Mozilla champions Open Source Web video

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Mozilla champions Open Source Web video

The Mozilla Foundation is putting its significant clout and cash behind an initiative to create an open video format on the Web which would let users watch streaming video all over the Internet without having to use a plug-in.

In order to achieve this, the Mozilla foundation is passing around US$100,000 in grant money through the non-profit Wikimedia foundation for the development of Open Source video codec, Theora and its noisy twin, Vorbis, the audio format.

Mozilla also said its upcoming Firefox 3.1 browser would have native support for Theora which can be directly embedded into web pages, much in the same way images are.

To watch video clips, users won't need special software, or a plugin, they'll just need a browser which supports the format.

By the number of Mozilla blog posts on the matter, it would appear the issue of OS video codecs is an important one to the firm, with Mozilla director of evangelism Christopher Blizzard waxing lyrical about its virtues.

Blizzard says that, although videos are available on web sites like Youtube, "they don't share the same democratised characteristics that have made the web vibrant and distributed".

Blizzard continues by stating the importance of being able to deliver video encoding technology without needing such irritating little things as permission or licenses.

"It should be available on a royalty-free basis and without encumbered documentation."

Per-unit royalties, large up-front fees and the encoders needed to create video content in the right formats is prohibitively expensive in Blizzard's opinion, and Mozilla, he claims, hopes to change that.

Three firms not likely to be dancing for joy at Mozilla's announcement are, of course, Adobe, Apple and Microsoft, who hold a tight monopoly over contemporary media playback and streaming technologies.

All three receive substantial licensing payments for videos encoded in Flash, MPEG-4 or Windows Media Video (WMV), something they'd rather not give up, especially in the current economic climate.

True, Adobe's Flash Player plug-in is free and a lot of its code has been released under a generous OS license, but for content creators, Adobe's authoring tools are still incredibly expensive and, if you want to flood the web with Flash, you gotta have the cash (not to mention the proprietary, enterprise-class server software).

It's not just video seeing itself get tied up in an ugly jumble of proprietary file formats either. Audio is in a similarly nasty situation.

Any software maker today who attempts to build a program capable of playing MP3 audio or high-definition H.264 video is slapped with a hefty licensing fee to pay the patent holders.

That isn't the case for either Theora or Vorbis, both of which fall under the umbrella of an Open Source license.

The only problem is, it will probably take a long time before users get used to the idea.

After all, only 21 per cent of all web users even use the Firefox browser, and despite the fact Opera too has said it will support Theora for video playback in the latest versions of its browser, that's a long way off from being a 'universal standard'.

It is, however, a good start, and like all things Mozilla, a foxy, cunning plan.
theinquirer.net (c) 2010 Incisive Media
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