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back to article Windows Firefox stiffs Adobe Flash, plays H.264 YouTube vids

Users of the Firefox web browser on Windows can now dump Adobe Flash and still watch H.264-encoded videos online. Fresh overnight builds of Firefox 20 will now play footage found on HTML5 websites, such as YouTube and Vimeo, that use the patent-encumbered video codec - without the need for Adobe's oft-criticised plugin, which …

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Happy

About bloody time!

that is all.

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Anonymous Coward

h.264

H.264 is the work of Microsoft, Apple and others, and is licensed through the MPEG-LA patent pool; Google bought VP8 in 2009 as WebM from On2 Technologies for $124.6m and released it under a royalty-free licence in May 2010.

So how does this work?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/11/21/motorola_microsoft_trial_google_demand/

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Re: h.264

H264 isn't really the work of Apple, Microsoft and others is it?

http://www.itu.int/en/ITU-T/studygroups/com16/video/Pages/jvt.aspx

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Re: h.264

It appears not; some wires were crossed. The wording's been rejigged.

C.

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Re: h.264

No, Apples involvement is that Quicktime 4 was used as a study example to form MPEG4.

That might make Apple free from royalties to use MPEG4, but It's not their work. I guess they also lended some of their patents to the pool.

But still not their work. Apple has just supported real standards very well, not only MPEG.

I'm glad to see that the firefox team get their act together and start using system components instead of always have a political agenda.

MPEG4 is a standard that ISO/IEC govern with their Moving Picture Experts Group.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mpeg

Until any other standard arrives following MPEG is the only correct way to go.

One thing I don't understand, why pirates continue to convert the material they want to share to something else than mpeg4. As that is the format/containers the original source had from the very beginning. Kind of stupid but what would you expect.

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Re: h.264

"One thing I don't understand, why pirates continue to convert the material they want to share to something else than mpeg4. As that is the format/containers the original source had from the very beginning. Kind of stupid but what would you expect."

there are **lots** of other codecs that devs love much more, that compile better, cheaper, etc, etc... NO that means **in their mind**, mostly.. :/ if you d/l a lot of *non-youtube* vid, go check how many are the above...

I find FLV (using AVC / AAC) is the most prevalent, followed by WMV and AVI.. but some are just renamed!!! get 'mediainfo' for the real story!! :)

this link also shows FLV uses most of the codecs talked about here...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_Video#Encoding

see this for the problem about 'to many standards' ... :/

http://xkcd.com/927/

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@illiad Re: h.264

Unless you are downloading in high definition (720P or better) in which case the dominant container is MKV.

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Anonymous Coward

a list of the 26 companies that have added their patents to the pool, with a number that represents how many patents have been contributed by each one:

Panasonic Corporation (377)

LG Electronics Inc. (198)

Toshiba Corporation (137)

Fraunhofer‐Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. (82)

Microsoft Corporation (65)

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (57)

Sharp Corporation (54)

Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. (42)

Sony Corporation (29)

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (18)

Fujitsu Limited (16)

The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York (9)

NTT DOCOMO, INC. (9)

Dolby Laboratories Licensing Corporation (7)

France Télécom, société anonyme (7)

Robert Bosch GmbH (5)

Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (4)

Scientific‐Atlanta Vancouver Company† (4)

Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (3)

Hitachi, Ltd (2)

Victor Company of Japan, Limited (2)

DAEWOO Electronics Corporation (2)

Siemens AG (2)

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (2)

Apple Inc. (1)

Sedna Patent Services, LLC (1)

That is a veritable who's who of the consumer electronics industry, with Microsoft prominently represented.

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And there is one company not in the list...

...currently suing for greater license rates than the other 26 companies combined.

It is course Motorola Mobility a wholly owned subsidiary of WebM developer and Mozilla funder Google.

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Anonymous Coward

> Apple Inc. (1)

I didn't know that H.264 had rounded corners.

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Big Brother

Re: And there is one company not in the list...

Now now, can't criticise Google can we; they can do no evil!

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except that

Interesting that it's only one patent from Apple. But then again Apple did not use to be such a patent monster.

Well they opened up Quicktime 4 for the MPEG to study, and make MPEG4. So well contribution can't really be measured in only patents. Still very interesting.

