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16 December 2010, 13:06

Microsoft releases H.264 Firefox add-on for Windows 7

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Microsoft has released an add-on for Firefox that allows playback of H.264 encoded video on web pages using built-in abilities of Windows 7.

The new add-on, known as the 'HTML5 Extension for Windows Media Player Firefox Plug-in', was announced on Microsoft's blog site Port25, by Claudio Caldato, Principal Program Manager of the Microsoft Interoperability Strategy Team. Caldato says that the new add-on "extends the functionality of the earlier plug-in for Firefox, and enables web pages 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."

H.264 / MPEG-4 Part 10 or AVC (Advanced Video Coding) was one of the earliest compression standards for high definition video and has become a de facto standard for the video industry. While it is widely used for commercial applications, the algorithms used in H.264 are patented and subject to licence fees in countries that recognise software patents. Licensing is administered by the MPEG Licensing Authority, although in August 2010, MPEG LA announced that royalties will never be charged to end users for H.264 encoded video that is distributed free of charge. Nevertheless, this proprietary codec is not favoured by open source affiliated organisations such as Mozilla, and alternative open source codecs, such as Google's VP8 / WebM are preferred. Mozilla has refused to support H.264.

The new Add-on is available for download from Microsoft's Interoperability Bridges and Labs Center web site under a Microsoft proprietary licence (direct download RTF file).


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