Mathias Hasselmann

Web video lies

Those days it's easy to read things like: "Every decent browser supports WebM". So let me share some little wisdom: Things don't become true, just because Google tells so.

For instance Ubuntu 10.04.2 LTS does not support WebM, unless you activate some obscure PPAs. Maybe.

Firefox supports WebM only since version 4, which was released just a few days ago.

My smartphone also doesn't support WebM - because it has the shocking age of one year.

So please: THINK! before you allow someone to abuse you for their propaganda.

Deciding now if I am curious enough to waste time on figuring out webm support for my notebook.

Edit: Ok, at least Google's Mark Pilgrim agrees that WebM is not mainstream yet.


Benjamin Otte commented on March 31, 2011 at 9:45 a.m.


lombo commented on March 31, 2011 at 9:54 a.m.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:chromium-daily/stable && sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade

have fun

Anonymous commented on March 31, 2011 at 9:56 a.m.

Even in older versions of Firefox, you can right-click on a video and choose to save it. mplayer and totem both play webm just fine.

Anonymous commented on March 31, 2011 at 9:59 a.m.

Even though the final version of Firefox 4 came out quite recently, usable betas and release candidates for version 4 have existed for 9 months or so, and many distributions have provided experimental packaged versions of those betas and release candidates.

John commented on March 31, 2011 at 10:29 a.m.

Use cyanogenmod on your android phone. If you got an iPhone youre screwed anyway.

No webdeveloper doesnt want to offer HTML5 videos, since the integration is MUCH easier than flash. And btw: Flash doesnt run on every Smartphone so dont consider smartphones a valid excuse for not supporting WebM

Mathias Hasselmann commented on March 31, 2011 at 10:32 a.m.

lombo: surely i'll use a browser that sends each web page i visit to google first, good one :-)

first anonymous: unfortunately not. mplayer and GStreamer of Lucid __do not__ support WebM. guess why i posted this rant?

second anonymous: surely i'll put unstable, untested software on my work notebook, when i just decided to use a LTS version of ubuntu for it. ;-)

Mathias Hasselmann commented on March 31, 2011 at 10:45 a.m.

John: Having a royality free, widely accepted video format is a good thing! But please don't destroy it's reputation by using it as exclusive video format, before it's really available to many users. If you worry the effort for supporting many supports, just put the video on one of the many video hosting platforms...

David commented on March 31, 2011 at 10:50 a.m.

First im not a ubuntu user, but i just want to inform you that webm *is* supported in your OS, maybe you mssing some gstreamer plugin?

Mathias Hasselmann commented on March 31, 2011 at 11:08 a.m.

David: nice that libvpx0 is packaged. still none of the available gstreamer plugins picks it up. sorry, you loose.

Chris Kühl commented on March 31, 2011 at 11:51 a.m.

Not sure how you expect it to be in anything other than a PPA on Ubuntu 10.4. WebM was released in May 2010.

You're exaggerating a little about what Chrome reports back to Google. Of course, there is some stuff they report back which may be too much for you. You can see a pretty good list here:

And actually a statement like "Every decent browser supports WebM" seems true to me. I'd consider Firefox, Opera and Chrom[e|ium] to be the decent browsers and there is no mention of a version. Maybe you had a more specific statement in mind?

Edward commented on March 31, 2011 at 11:56 a.m.

err... what ? We've had WebM/VP8 in GStreamer since the day it was announced. So it's been there for almost a year...

... Oh wait, right, Ubuntu 10.04 was released *BEFORE* webm was announced.

Go complain with your LTS distro support staff. It's *THEIR* decision to not make available a technology that was made public *AFTER* the release of your distro.

As for GStreamer support, you can add the gstreamer-developers PPA to have more recent gstreamer core/plugins (including webm/vp8 support).

Anonymous commented on March 31, 2011 at 12:32 p.m.

@Chris Kuhl: Chrom{e,ium}'s Omnibar does the same search completion that Firefox's search bar does, which means it sends each string you type in it to Google to get the list of possible completions. That apparently represents one of the main objections to unifying the two in Firefox.

Personally, I'd like to see the two bars unified and autocomplete turned off when not doing a keyword search; Ctrl-K could then focus the address bar and pre-type a keyword.

Fri13 commented on March 31, 2011 at 12:50 p.m.

Cheese.... this just made my day.... just so wonderfull Ubuntu propaganda how Firefox in Ubuntu is the decent browser!

This is exactly the problem with those "long term distributions" what should not be used at all in desktop environments where are needed latests standards or versions of the applications and files.

IT-department just hits heads to the wall yelling "WHY WHY WHY WHY" when they can not by security enable any PPA to get latests stable software/version working like smarter distributions what are closer the upstream or even better, a rolling releases.

Unless distributors are ready to actually support new versions and standards as long they support some distribution release, they can not do anything else than blame themselfs being lazy and short sighted!

Anon commented on March 31, 2011 at 1:58 p.m.

You can always download a tar.bz2 of Firefox4 ( ) for Lucid. I believe Google have a deb for Chrome Ubuntu too ( ).

