open formats

Firefox 3.1beta3 and open web multimedia

Mike Linksvayer, March 12th, 2009

The third beta of the next version of the Firefox web browser is now available for download. For the approximately half of you reading this in a Firefox browser, the next version of Firefox will be (because the beta already is) much faster and more awesome all around (and will be released as version 3.5 to denote the significance of improvements over Firefox 3). You can help ensure the release is even better by using the beta. For the rest of you — now is a good time to get with the program.

Perhaps the most exciting feature in the future Firefox 3.5 for the commons is built-in support for the new <audio> and <video> tags and open audio and video codecs. Admittedly it isn’t easy to explain why open multimedia formats are so important for the open web — they are infrastructure, lowering a number of costs and enabling interoperability for everyone — so the benefits of widespread adoption of open formats (and opportunity costs of their lack) is systemic and largely invisible. We’re pretty comfortable with making such an argument and appreciate the challenges of doing so — though there are many concrete use cases enabled by Creative Commons licensing, we know those are the tip of the iceberg.

We’ve linked a few times to explanations of why open formats in particular are important, and back in 2004 a rant on fixing web multimedia by making audio and video on the web addressable like other items published on the web instead of opaque, which is essentially what the new tags and open formats drive at.

You can also see a few times over the past year where we’ve snuck <video> tags into blog posts for the entertainment of people on the cutting edge running Firefox 3.1 alpha and earlier betas at the time.

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