MPEG LA chases its tail, says H.264 streaming will be free forever
This is a reactionary move to battle the rallying of Mozilla, Google and Opera behind the WebM video standard. As it stands, both Firefox 4 and Opera 10.6 only support WebM for HTML5 video -- with this licensing change, MPEG LA is obviously angling for H.264 support to find a place in both Firefox and Opera before their next stable release. Chrome, incidentally, supports both H.264 and WebM, and I expect it will continue to do so. IE9 supports H.264, but will include WebM support by the time it is released.
Despite the licensing changes, I can't imagine Mozilla leaping at the chance of including closed-source and patent-riddled code in its browser. At the end of the day, it will be services like YouTube and Hulu that actually decide the fate of the HTML5 video wars: if YouTube only provides WebM-encoded video, you can be damn sure that WebM will become the video standard!
Incidentally, if you want something disgusting to look at, check out the MPEG LA website. Not only does it look kind-of-90s-and-pseudo-NASA, but it also explains the dire, creativity-crippling concept of 'Patent Pools'. "Together, with the power of pooled patents, we can stamp out start-ups and create billions of dollars in the process! Mu ha ha!"
Someone pass me a bucket.