Microsoft releases extension to play H.264 video in Firefox – next step, Google Chrome Frame for IE then?

Last week Microsoft released the HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in, and I have some thoughts about that.

What it is?

Basically, it’s an extension for Firefox, developed by Microsoft, to incorporate support for H.264-encoded support in Firefox. What it does is parse video elements in pages and if the video is of the H.264 type, it will hook into Windows Media Player to play back the video contents. Mozilla Firefox will never support a video codec that is not open, and have therefore deliberately chosen not to support it.

Thoughts on video on the web

I’ve written about video on the web before in What will happen to open video on the web? and The WebM video format – the saviour of open video on the web?, and to summarize, I think it’s vital that we use open patent-free video formats on the web that aren’t owned by a company and won’t face the risk of being sued.

What Microsoft should have done?

If we’re positive and go along that this is all in line with Microsoft wanting to make the web work better for everyone (and not just about protecting their choice to only support H.264-encoded video), what they should focus their efforts on instead is implementing support for an open video codec support, such as WebM.

Google Chrome supports three video codecs overall, and after the official release of WebM, within a short time Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera supported it. I am certain, without a doubt, that Microsoft have both the technical knowledge and financial strength to support more than one codec in their web browser.

What this logic means

However, if Microsoft would rather invest in making plug-ins for other web browser to justify they things they have chosen to implement in Internet Explorer, let’s take this one step further. While Internet Explorer 9 is far far better than its predecessors (and kudos for that!), it’s still behind the other web browsers.

Therefore, I think Microsoft should instead start promoting Google Chrome Frame to make rendering better in Internet Explorer. Because, as I see Microsoft’s choice with the above plug-in, the next logical step would be to have a plug-in to make your own web browser better, right?


  • Darsain says:

    WebM (VP8) is overrated, and statement that you can not be sued for using it is not true at all. Read this VP8 analysis for in depth review of this codec, plus documentary called Patent absurdity, which is great for explaining the issues around software patent lawsuits.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    License-wise, to my knowledge, there are no submarine patents or similar risk with it. And yes, I’ve read that article, it made the rounds when it came out, and there lots of replies and discussions around it.

    To me, anything that will be a standard in our web experience and offered through standardized organs such as W3C needs to be open. I think that’s vital for the web.

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