H.264 video support lands in Firefox Nightly. Update: Not

Martin Brinkmann
Nov 13, 2012
Updated • Nov 13, 2012
Firefox, Video, Youtube

Did Google play Mozilla in regards to support for HTML5 video standards? Back when HTML5 video began to take forms, browser developers split into two groups. There were Microsoft and Apple who supported the widespread H.264 video standard, and on the other side Mozilla and Opera supporting the WebM video standard instead. Google, which more or less owns the WebM standard, pledged to support it as well but also supported H.264 in its browser at that time, but with the promise to change that.

The problem for Mozilla and Opera was that Google did not keep its promise until now, which meant that the companies supported the WebM service which even Google's own video hosting portal YouTube did not use for all of the videos offered on the site. Google Chrome users did not experience any issues as Chrome was still supporting H.264 so that all videos on YouTube played just fine even with Flash disabled in the browser.

Firefox and Opera users on the other hand ran into video playback issues on YouTube and other video sites due to missing support for H.264.

Mozilla a month ago announced that it made the decision to no longer wait for Google to come through. Engineers of the company began to implement changes to the browser to bring H.264 support to Firefox after all. The engineers decided to use H.264 if the host operating system made them available on the computer. Firefox Mobile was the first version of the browser to receive H.264 support.

If you are running Firefox Nightly on Windows, you may also notice that H.264 is now officially available in the browser. You can test that for instance on YouTube's HTML5 page which lists the browser compatibility with the standards.

What this means is that Firefox users can now play back all videos on YouTube and other HTML5 video sites. YouTube videos play even if Adobe Flash is not installed. It may take some time before H.264 support is added to the stable version of the browser. It is likely going to happen in one of the next updates. Note that H.264 is available natively on Windows Vista and newer only, which leaves Windows XP users with no other option than to keep on using Flash to play videos.

Update: It appears that H.264 support has not landed yet in the Nightly version of Firefox. On HTML5test for instance, support for H.264 is not detected. I'm not sure why YouTube is showing that the browser is supporting h.264 though.

Update 2: Found the culprit. NoScript seems to have blocked the detection script on YouTube. With NoScript blocking the YouTube domain, h.264 is shown as green and thus supported by the browser, with NoScript allowing scripts to run on youtube.com, h.264 turns to red, but the other two stay green.


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  1. Pierre said on November 15, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    I believed H264, proprietary product, was not compatible with Firefox free GNU-GPL license and that it was the reason ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 15, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      Yeah that is sort of correct. Mozilla plans on use the operating system’s capabilities if available to bypass that elegantly.

  2. Chika said on November 15, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    @lainiwaku, it will arrive sooner or later, it is already in the Android version’s beta I think. There is less urgency on desktop version b/c the predominance of desktop flash, but it will get there.

  3. Pierre said on November 15, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Nightly channel UX updated this morning 05:40 French time. It is not compatible H264 (youtube HTML5 experiment). Neither with all desactivated extensions.

  4. lainiwaku said on November 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    i was thinking to something
    can’t we do an addons for firefox, to have h264 support from extenal plugin ?

  5. Chika said on November 14, 2012 at 11:13 am

    It was too good to be true like other said. This is one of the few sites that actually covers h264 and firefox which is a big deal to me so I don’t mind a few innocent mistakes here and there on a blog as long I get notified in the end.

  6. lainiwaku said on November 13, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    it was too beautiful to be true

  7. Anonymous said on November 13, 2012 at 5:11 pm

    The difference between a blog and a newspaper is that blogs generally happen very quickly. They are often done on the fly. Especially a blog site like ghacks.net, where you generally have a small number of writers trying to put several new articles of content on the blog each day to keep the content fresh and interesting. Newspapers, on the other hand, have all day to collect and verify information and write the story. The story then goes to the editor and, eventually, to the press machine. If something changes, there is time to edit the story and make corrections before it goes to press. Stories in error are usually corrected a day or two later. Blogs can be updated as the new information is discovered.

    You can’t compare a low budget blog to and multi-million dollar news organization.

    1. Jason Edwards said on November 13, 2012 at 5:18 pm

      You are correct, you can’t compare because once a paper is printed that’s it.

      A blog has the option of taking down the article all together which would make sense in this case.

      It is low budget but it’s not taking advantage of it’s platforms main plus point. I can’t get my head around it. Does the writer lose something on a personal level by retracting the article?

      it’s not really a big deal but how can I now tell if something I read on this site is researched or just written on a whim. It was after all largely based on one person’s experience with Youtube’s HTML5 checker.

      Everyone knows that most forums are already rife with people guessing or “doing a quick Google search” without really knowing what they are talking about. If a blog is going to contribute the same amount of info as that then what’s the point in having it?

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm

        Jason, I understand where you are coming from. Here is the main reason for not deleting the post:

        If I delete the post, third party sites that have posted it / scrapped it usually do not. They usually also do not post updates on their sites, so that readers on those sites may never know that an update has been posted if the original article is deleted.

  8. odio said on November 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    sad update

  9. dexter said on November 13, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    This is the bug https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=799318

    It’s not marked as Resolved fixed, so it’s not landed in Nightly. The Author has been mistaken.

  10. Jason Edwards said on November 13, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Why don’t you take the article down then. I just installed Nightly in a VM to test it for no reason.

    Takes away ghacks credibility, not that you made a mistake but that you’re leaving it up for the misinformation to propagate.

    If all news papers published made up stuff and then had an edit note at the bottom how many people would bother to read it.

    1. odio said on November 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      This is exactly how newspapers works.

  11. Chika said on November 13, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    I am also not getting this, just updated my nightly. Could you put a download link to the exact build?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 13, 2012 at 2:34 pm

      I have posted on update to the article. It must be an error of sorts,a partial implementation or an extension that is interfering.

  12. Ray said on November 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Thanks for that. Does this mean that you would not need Flash running to view videos on youtube if you are running Windows 7 or later OS? I will just get rid of flash plugin altogether and bye bye endless flash plugins vulnerabilities,etc.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 13, 2012 at 2:26 pm

      Yes that’s what it means when it is fully implemented.

  13. Zlip said on November 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

    I am using latest Nightly and also follow and read bugs which lands in mozilla-central and I didn’t see any such bug landed in past week which can enabled H.264 bugs. Also that test past is not showing H.264 enabled for me.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm

      Strange, it is clearly active on my version of Nightly. Which operating system are you using?

      1. Zlip said on November 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm

        I noticed one strange thing, it shows active means green sign for a while for H.264 and then suddenly changes it to Red.
        Can you check whether your nightly shows H.264 support on html5test.com as well? Mine does not show support for H.264 on html5test.com.

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on November 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm

        Right, it shows a red x. Maybe it is not fully implemented yet?

      3. Zlip said on November 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm

        I am using Windows 7 Professional SP1 64-bit.

    2. Zlip said on November 13, 2012 at 11:47 am

      Little typo I mean H.264 support.

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