Native support for H.264 in Firefox is coming soon

In March and October of 2012, we reported on how Mozilla was implementing H.264 support in Firefox. In October, the codec was actually supported, but only if the host device – PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone – made it available to the browser.

Now, Cisco is taking the support for the H.264 standard one step further by open-sourcing their own variant of the popular codec. What does this mean though?

In simple terms, Cisco are essentially providing any and all software products free access to a form of the H.264 standard codec. No more going to MPEG LA and paying them for the privilege utilizing their H.264 module.

This will give Mozilla the ability to support the H.264 standard natively in Firefox, negating the need for hardware assistance. Mozilla will do this using WebRTC, an improvement to HTML5. The final hurdle though is all in the hands of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). They will decide on the standardization of a common video codec for real-time web communications. Brendan Eich, Mozilla CTO has said:

It hasn’t been easy, but Mozilla has helped to lead the industry toward interoperable video on the Web. Cisco’s announcement helps us support H.264 in Firefox on most operating systems, and in downstream and other open source distributions using the Cisco H.264 binary module. We are excited to work with Cisco on advancing the state of interoperable Web video.

With H.264 being the standard that drives most of the video content on the web, Interoperability is the goal of not just Cisco and Mozilla, but many of the providers, developers and hosts that offer rich multimedia content to the public.

Source: Cisco Blogs

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When they were talking about pulling H264 out of Chrome, VP8 was all the rage amongst Firefox and Chrome enthusiasts. H264 was just some patent encumbered pariah. Everyone was converting their media into duplicates of OGG...

I was told by several people that Firefox could not and would not ever support H264 natively, and now hell is freezing over.

H264 and AAC are God! Die VP6/8/9, Sorenson, MPEG-1/2, MP3, RealMedia, and especially Flash!!! Die!!! Good Riddance!!!

That's because someone's paying for everyone to use it now and giving away their implementation under the BSD license. So it's actually free now, which was the problem with it before.

Pluto is a Planet said,
That's because someone's paying for everyone to use it now and giving away their implementation under the BSD license. So it's actually free now, which was the problem with it before.

Oh, thanks. I didn't know that.

Lucky for Mozilla, eh

the small things i prefer firefox over chrome:
- master-password protecting my passwords.
- opening a new tab to a new window "move to new window".
- re-opening the last closed tab by simply pressing the wheel button of my mouse.
- automatically deleting all my history on exit.
AND ALL THESE NATIVELY AND NOT THROUGH THIRD-PARTY ADDONS, LIKE CHROME.

tomasse said,
the small things i prefer firefox over chrome:
- master-password protecting my passwords.
- opening a new tab to a new window "move to new window".
- re-opening the last closed tab by simply pressing the wheel button of my mouse.
- automatically deleting all my history on exit.
AND ALL THESE NATIVELY AND NOT THROUGH THIRD-PARTY ADDONS, LIKE CHROME.

And how exactly do you get it to delete history and such upon exit without using, Click&Clean (what I use)?

tomasse said,
- master-password protecting my passwords.
I love this too, but they need to change it from a popup box to a bar that appears below the URL bar so you can type it in there... Not something that can go to the background or steals focus from everything.

Pluto is a Planet said,

yes, probably they should do this for every kind of pop-up window
that bursts in the middle of the screen.
it would be much better.

So does this mean Firefox will use some generic cross-platform software H264 decoder instead of the hardware accelerated one provided by my OS in the future? This is a good thing?

Asmodai said,
So does this mean Firefox will use some generic cross-platform software H264 decoder instead of the hardware accelerated one provided by my OS in the future? This is a good thing?
No, it means on devices without dedicated hardware, you'll be able to do it. This is for platform parity.

Ok so if my OS is already providing a H264 decoder this news means nothing to me then? Just making sure I understand what this is saying.

I'm slowing starting to use Firefox again over Chrome.. I LOVE Chrome.. but it has been very buggy for me on both Mac and Windows..

I started to use IE11 with TPL from iegallery. Sometimes its quite annoying though with script blocking selection like noscript and I don't have a working KeePass plugin:(

I've tried to use chrome with the same results on various pcs,crash, crash crash. Firefox uses way too much memory and always has but almost never crashes for me. Although the last two update 24-25 have broken my ability to log into diqus comments.

Cyborg_X said,
I've tried to use chrome with the same results on various pcs,crash, crash crash. Firefox uses way too much memory and always has but almost never crashes for me. Although the last two update 24-25 have broken my ability to log into diqus comments.

Firefox uses too much memory? Did you try using Chrome with more than 30 tabs? easily creeps to over 3gb of ram...
Just Gmail and Feedly combined consume as much as a 20 tab session on Firefox.

gonchuki said,

Firefox uses too much memory? Did you try using Chrome with more than 30 tabs? easily creeps to over 3gb of ram...

Mozilla eats up memory with only a handful of tabs too, it has to do with the amount of time the browser is open, opened and closed tabs etc..

On Chrome the only problem I have with it is that the Facebook tab appears to cause Chrome to use a lot of memory after 24hrs of being open.

My PC is generally never powered off and only for updates.

gonchuki said,

Firefox uses too much memory? Did you try using Chrome with more than 30 tabs? easily creeps to over 3gb of ram...
Just Gmail and Feedly combined consume as much as a 20 tab session on Firefox.

I had 3 tabs open on Firefox, and almost 10 open on Chrome yesterday. Firefox consumed almost twice the RAM.

Dot Matrix said,
I had 3 tabs open on Firefox, and almost 10 open on Chrome yesterday. Firefox consumed almost twice the RAM.

I get the exact opposite.. you're not just counting the main process in the task manager are you? There's a lot more being used than that.. check Chrome's memory page.

Max Norris said,

I get the exact opposite.. you're not just counting the main process in the task manager are you? There's a lot more being used than that.. check Chrome's memory page.

It really depends on the site, like I said Facebook seems to weigh heavy in Chrome while others don't.

I've recently noticed Chrome and Firefox (latest versions, Windows 8.1) using 10-20% of my CPU on my quad-core CPU just sitting there on a lot of sites with no dynamic content. I've even seen Chrome using a consistent 5% CPU while sitting on the new tab screen after opening a new instance of Chrome after restarting Windows.

IE11 on the same sites spikes at about 0.5% and usually sits there on 0% (and uses a lot less memory while doing it).

Dot Matrix said,

I had 3 tabs open on Firefox, and almost 10 open on Chrome yesterday. Firefox consumed almost twice the RAM.


I've got 227 tabs open (don't ask) and firefox here is using 1.5GB of RAM... Have to say, I'm impressed, back with firefox 1.x days it'd use 1.5GB on a single tab!


Yea, that's just the one process. There's a bunch more that go along with Chrome. Much easier to visualize in a different task manager, say Process Hacker or whatever. Even running with "--disable-extensions" with the current official release there's four processes and it's using ~139MB with nothing but chrome://memory open. With a similar set of addons as my Firefox and again with no pages minus the memory page, it's 17 processes and 349MB. Once you start actually using the thing it goes way up.. depending on the pages it'll typically go double Firefox's memory usage after 4 pages open or so easily.

In my task manager, my current session of Firefox has had a CPU Time of 26:49 (which shows how long I've been running it) and 333 MB of RAM usage. That was with 1 tab open (this page). Then I went to 3 different websites opening 6 new tabs, most containing a bunch of images including multiple animated gifs, and now it's using 456 MB. Pretty efficient considering that's just a ninth of my system total RAM. And it keeps falling... Now it's at 417 MB.