Monday, January 25th, 2010p>Sometimes you need to compromise, but at others you need to lead and take a stance. Our politicians do far too much via polls, and I often find myself wishing for more leadership. I could start talking about Obama and the healthcare issue in the US….. but this is a technical blog so I won’t put you through that.
Robert O’Callahan (moz layout guru) shares why he thinks Mozilla should stand firm on the H.264 issue comparing it to the ActiveX issue from the past.
With Chrome and Safari supporting H.264 (and not open video formats such as Ogg Theora) some users and developers have asked for Mozilla to support it too in Firefox. Mozilla is certainly a user-centric group (which is how they have gotten so far with Firefox) but remember that they are mission based: to keep the Internet open.
Here is some of RoCs opinion. I am glad he shared it:
Taking such positions is nothing new for Mozilla and history has proved us right for doing so, in particular regarding ActiveX and Web standards in general.
Perhaps it’s not widely known, but Gecko has had code to support hosting ActiveX controls, dating back as far as 1999. ActiveX controls are very much like system video codecs. ActiveX support would have been very useful to users ever since 1999, and still would be now — certainly in corporate intranets, and everywhere in China and South Korea. Enabling ActiveX support would probably boost our market share significantly. Most users have useful ActiveX controls on their machines. But for the last ten years, even during Mozilla’s most desperate days, we have consistently refused to turn this feature on, because we believe that ActiveX is not good for the Web.
I’m not suggesting that the consequences of exposing system codecs to the Web would be identical to exposing ActiveX. That’s unlikely, and unknowable. But favouring our principles over short-term gains for users is nothing new for Mozilla, and when we’ve done it in the past, history shows it was the right thing to do.
Chris Blizzard has a very detailed perspective too, linking up the history of GIF, MP3, and On2 :)