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HMB
Bronze badge

Re: Stiff Windows

They seem to be making good progress in that field according to their diminishing market share. You must be proud.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

Re: Insanity of software patents

H.264 is an algorithm but a device using that algorithm to turn a small data stream into pictures on a screen is not JUST maths. That is where patent law is right now whether you like it or not. And I do believe current system isn't good but this is very far from the worst case out there.

While not free so a serious problem for Free software the MPEG-LA licensing is really rather reasonable for any other commercial operation. The only company that I'm aware of making unreasonable demands over this standard is Google.

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Boffin

Re: Insanity of software patents

I assure you it is just maths. How do you think computers work ? Maybe you want to reread "On Computable Numbers" ?

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h3
Bronze badge

Re: Insanity of software patents

It definitely is just Maths and the improvements from mpeg/mpeg2 are incremental its not even as if they invented the Maths (Or even used cutting edge stuff) they waited quite a long time until someone had already optimised the algorithm.)

These patents are just like the load html from a cdrom patents.

Any suitably skilled Mathematician (More likely a group) could have done something similar.

It doesn't need to be like this. (Intel could stop pretty much everyone else making chips (Using patents) as everyone just seems to wait until Intel spends the most working out how to do things but they don't).

Crypto and Video compression are about as close to pure Maths as it gets.

It is not right for people to hold patents on basically other peoples work that they often don't even properly understand. (When they try to modify the algorithm in crypto it is proven that they lack the necessary knowledge).

I think patents are good for things that are very capital intensive or genuine innovation.

But for such as H264 all the work could have been done by any one of those companies.

The money put in by Nokia / Motorola to develop GSM patents for that are fair enough.

Even putting the codec onto a chip is not the sort of the thing that should be patentable.

(The technology used to make the chips should be patentable.)

Copy the algorithm as is into Cadance test it on an FPGA and then get an ASIC made is the sort of thing that a 3rd year uni student could do.

All the hard work is done by the EDA toolmaker / the Fab / the FPGA maker.

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Silver badge

Re: Insanity of software patents

Yes, it's "just maths", but so is GSM modulation, which you claim to be fair and patentable.

The work in H.264 was in finding a set of processes made from "just maths" that can be performed without needing huge amounts of CPU power, and which won't reduce the output to unwatchable garbage if some of the parameters are garbled in transit and which end up reducing the amount of data transferred without degrading the subjective image quality. None of those three things are a trivial task.

Have you ever tried to develop an existing principle into a working, functional product that meets people's needs? Edison may have been a fucking thief, but he was right about the "99% perspiration" part. That is what you're paying for: not having to make all the false-starts, not having to go down all the dead-ends, not having to rework everything to make it safe to use, or make it work with other components that aren't strictly compatible with what you're doing. You're not paying for the idea. You're paying for the time and effort it took to realise that idea.

"It is not right for people to hold patents on basically other peoples work that they often don't even properly understand. (When they try to modify the algorithm in crypto it is proven that they lack the necessary knowledge)."

You know that this line of argument prevents people owning cars, so I'll assume you walk everywhere. The reason it's called intellectual "property" is because the implementor is able to sell it to someone else. If that someone else already knows exactly how to implement the idea, they wouldn't need to buy the intellectual property.

So, is technology only allowed to be used by people who make it? That's a frankly stupid contention. I doubt that you know enough about the various processes and systems to be able to build, from first principles, a device capable of connecting to the internet, so I must assume that you bought it from someone who did. And that company didn't know how to make all of the components in the box either, and so on back to someone who invented a way of doing something.

"Copy the algorithm as is into Cadance test it on an FPGA and then get an ASIC made is the sort of thing that a 3rd year uni student could do."

Yes, but copy *which* algorithm?

Sure, it's easy to burn any random process into silicon. It's also easy to type random words together on a page. But despite initial impressions, typing random words isn't the same thing as writing "Ulysses".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Insanity of software patents

I think you will find a great deal of knowledge of optics and how the human mind processes images went into the creation of the codec. It's not "just" a compression algorithm, quite far from it in fact. It is neither easy nor obvious. And in any case, everyone in the game agreed on it, and the entire world of video is based on it whether Google likes it or not.

