RfC: Should we support MP4 video on our sites?

A video of a cheetah, captured in slow-motion at 1200 fps. The video was released on Vimeo in MP4 format and converted to OGV format before uploading to Commons. It cannot be viewed in this format on most mobile phones and many web browsers.

The Wikimedia Foundation’s multimedia team seeks your guidance on a proposal to support the MP4 video format. This digital video standard is used widely around the world to record, edit and watch videos on mobile phones, desktop computers and home video devices. It is also known as H.264/MPEG-4 or AVC.

Supporting the MP4 format would make it much easier for our users to view and contribute video on Wikimedia projects. Video files could be offered in dual formats on our sites, so we could continue to support current open formats (WebM and Ogg Theora).

Currently, open video files cannot be viewed on many mobile devices or web browsers without extra software, making it difficult or impossible for several hundred million monthly visitors to watch videos on our sites. Video contributions are also limited by the fact that most mobile phones and camcorders record video only in MP4 format, and that transcoding software is scarce and hard to use by casual users.

However, MP4 is a patent-encumbered format, and using a proprietary format would be a departure from our current practice of only supporting open formats on our sites—even though the licenses appear to have acceptable legal terms, with only a small fee required.

We would appreciate your guidance on whether or not to support MP4 on our sites. This Request for Comments presents views both in favor of and against MP4 support, and hundreds of community members have already posted their recommendations.

What do you think? Please post your comments on this page.

All users are welcome to participate, whether you are active on Commons, Wikipedia, other Wikimedia projects—or any site that uses content from our free media repository. We also invite you to spread the word in your community about this issue.

We look forward to a constructive discussion with you and your community, so we can make a more informed decision together about this important question.

All the best,

Fabrice Florin, Product Manager, Multimedia
On behalf of the Multimedia team

Wikimedia Foundation’s Engineering and Product Group

Categories: Multimedia, Technology
Tags: , ,

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14 Comments on RfC: Should we support MP4 video on our sites?

Fabrice Florin 2 years

Thank you all for your comments on this blog post.

If you haven’t participated yet in the Request for Commons itself, we invite you to add your comments here:


This RfC will be closed tomorrow by a Commons bureaucrat. Once the RfC is closed, the multimedia team will discuss next steps for video support based on community feedback, and we will post an update in coming weeks.

Thanks again for your insights. We appreciate your guidance on complex issues like these. :)

Scale Lily 2 years

You can still get everything you get now on your phone and computer, but some video would be fantastic.

nick 2 years

No. Perhaps when a device accesses a video it can’t play a message could be displayed. With the number of users wikipedia has, I wonder how long it will take the two browsers to support the open formats. If they don’t then it seems fair to shame them and point users elsewhere.

Calvin 2 years

I think you should support MP4 on your site; I go to wikipedia all the time with my kids and even link words from our stories to your site, but video would be great with it.

Tom 2 years

Yes please !
It would make wikimedia website more better than ever .

Joel Krauska 2 years

Does Cisco’s open sourcing of the H.264 codec remove the patent/code concerns?



It seems oddly nuanced in that you must use the binaries provided by Cisco for Cisco to cover the Licenses costs to MPEG LA?

Fae 2 years

This is not a balance presentation of the facts, nor why policy on Wikimedia Commons is against this initiative as stated.

In the lessons learned from this community feedback, I hope one will be to do the necessary spadework before proposing such black and white solutions.

Raju Mohan 2 years

No… stick to free software as best you can. Why stain one of wiki’s core idealogies for something as trivial as MP4 video embedding.

Daniel Schwen 2 years

The MP4 proposal does state that all videos will be stored and if possible also served in open formats. As a bottom line not a single piece of conten will be less accessible (like the first poster assumes), instead we will increase accessibility a lot.

As a Linux user I am happy to have the tools at my disposal to both view and generate video content in open formats. But please don’t forget that not every reader/contributor is a geek. We want the technically less inclined (and those who cannot upgrade their software for various reasons) to be able to participate.

It is quite easy to say “just install browser X” and you will be able to watch open video formats. However, this covers only a small fraction of problem cases. I’d love mobile phome users to be able to play video content without draining their batteries (MP4 has hardware support for decoding video). And I’d also love to be able to contribute video hasslefree from those platforms (instant upload of mobile phone video). Heck, even on a Linux Desktop computer the required transcoding step from my DSLR MP4 video to WebM is an annoyance.

Carlos Solís 2 years

I would agree only if two conditions are met: first, that all videos are transcoded to free formats, and second, that all videos are preferentially played in said free formats. Same thing goes for MP3 and AAC.

Mercer 2 years

No… stick to free software as best you can. Why stain one of wiki’s core idealogies for something as trivial as MP4 video embedding.

Matthew 2 years

As a linux user, I had no idea there was so little support for ogv in proprietary web brow… wait a second firefox has native support for it… And so does chrome, opera, konqueror, and several other browsers (most, if not all, free to use and most open source ).

So it would seem the only fairly common browsers lacking native playback are the two proprietary ones (IE: safari and internet explorer). Allowing the users of just these two web browsers to access videos with a modecum more ease is not sufficient justification for tainting wikipedia with the stain of proprietary formats (I think we all understand in general why that’s bad so I won’t waste time going into it).

Thomas Konig 2 years

Do not accept MP4. The genius behind the Wikimedia sites is the openness towards all kinds of users. You’ll learn and experience exactly as much from your phone as your computer, you don’t need plug-ins or accounts or downloadable software to access all the data available on the Wiki pages, and nobody is restricted access based on their current software.

Thus, implementing MP4 would stand in the way of many of these principles, particularly the easy access, as you mentioned in your post. The second I clicked the video with the Cheetah, my Safari browser skipped right to downloading the video and Chrome narrowly got away with opening it in a new tab. In my opinion, the brilliance behind the WikiMedia sites is their ease-of-use, accessibility and super fast fact-checking. Even if it’s just a video or two per page, it will jeopardise that, when there is suddenly data on the sites that I cannot access without additional downloads or a specific browser/plugin.

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