It sounds like what you might want is for Flash to support WebM as that's something that is often updated regardless of distribution version.

Chris Kühl commented on March 31, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.

@Anonymous : From what I can see this is based on what search provider you choose and also disableable. See Maybe I'm missing something, though.

Fanen A. commented on March 31, 2011 at 2:18 p.m.

Redhat has the right idea about these things, IMHO. The core system packages are held stable, but applications get updates.

The RHEL 5 desktops at my school sport Firefox 3.16 (and I expect they'll get 4.0 soon) and openoffice 3.2, and Netbeans 6.9.1 etc... all the software I use regularly seems to be reasonably up to date.

Anyway, I don't see the point in complaining when you have every access to updating your browser. The video format use needs to grow for it to become widely supported as well, and a personal blog is the one place where you can promote new standards without worrying about frustrating your customers.

The video played perfectly well in Liferea. I didn't even switch to a browser. (Ubuntu 10.10, with FF4 PPA).

Samsung User commented on March 31, 2011 at 2:29 p.m.

Samsung Wave 525 user here, no WebM/Theora/FLAC/Ogg Vorbis support.


Debarshi Ray commented on March 31, 2011 at 5:36 p.m.

That is why Mark Pilgrim writes (

For maximum compatibility, here’s what your video workflow will look like:

1. Make one version that uses WebM (VP8 + Vorbis).
2. Make another version that uses H.264 baseline video and AAC “low complexity” audio in an MP4 container.
3. Make another version that uses Theora video and Vorbis audio in an Ogg container.
4. Link to all three video files from a single <video> element, and fall back to a Flash-based video player.

Do you know where Mark Pilgrim works? :-)

Mathias Hasselmann commented on March 31, 2011 at 6:03 p.m.

Debarshi, thanks alot for your link. One other important quote from that book (printed in 08/2010):

"A year from now, the landscape will look significantly different as WebM is implemented in multiple browsers, those browsers ship non-experimental WebM-enabled versions, and users upgrade to those new versions."

andre klapper commented on March 31, 2011 at 6:42 p.m.

Why I should care about people that deliberately decided to live in the past by running ancient distros?

oliver commented on March 31, 2011 at 7:41 p.m.

andre: sorry to hear that you care about so few people... Windows 7 is older than Ubuntu 10.04. So are Windows Vista, WinXP, RHEL5, OS X 10.6 and just about any other operating system used by the overwhelming majority of people. Welcome to reality.

Not RMS commented on March 31, 2011 at 10:12 p.m.

Mathias, why do you hate freedom?

Just kidding.

I understand your complaint that WebM (or Theora before it) isn't as widely implemented as other codecs. But GNOME is the free desktop and it ought to support free codecs. As has been noted above, gstreamer has been supporting WebM since WebM was announced. Yay for freedom.

I do think the GNOME3 website ( should be offering its videos in a free format, with a Flash fallback. Anyone interested in learning more about GNOME will probably be using at least Firefox4 or Chrome. Such a person is unlikely to be using IE or an older browser - the fact that the idea of an alternate Linux-based desktop appeals to them indicates they are involved and on top of current technology.

We're at a critical junction right now in regards to free codecs. Finally, a giant company is on the right side of the debate and using their weight to push a standard that we can all support. This is a huge opportunity and we need to take advantage of it.

Mathias Hasselmann commented on March 31, 2011 at 10:19 p.m.

@Not RMS: Yes, free software projects picked up WebM immediately. Kudos for that. Still WebM has not reached the desktops. Let's talk again in six months and situation will be different.

"offering its videos in a free format, with a Flash fallback" - Yes, exactly!!! Did I say something different? Has the web community really become that stupid that one explicitly must state the obvious to avoid getting flamed? Good old "assume the other means well"?

Not RMS commented on March 31, 2011 at 11:53 p.m.

@Mathias: Currently the GNOME3 website isn't using a free format. They only have Flash. I suspect (using the "assume the other means well" idea) that they are so swamped with other release team duties that encoding video for a format that, like you say, few desktop or mobile users can watch is low priority.

Luckily, with Chrome's autoupdate and Firefox4's massive download stats, WebM adoption should start pick up quickly. Android phones will similarly have hardware-level decoding capability soon, hopefully. As you've noted, though, "soon" isn't "today" or even "a few months from now."

I only hope that you aren't ideologically opposed to WebM because it comes from Google. I'm not sure where they've stated that WebM is ubiquitous (you're correct in saying that it isn't yet and probably won't be for another six months at least), but I don't see any of their literature about the codec as propaganda. They are trying to drum up enthusiasm and uptake for a video format that really is better for the web and for anyone interested in making video in a free environment.

Benjamin Otte commented on April 1, 2011 at 12:50 a.m.

He's just ranting about my blog post where that comment came from. (Did I make it or was that someone in the comments?)

And I do not care one tiny bit about providing videos on my blog in a non-free format. In this case I also do not care about people that don't run a recent distro or at least a recent browser. Because they will likely not run GTK3 any time soon anyway.