

        That's the only reason you can think of really? My first impression was different. If I recall correctly, the main problem with Mozilla and H.264 is that, while there are open source decoders, they are illegal to distribute in Usptostan. [mozillazine.org]

        THAT, not the (also real) hate for flash but that; was the main reason for the push of theora and the <video> tag and HTML5.

        So the main advantage I see for MS is not eliminating a reason to switch from Firefox to Chrome (both rivals for IE) but eliminating a reason to

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          "So the main advantage I see for MS is not eliminating a reason to switch from Firefox to Chrome (both rivals for IE) but eliminating a reason to switch from Windows to *nix."

          Really? How do you figure that?
          Windows has a huge advantage in many software categories including games, cad, and most all vertical markets.
          And last time I checked Firefox ran on Windows now....
          Nope Chrome has Google behind pushing it and Google is pushing Apps in Chrome! Firefox isn't a real threat because there is no multi billion do

        • by rjstanford (69735)

          The only reason I can figure Microsoft did this was to keep people from dropping Firefox and going to Chrome.

          That's the only reason you can think of really? My first impression was different. If I recall correctly, the main problem with Mozilla and H.264 is that, while there are open source decoders, they are illegal to distribute in Usptostan. [mozillazine.org]

          Of course its also unnecessary, since (just like printer drivers), video codecs are provided by the underlying operating system and don't need to be - and shouldn't be - distributed as part of the web browser. Except that Firefox, almost uniquely among applications that can perform video playback, refuses to use any OS-provided codecs, no matter how stupid that is.

          There is a codec distribution problem. Its also a solved problem. The fact that Firefox is having a hard time solving it again shouldn't be th

    • I have to agree with this as well, There are licencing issues with h264 and this would allow firefox to use the codec with the windows7 licening deal's which are already in place. MS wouldn't be able to do this for other operating systems (inwhich i couldn't blame them for either).
      • by scdeimos (632778)
        There's nothing stopping anyone from writing a similar plugin for Firefox that uses the H.264 codec in ffmpeg, for example. Then you have the same functionality for Firefox in Linux (and probably OSX).
    • by ADRA (37398)

      Just a thought, as long as this is using DirectShow or the modern equivalent, doesn't this open up the web browser to any and all flaws in said stack? Are Microsoft or the rest of you really that open to rely on the multi-media stack for security tightness? I'll stay afraid and yet wish everyone else luck.

      • by Goaway (82658)

        Most browsers will already happily use DirectShow if you ask them nicely.

    • What we really wanted was a way to let video stay fullscreen on a second monitor without having to re-hexedit the flash dll every time it gets updated or overwritten.

      The first browser to manage that staggeringly complex feat of engineering will be the one I'll use.

  • by kwabbles (259554) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @06:46PM (#34581124)

    Open slashdot... see add... Microsoft releasing plugin for Firefox (huh?) open article, "oh only works on Win7"... look for reason to get angry at Microsoft... can't find any on this one, seems like a nice thing, hear a bird outside, sip my soda, nice day out.

  • by Tibor the Hun (143056) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @06:49PM (#34581174)

    They are either realizing that either:
    1. they are becoming increasingly irrelevant on the desktop as people are using mobile devices more and more for their needs (iPad/Android for email and facebook)(and Apple computer sales have been growing handsomely), and therefore need to compete for customers for the first time in 20 years, or
    2. it is a good opportunity for them to pull the old Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

    Only time will tell.
    Now, off to RTFA.

    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      Or the far more likely, They license H.264 already, they have a user base that use FF and want them to continue to use windows as their preference by ensuring they have the maximum capabilities. FFS why do the tin foil hat wearers have to come out at everything they do. This is a pretty obvious move by them that makes both business and technical sense and has nothing to do with the shit your spouting. It is all about keeping their dominate hold on the OS regardless of browser choice.
  • Good enough? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Khopesh (112447) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @06:52PM (#34581212) Homepage Journal

    (Speaking as a Linux user here)

    This is probably "good enough" since it will apply enough pressure to get the rest of the userbase covered quickly enough. Competitive forces should drive similar efforts for GStreamer [wikipedia.org] (and perhaps Phonon [wikipedia.org]) and QuickTime (is that the right MacOS framework?) soon enough. The problem comes with the fact that it's almost guaranteed to be a closed application, so there's nothing to build atop except the interface and feature set.

    The real question is what Google thinks of this; despite YouTube's H.264 ties, they've been pushing WebM (a simplified Matroska container holding VP8 video and Vorbis audio) in place of FLV (or...?) containing H.264 and MP3 (or AAC?). Google will have to react FAST if they want to push WebM. For the sake of free/open standards in HTML5 video [wikipedia.org], specifically to prevent license/royalty issues with proprietary codecs to let the little guys compete, I'm rooting for Google.

    So when I say "good enough," I'm referring to what it might kick-start rather than the more immediate effects. Things should start to get interesting.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Competitive forces should drive similar efforts for GStreamer (and perhaps Phonon) and QuickTime (is that the right MacOS framework?) soon enough.

