Mozilla, sticking to its ideals of the open web, decided long ago that support for the patent-encumbered H264 codec would not be included in any of its products. Not only is H264 wholly incompatible with the open web and Free software, it is also incredibly expensive. Mozilla could use one of the open source implementations, but those are not licensed, and the MPEG-LA has been quite clear in that it will sue those who encode or decode H264 content without a license. Software patents, however, are only valid in some parts of the world, so an enterprising developer has started a project that was sure to come eventually: Firefox builds with H264 support.
The project, dubbed Wild Fox, is in its infancy, and has not yet released any code. “The Firefox project has opted to exclude certain features due to software patents, patents which are only valid in a small number of countries, including the USA and South-Korea,” writes project lead Maya ‘Elledan’ Posch, “This means that decisions have been made due to patents which do not apply in most parts of the world. The Wild Fox project aims to rectify this by releasing builds with these features included, builds which will of course only be available to those not in software patent-encumbered countries.”
While I despise the idea of H264, it only makes sense for someone to start a project like this. The idea is to either make use of libavcodec from ffmpeg, or to go the Gstreamer route; this hasn’t been decided yet. The project is looking for developers.
“As I am just a single person, help is required to set up this project successfully and to release stable builds for as long as is required,” Posch writes, “If you are familiar with the Mozilla source and/or C++ plus have at least passing familiarity with (multimedia) libraries, you are more than welcome to join the project.”
Yes, this is what supporting H264 leads to. Due to the anti-open nature of Apple, Microsoft, Google, and its supporters, forks are necessary for users to be able to experience the whole web. To make matters worse, users in the United States will be opening themselves up to lawsuits by using these forks, since they are not licensed from the MPEG-LA. This organisation has clearly stated it will sue unlicensed users (and is clearly not afraid to do so), so beware of what you’re using.