Mozilla is looking to make video on the web as open and as easy to enjoy as images are now, by eliminating the need for software plug-ins or expensive licensing fees for restricted codecs. To further that mission, Mozilla selected the free and open Theora video compression format for Firefox 3.1, and yesterday granted the Wikimedia Foundation $100,000 to administer the development of Theora and related open video technologies.
On his blog, Mozilla director of evangelism Christopher Blizzard wrote about the importance of openness when it comes to video on the web:
Although videos are available on the web via sites like youtube [sic], they don’t share the same democratized characteristics that have made the web vibrant and distributed. And it shows. That centralization has created some interesting problems that have symptoms like censorship via abuse of the DMCA and an overly-concentrated audience on a few sites that have the resources and technology to host video. I believe that problems like the ones we see with youtube are a symptom of the larger problem of the lack of decentralization and competition in video technology – very different than where the rest of the web is today.
Blizzard goes on to explain what the selection of Theora and the grant money will enable:
This means we can do things with video and let it interact with other types of content (SVG, Canvas, HTML) in ways that haven’t been possible to date. We hope that by releasing video from the plugin prison and letting it play nice with others we’ll be able to open up a new wave of creativity around video.
VentureBeat has a nice summary of how Mozilla’s move fits into the browser landscape. Microsoft has Internet Explorer and its video technology in Silverlight. Apple has Safari and QuickTime. Google, which already runs the biggest video site on the web in YouTube, and has a relationship with Mozilla, could build Theora support into its Chrome browser.