      Firefox doesn't have a technical problem doing so, my computer plays all sorts of H.264 just fine because I have the x264 library installed. They've just consistently refused to use the system's codecs because it'd lead to a different experience depending on what OS the user is running and what he has installed, and because they can't both be open source and legally licensed at the same time they won't install it on demand either. Google has H.264 support in Chrome and I don't think they mind that much as l

      • by metamatic (202216)

        They've just consistently refused to use the system's codecs because it'd lead to a different experience depending on what OS the user is running and what he has installed

        a) Most users want a different experience on the Mac to (say) the experience on Linux or Windows. b) Firefox is already a different experience on different platforms, even down to look and feel. Basically, I think their arguments for not supporting h.264 are rationalizations.

        • I use Firefox regularly on a Mac (typing now), Win7 and Linux is pretty much the same experience. The differences are pretty much negligible because you spend your time looking inside the window rather than at the menu bar or outside the frame. But yes, the arguments are rationalizations of decisions made mostly by instinct.
      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Chrome plugins are so limited in availability and what they can do it cannot replace firefox for many.

        More likely is interested users make plugins like this one for the platforms they use.

  • Given that Quicktime supports H.264, has anyone else looked into getting Firefox to use that for MP4/H264 playback, via a plugin in MacOS X?

    BTW I am assuming we are talking about the video tag and not MP4/H264 in a embed/object tag?

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      There's nothing stopping them - QuickTime on the Mac is a well documented system. The Mac version of XBMC uses it for just that reason, for example. It should be trivial for firefox to do the same if they wanted.

  • This new plug-in, known as the HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in

    It's not a catchy name, but at least it's descriptive.

    • by jo_ham (604554)

      This is from the company that called a product "Bob" and decided that the best colour for a media player was shit brown.

      They do make good mice though.

  • To watch a video now I need the Flash plugin. To watch a video in HTML5 with the awesome video tags I need a FF plugin. Nothing really changed, does it? Instead they (the W3C) could have set a standard video codec so we don't need any plugins anymore and would have an addons free WWW.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      What codec could they have picked?
      WebM was not around, setting a standard that FREE software cannot use is no good, and h264 is what Apple and MS wanted.

    • by BZ (40346) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @07:58PM (#34581968)

      They tried to set a standard video codec.

      Opera and Gecko refused to implement one of the possible contenders (H.264) for patent reasons. Furthermore, H.264 doesn't comply with the spirit of the W3C patent policy, though it does comply with the letter (because while a W3C spec can't require implementation of a W3C-designed techonlogy that has W3C members holding patents on it and not licensing them, it _can_ require implementation of a patented technology developed by someone else, via citing it by reference).

      Apple refused to implement anything other than H.264.

      Microsoft refused to comment, basically.

      Google implemented H.264 and the other containers+codecs Gecko and Opera implement (WebM/VP8 and Ogg/Theora).

      So anything that was going to be specified was going to be a fiction in practice....

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Gecko did not refuse, it could not implement 264 and be legal.

        • by BZ (40346)

          Whatever their reasons (and I know what they are, yes, and agree with them), the upshot was that they said they would not implement it. So it was DOA for standardization.

    • by Eskarel (565631)

      As to what the advantage was, there wasn't really one, W3C, like always, is just trying to standardize things that have been common practice for years, they're not exactly cutting edge sadly. You won't even see a dramatic shift to HTML5 for video because it doesn't allow the publisher to control distribution(neither does flash but it lets them pretend it does). HTML5 doesn't support DRM and while for many people that's a plus it makes it DOA for quite a number of uses.

      As for codec standardization. WebM didn

  • Cool story bro! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Well, I've read about half the comments, and so far the general sentiment of the FOSStard community to my understanding is this:

    - Microsoft should have written an h.264 plugin for Firefox on Linux and OS-X.
    - It's typical of Microsoft to do something like this and not support XP.

    - Etc.

    Here's the deal, guys:
    H.264 support is not "built into" Windows 7. It's built into Windows Media Player 12. That version shipped with and is exclusive to Windows 7. It can't be installed to XP. Microsoft has previously rele

    • by dingen (958134)

      Well, I've read about half the comments, and so far the general sentiment of the FOSStard community to my understanding is this:

      - Microsoft should have written an h.264 plugin for Firefox on Linux and OS-X

      Which half would that be? I've read all of the comments and found nobody actually saying this is what Microsoft should have done.

  • Installed it; went to Microsoft's very own HTML 5 page; it wouldn't play (readme warned me about this) even though it could (detection failed)

    Googled "h264 html5 video demo" -> absolutely nothing worked or did anything

    Gave up; uninstalled it. Useless alpha technology. Thanks HTML5!

    • by arose (644256)
      And that is part of the reason Mozilla isn't doing it, they don't want to deal with all the integration issues, OS provided codec flakiness, missing codecs, etc. They very much strive to provide a turnkey browser without optional might work if you are lucky components. That's what add-ons are for and Microsoft covering their platform is really the ideal solution in this case.
      • by Dr. Spork (142693)
        What are you talking about? I'm not missing any codecs, most certainly not the h264 codec. I really want this functionality and not having it is something that might get me to give up on Firefox. Just like the grandparent, I also installed the plugin, restarted Firefox and tried to test things - and got nothing. I'm using Win7-64 and my codecs are most certainly in order. What's going on?

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