Microsoft has decided to provide a plug-in for H.264 support in the Mozilla Firefox Browser. H.264 is the codec standard made famous by blue ray discs, YouTube and provides better video quality with lower bit rates when compared to its counterparts. It is used for streaming and running videos from YouTube and iTunes, Flash and Microsoft’s Silverlight. There are many controversies regarding H.264. One of the main reason is that it is based on HTML 5 which was developed for usage by all browsers but H.264 licensing and patent goes against this which has split the different browsers supporting the use of different formats. Microsoft and Apple on one side for H.264 and others are supporting Open Source software.

Mozilla currently is pushing for WebM as the format which is actually an open source format which can be developed easily and be distributed freely.

Microsoft has allowed Mozilla who due to the exorbitant licensing fees was unable to tap into H.264 to use a plug-in which would enable Windows 7 users to be able to actually view sites and videos supporting this format. Firefox with its longstanding support of Open source software would unwillingly have to allow the plug in. Windows 7 uses Windows Media Player as the playback software, so the usage of H.264 will be actually limited to Windows 7 supporting computers. Firefox currently supports Ogg Theora and WebM, both opensource. Opera supports Ogg Theora and WebM and Google Chrome provide support for Ogg Theora WebM and H.264. Microsoft only supports H.264 and WebM.

Different browsers providing support to different codecs is leading to a browser war.

Though many believe WebM should be the standardized codec because of it being open plus free.

H.264 is currently limited by its limited usage and applications and as of now it requires Windows media player API to run. But Microsoft is hoping the advent of HTML5 will change that. Apple safari is currently the only browser not supporting WebM so it actually might make more sense to make WebM as the industry standard and so that its open nature can be utilized fully and also so that its distribution and usage is wide spread.

Google in a surprising move has also claimed that it will withdraw support for H.264 because it was against the principles of the net being for all. Google Product Manager Mike Jazayeri explained that the move was due to Google’s goal to enable open innovation by focusing the company’s investments “in those technologies that are developed and licensed based on open web principles.”

It certainly is a free for all battle between the supporters of H.264 at one end and the open source software supporter at the other end. Google and Microsoft are slugging it out again this time over video formats, time will now tell which video codec loses popularity and ultimately causes that group of supporters to relent and provide support for the New Popular codec.