Native Ogg Theora support in Firefox

What a day for great news!

Chris Blizzard and Chris Double of Mozilla have just announced that native Ogg Theora and Vorbis support is now available in the trunk of Firefox’s codebase. Compiles of that codebase have the support enabled by default, which means that very soon now any Firefox that gets installed on any platform will come with built-in Ogg Theora/Vorbis support out of the box.

This is exciting in more than one way.

First of all: it is a browser implementation of the new HTML5 video tag currently in the process of standardisation. Opera is the only other browser that has support for the video tag also using Ogg Theora as the baseline codec, but Opera’s support is in an experimental branch, while Firefox will be the first to have native support.

The choice to include Ogg Theora natively is a huge step forward on Mozilla’s behalf considering the submarine patent debate that has been raging around this codec ever since it was removed from the HTML5 specification as baseline codec. So, maybe the Mozilla lawyers believe the risk of this threat is negligible and if they have, other browser vendors may follow.

This is a big day for open media technology and a big day for the future of video on the Web.

It is important because the availability of free and unencumbered video and audio codecs that are natively supported on the Web will make a huge difference in progressing the capabilities of video on the Web. As an example, look at the efforts of Annodex, where we are creating video webs through a video format with embedded hyperlinks and annotations. To make this feasible, you need a standard and open format for the time-aligned hyperlinks and annotations, which will only work with a flexible open video format. This is just an example: open captioning and karaoke formats, open overlay formats and many other extensions to video formats will now be feasible. The golden age of online video is starting.


Michael Dale
‘s metavid project is giving us a taste of this future. Video can be searched on time-aligned annotations and only the relevant video segment will be retrieved. Video segments can be addressed by temporal hyperlinks and recombined easily into new mash-ups simply through the creation of a list of temporal hyperlinks. How powerful this will be when we do it across sites! This takes video into a completely new dimension.

Now, let’s step back again from the future to the current exciting news. I am particularly proud of the input that Annodex people have made to this development – code from people like Conrad Parker, Andre Pang, Zen Kavanagh, Shane Stephens, and many others.

Chris Double from Mozilla has been implementing the Firefox Ogg Theora support for more than a year and is using Shane Stephens’ liboggplay library, which was originally developed by CSIRO and is in the code repository of the Annodex Association. liboggplay requires libraries from Xiph.org (libogg, libvorbis, libtheora) and from Annodex (liboggz and libfishsound) to work. All of this has to work across operating system platforms.

It is an enormous achievement and I congratulate the open media technology community on this big success.