The Google grand master plan to disrupt the industry standard has failed and will continue to fail for several reasons, not the least of which are that WebM probably breaches the H.264 patents and it is not "better" in any sense that people care about. WebM is a dead horse that only freetards care about any more.

Google is not your friend.

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Bronze badge

Re: Insanity of software patents

Intel has been done for stealing tech before. They do not have a monopoly on brains or patents in the chip world.

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WTF?

Re: Insanity of software patents

Of all the insane software patents you could choose to criticise, you pick the one that probably deserves payment for ACTUAL technology, and not things such as frivilous animation effects of a certain rotten fruit company.

As far as I'm aware algorithms are also classed as a more widely patentable category that general software payments.

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Boffin

Re: Insanity of software patents

Maths does not emit light from a screen. The overall device converting a stored bitpattern encoded in H.264 to light emitted to your eye is more than maths.

I don't even think* that lamda calculus or the Church-Turing thesis covers any form of input or output within its mathematical framework.

Now maybe you can say that the invention (which would obviously have prior art) is a device for displaying colours based on mathematical results written to certain areas of memory and everything up to that point is maths (unless all physics is just maths but then every possible invention is just maths).

* it has been a while since I studied it.

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Re: Insanity of software patents

Interesting down votes, fandroids who don't have a clue?

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Stop

Hurry up Google - switch off H.264 on YouTube.

Make it VP8 only....

We need a truly OPEN video codec to rule the web, the rest will follow.

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Re: Hurry up Google - switch off H.264 on YouTube.

The trick is getting the HARDWARE makers on board. Without them, consumer use of the stuff will lag because many mobile devices rely on DSPs to decode video, and these usually have to be built for a family of codecs.

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Meh

Re: Hurry up Google - switch off H.264 on YouTube.

Agreed, the hardware needs to catch up. But Google seem to have missed a trick, they control Android, so why didn't they build the video RECORDING, as well as playback, on Android around WebM? That would have sent a strong message and maybe have given WebM the kickstart it needed...

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Re: Hurry up Google - switch off H.264 on YouTube.

VP8 is going nowhere — that was true in 2010 and its true now. There's no real incentive for hardware acceleration so there mostly isn't any hardware acceleration. You can't wrap VP8 in Flash (other than with an in-Flash software decoder) so there's no easy transitional compatibility. 99% of computer users already have a paid licence for H.264 that came with the OS (Wimdows, Mac, iOS) or the hardware (Android). Even if they didn't, it's currently free to implement for browsers and if VP8 were to make any headway then the MPEG-LA could just make it free for that use permanently. Given that its also the Bluray, etc, standard, it'll probably always have better tools.

From the dirtier side of the business, the MPEG-LA has 18 companies that claim to have patents covering VP8, also available as insurance. That's probably just sabre rattling but you shouldn't bet your company on it.

If Google switched off H.264 on YouTube it'd just cut off most of the audience — such as anyone using Flash — and therefore most of Google's money.

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Bronze badge

Re: Hurry up Google - switch off H.264 on YouTube.

I have yet to see tests showing that VP8 is more efficient than H.264. Would you rather pay your regional telco monopoly more money for more bandwidth?

Efficient codecs that play at 60 fps are REALLY hard. That kind of research is not within the realm of your average open source developer.

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Re: Hurry up Google - switch off H.264 on YouTube.

"From the dirtier side of the business, the MPEG-LA has 18 companies that claim to have patents covering VP8, also available as insurance. That's probably just sabre rattling but you shouldn't bet your company on it."

But they haven't pushed Google itself on it. Maybe that's because there are potentially a number of On2 patents that MPEG-LA is breaching, and Google has both provided legal coverage for potential patent violations involving WebM and told MPEG-LA it has ammunition, too. IOW, MPEG-LA may be smart enough not to push Google into starting a patent war.

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Big Brother

Re: Hurry up Google - switch off H.264 on YouTube.

No you GoogTards, we do NOT want Google to be in CONTROL of all our video. MPEG is vastly more open (libre) than anything from Google ever will be.

