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General News Microsoft Offers H.264 Support to Firefox on Windows via Add-On
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Microsoft’s interoperability work related to modern web standards is in no way limited to Internet Explorer 9.

An illustrative example in this regard is the fact that the Redmond company worked to make Firefox a tad friendlier to a video codec that IE9 supports by default in the context of HTML5, but Mozilla ignores completely for Firefox 4.0.

Essentially, the new HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in add-on from the software giant offers users that are running Firefox on Windows H.264 support for HTML5 video playback.

Offered free of charge, the Firefox add-on leverages Windows 7’s built-in capabilities in order to let users of Mozilla’s open source browser enjoy H.264-encoded video on HTML5.

Mozilla has opted to support Ogg Theora and Google’s V8 video codec, but has refused to embrace H.264 citing the fact that the latter is not an open technology, but it requires for royalties to be paid in order to be integrated into the browser.

“Microsoft has already been offering for several years now the Windows Media Player plug-in for Firefox, which is downloaded by millions of people a month who want to watch Windows Media content,” a Microsoft spokesperson told me.

“This new plug-in, known as the HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in, is available for download here (add link) at no cost.

“It extends the functionality of the earlier plug-in for Firefox, and enables web pages that that offer video in the H.264 format using standard W3C HTML5 to work in Firefox on Windows. Because H.264 video on the web is so prevalent, this interoperability bridge is important for Firefox users who are Windows customers.”

HTML5 is a standard that still has to be finalized, and there are aspects on which a general consensus is still, extremely far, a situation that ends up hurting end users.

The HTML5 specification doesn’t indicate a specific video codec that should be used, and as such browser vendors have embraced various options, including H.264, Ogg Theora or V8.

Internet Explorer 9 offers default support for H.264, and will also play nice with V8 content provided that a codec is installed in Windows.

“H.264 is a widely-used industry standard, with broad and strong hardware support. This standardization allows users to easily take what they've recorded on a typical consumer video camera, put it on the web, and have it play in a web browser on any operating system or device with H.264 support, such as on a PC with Windows 7,” Microsoft added.

“H.264 is also a very well established and widely supported video compression format, developed for use in high definition systems such as HDTV, Blu-ray and HD DVD as well as low resolution portable devices. It also offers better quality at lower file sizes than both MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 ASP (DivX or XviD).”

Now, with the HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in, customers running Firefox on top of Windows 7 can play H.264 content without any problems, even if the open source browser doesn’t support H.264.

Download HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in
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