A couple of things concerning digital video content caught my attention this week.
The first is the news that Mozilla have been forced into a position where they need to add in support for H.264, you can read more about this story here and here. I was surprised both by the controversy that this has created and by the number of people who think that Mozilla have some how caved in. They really had no choice. A large proportion of the video content available on the web is encoded in H.264. Users want/need to be able to view this content. Mozilla used to rely on Flash as a fallback for playing H.264 content, but Flash sucks. On mobile devices like smart phones and tablets, and even on devices like the MacBook Air, Flash is worse than sucky. If Mozilla are going to continue to stay relevant, if they are going to stick around to fight the good fight in the future, then they have to have a presence in the world of mobile. It really is that simple. They tried to persuade the world to adopt an open standard and they failed… on this occasion… but because of the decision they’ve taken they will still be around to fight this battle again in the future.
To everyone and anyone who think that Google are going to sweep in and save the day with WebM, they aren’t. WebM is not an open standard, it is royalty free, which makes it one better than H.264, but it is not an open standard.
The second thing which peeked my interest was the furore that seems to have been created in the eztv forums by The Scene making the decision to switch from XviD in an AVI container to x264 mp4 files. I’m not even sure where to start on this one because there are just so many angles being played out. First off you have the folks who don’t care about the change other than the fact that it happened mid season. WTF? It wasn’t eztv who made the decision to change, it was the scene. Besides which, it wouldn’t matter when the change was made it would be mid season for something. But honestly, what difference does it make? If it really bothers you, convert the files. Then you have the people complaining that their old equipment can’t play the new format. Yep, we call that progress. Buy some new (and maybe future proof) equipment or convert the content into a format that your legacy gear can play and while you’re at it, throw out those VHS tapes. My personal favourite part of this is that there are people calling for eztv to distribute both the AVIs and the mp4s and not understanding why this is a terrible idea. eztv do not care about file size because they do not encode or upload, they distribute. They have stated in the forums that they will distribute which ever version of a show they get first, but have also explained that since mp4s are easier to encode and faster to upload (due to smaller file sizes), that at the moment they always seem to receive the mp4s first. If they distribute both versions then they have doubled their effort for absolutely no gain and have slowed down the distribution of shows in the process. My two cents, smaller files, better quality, #winning.