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Re: Hurry up Google - switch off H.264 on YouTube.

@Charles9

MPEG-LA doesn't infringe anyone's patents because they don't make or sell anything except licenses. I believe that they don't even sue people for infringement as that is left to the patent owners. Of course Google may have patents from On2 on H.264 in addition to those from Motorola (already being asserted against MS) but it may be there are limits on what they can demand as H.264 licensees (see ongoing lawsuit coverage).

There is then the question whether Google has a strong enough patent range OR other commercial incentives (such as "you can make the next Nexus and have early access to the next Android version" or just here is some cash) to prevent lawsuits from anyone with sufficiently strong patents.

I'm also not sure if an H.264 licensee gets the rights to implement the technology in non-H.264 codecs. It might be that many of the tempting targets are already licensed through the H.264 license although I haven't looked into it.

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Silver badge

Pragmatism, perhaps, but I wish they'd stuck to their guns. I'm watching YouTube HTML5 in FF on Linux with no issues - works perfectly. Seems to be more stable, too, and I'm not seeing any unusual resource usage.

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Thumb Down

but the flash video player is STILL better

For example, where's the right-click 'stop download' in the html 5 version?

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Re: but the flash video player is STILL better

It's right there in the context menu on my YT HTML5 version...

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Black Helicopters

Re: but the flash video player is STILL better

Google appears to be intentionally borking html video on YouTube, playback is worse on the desktop, they don't full screen properly on mobile unless it's embedded somewhere else, videos that play h264 on mobile require flash on the desktop etc. while Vimeo, who seem small fry in terms of engineering talent compared with Google manage just fine.

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About time too

Shunning h264 was stupid and flew in the face of reality. Proper native support for h264 negates the need to use Flash in a lot of cases, and hopefully might be the final nail in its coffin for regular web use.

That said, whatever replaces Flash be it standards based or not is extremely unlikely to have better performance than Flash. E.g. html+JS+canvase would run in the context of the web page, competing with the rest of the content in a single thread and would therefore drag down rendering far more than Flash ever did.

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Re: About time too

Javascript supports threading (webworkers), so those choke points are falling away.

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h3
Bronze badge

Both Silverlight and WinRT HTML5 + JS perform better than Flash.

(I still get a line across both monitors when I start anything flash).

Flash streaming is awful.

(I can stream from Usenet at 1080p extracting on the fly better than I can with flash).

It isn't my connection (Flash was tested using Youtube - Google has the bandwidth).

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Anonymous Coward

Firefox...TWENTY??

I shall remain with my trusty 3.6...

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Silver badge

Re: Firefox...TWENTY??

Well, thanks for your valuable input.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Firefox...TWENTY??

I'm glad my little gem of knowledge is appreciated. A Merry Christmas.

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FAIL

Mobile?

The shift to mobile? Really? Firefox is completely a non-starter on mobile.

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Silver badge

Re: Mobile?

What makes you say that? Used it since the beta, and while admittedly the first few versions were a bit slow, these days it's a great browser. Flash got added in, the browser sped up, they redesigned the UI (though personally I liked the old one) and sorted out a number of other issues. It's a luvverly piece of kit.

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Facepalm

Re: Mobile?

I have a version of it on my N9. Supports a version of *choke* flash as well.

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Anonymous Coward

Chrome

so why do we get the flash version still on Chrome? The flash version is annoying it makes most PCs sound like they are about to take off

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Anonymous Coward

A web browser without Flash

is like a mail client without POP3.

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Why all the hate for flash?

I have never had a problem with flash on any of my many devices, and i dont know anyone who has on any of theirs either. Video streaming,games etc always run fine.

Is it just the Apple users that see flash as the great satan and slag it off, or have i, and everyone i know just been very lucky in our device choices?

The html 5 alternative sounds like an awkward hodgepodge of different elements and scripts rather than a single unified player that looks the same across all devices.

Dont get me wrong, native h264 playing is a good development, and i applaud mozilla for doing this, but i fear that replacing flash with html 5 on the web in general will be a downgrade in many cases (can you do complex games in html 5?).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why all the hate for flash?

Wrong. Flash is appalling on its best days. You must live in a cave

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