Gutenblog: MP4

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September 2014
September 2014

We have updated our multimedia players to rely solely on the browser's built in HTML5 player. This ensures greater compatibility across all browsers and devices, desktop or mobile, and less glitches.

Long Time Coming

This is a move we initiated several years ago, but at the time we were unable to fully transition to an HTML5 only-player because not all browsers support the HTML5 audio and video tags. What also complicated the transition is that not all browsers support the same media formats. For example, Firefox still doesn't support the most common video format MP4 (H.268), due to license restrictions.

Video Player

Since there is no single video format supported by all browsers, a couple of years ago we changed the video feature of our CMS to require an embed code from Youtube, Vimeo or any other online video service. This allowed you to upload the video file to one of those services, and then those services kindly create multiple versions of the file for every different format and different playback qualities that will work on every device. They also have multi-million dollar product development budgets that allow them to create sophisticated video players that can detect your browser's capabilities and serve the best video. And you don't have to pay for the bandwidth! Since video is their entire business, they do it much better than we ever could, and overall this was a much better solution.

In order to ensure support for older clients who previously used FLV video (the previous standard flash player format), we do still provide the old Flash player to ensure these videos still play on browsers that support Flash. But it's highly recommended to upgrade these videos to Youtube embed code, so they are viewable on all devices.


There is a possibility that you may have uploaded MP4 videos before we made the transition to video embed codes. The problem with this, as mentioned above, is that Firefox does not support MP4. That is why we require you to use embed code for video in the first place, because the old Flash player is not compatible with mobile devices. So in order for your videos to be viewed on all browsers, you need to use embed video from a service like Youtube.

So you should check the videos on your website, and make sure they are using a third party player embed code like Youtube or Vimeo. If they aren't, you will want to upload those videos to Youtube and get the embed code, then update the multimedia record on Gutensite. Otherwise, the videos will not play on Firefox browsers. If you don't have the original video, you should be able to download the video from the Gutensite CMS Multimedia List page, and then upload that file to Youtube. And then copy the embed code from there.

Audio Player

Audio files are much easier since MP3 is supported across all browsers, and all HTML5 compatible browsers can play MP3s in their native browser.

Let Us Know

We are sorry that this is complicated and inconvenient for some, but it is just the reality of contantly changing and incompatible standards that make up the internet. We do our best to provide you with the best solutions that will work for the maximum amount of visitors. And that will inevitably meant that older formats that worked a few years ago, may no longer work.

If you notice problems, other than the Firefox MP4 video issue, please let us know ASAP.

January 2011
January 2011
Chrome Logo

Oh Joy, let the licensing wars begin.

You may be wondering how Google Chrome's recent decision to abandon MP4 affects us? No one knows.

Chrome is still a small percent of the browser market, but we would still like to support Chrome if we can. However, there is not a good alternative to MP4 that has universal support, so web developers' options are limited. Their WebM format will not play on mobile devices yet, so unless a site offers both MP4 and WebM formats, mobile browsers won't be able to play the videos! Unfortunately it is not cost effective for small content providers to double encodes every video for WebM and MP4.

It's a bad move on Google's part because the internet cannot upgrade all it's video to WebM in the amount of time Google has allowed, so Chrome users are going to start complaining that they can't watch videos and they may abandon that browser. Yes, Google should encourage a move toward open source codecs, but in an industry that has so few "standards" they shouldn't just abandon de facto standards cold turkey. It presents an onerous burden on small content providers that don't have the resources that Google has to just re-encode all their videos or encode multiple versions (just imagine how much storage space and processing power will be required for Google to re-encode all their YouTube videos into another alternative format, they already have FLV and MP4 versions in multiple resolutions sizes up to 1080p HD video).

The history of the problem is that MP4 requires a license and some open source browsers don't want to or can't pay that fee (Opera, Firefox and Chrome), so they don't support MP4 in their <video> tag. Unfortunately the license holders won't make the codec free to decode. The ridiculous part is that content providers already pay licensing fees to encode the video in the first place, so you shouldn't have to pay a second fee to decode it. It's like an airport storage locker, you put in a quarter and take the key. You shouldn't have to put another quarter in to get your stuff out.

MP3 had similar problems, but some of the patents have expired and the same license holders have basically just stopped pursuing use violations. So effectively it's become a de facto standard for audio. We can hope that the same thing happens to MP4 eventually. The owners of the license are being very short sighted and they are going to lose the game if they don't become more flexible, because MP4 will be abandoned in favor of more open source options if a solution is not found. Unfortunately MP4 is superior to WebM in quality and size, so it would be a loss for everyone.

In the end, we'll see how it plays out.

January 2011
January 2011
New HTML5 Video Player

We just completed a total overhaul to our Audio and Video players so that they now take advantage of built in HTML5 support for audio and video. This makes our player compatible with all modern web browsers, including mobile devices like iPhone, iPad, Android, etc. For older browsers like Internet Explorer 8 (which does not support HTML5 video), and Firefox (which supports HTML5 video but is not licensed to play the MP4 format yet), we will still provide the old Flash audio/video player (but with a new skin), so your visitors will not lose any functionality.

The old Flash player will play both the old FLV and MP3 formats (like it used to), as well as the new MP4 format (for progressive compatibility). So for greatest compatibility we recommend using MP4 format for all videos and MP3 format for all audio files. We also recommend converting all your old videos that were uploaded as FLV to the new MP4 format, so that they will be viewable on mobile devices that don't support Flash. But if you keep old FLV files on the site, they will continue to be viewed by any browser that supports Flash (virtually all desktop browsers, but not most mobile browsers).

See our FAQ for more information about Multimedia Formats.