Firefox for Android Now Has HTML5 H.264 Video Playback

by Ostatic Staff - Nov. 30, 2012

Firefox for Android has expanded its HTML5 video capabilities to include H.264 video playback.A post on the Mozilla Hacks blog explains: "Web developers have been using Adobe Flash to play H.264 video on Firefox for Android, but Adobe no longer supports Flash for Android. Mozilla needed a new solution, so Firefox now uses Android’s 'Stagefright' library to access hardware video decoders." There are also instructions online for enabling H.264 playback on your device if it doesn't currently support it.

As far as supported devices go, the Mozilla Hacks post notes this: "Firefox currently supports H.264 playback on any device running Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) and any Samsung device running Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). We have temporarily blocked non-Samsung devices running Ice Cream Sandwich until we can fix or workaround some bugs. Support for Gingerbread and Honeycomb devices is planned for a later release."

To test whether your device supports H.264, you can try playing the Big Buck Bunny video (seen above) found here.

As a video standard, H.264 has presented lots of challenges because of the patents and royalties surrounding it, which Mozilla has been very vocal about. But H.264 is a widespread standard, and while Mozilla waves the flag of openness, many users have clamored for H.264 support.

So what do you do if your device doesn't support the playback? Mozilla Hacks has this workaround posted:

"If your device is not supported yet, you can manually enable H.264 for testing. Enter about:config in Firefox for Android’s address bar, then search for “stagefright”. Toggle the “stagefright.force-enabled” preference to true. H.264 should work on most Ice Cream Sandwich devices, but Gingerbread and Honeycomb devices will probably crash."

"If Firefox does not recognize your hardware decoder, it will use a safer (but slower) software decoder. Daring users can manually enable hardware decoding. Enter about:config as described above and search for “stagefright”. To force hardware video decoding, change the “media.stagefright.omxcodec.flags” preference to 16. The default value is 0, which will try the hardware decoder and fall back to the software decoder if there are problems."

So there you have it--the end of a debate over how Firefox for Android would handle H.264. Even if your device doesn't initially support it, you should be able to enable it.