HTML5 Firefox Plugins

With all the talk recently about the exploits in Flash and Java, users are taking a closer look at their Firefox plugins. A couple plugins users may come across that look a little odd are the ones which provide HTML5 support in Firefox. Now remember, HTML5 Video is suppose to someday replace Adobe’s Flash (for the most part YouTube has been using HTML5 since early this year) and Microsoft’s Silverlight (no longer supported, but still used). These plugins are:

  • Open H.264 Video Codec provided by Cisco Systems – shipped starting with Firefox 33 and allows playing of H.264 encoded content natively via HTML5.
  • Primetime Content Decryption Module by Adobe – shipped starting with Firefox 38 allows playing of DRM protected content (Streaming Movies) natively via HTML5 without the need of Flash or Silverlight.

H.264/MPEG-4 AVC is a video coding format that is used for HD TV, Blu-Ray Discs, HD DVD (defunct), Internet streaming video and even Sony’s Playstation Portable. It also patent-encumbered and licensed by MPEG LA, which would prevent it from being distributed with an Open Source project such as Firefox. Cisco released in October 2013 a gratis, high quality, open source H.264 implementation and gratis binary modules compiled from that source and hosted by Cisco for download. This allows any open source project to incorporate Cisco’s H.264 module without paying MPEG LA license fees [Mozilla Blog].

Primetime Content Decryption Module by Adobe is a bit of a controversial feature which Mozilla had a hard time including with Firefox. From the Mozilla Wiki:

Hollywood studios require companies that license movies for streaming use DRM between the streaming company and the end user. On the Web, this has traditionally been done by using the Microsoft PlayReady DRM component inside the Silverlight plug-in or the Adobe Access DRM component inside the Flash Player. As the Web platform gains more capabilities, general purpose plug-ins like Silverlight or Flash can be phased out.

I have not heard of any issues with these plugins (other than the usual complaints that Mozilla did not do a good job explaining what they were and why). I am somewhat concerned about the Primetime Content Decryption Module being it is also from Adobe. However, unlike Flash I am guessing there are restrictions on its use.

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