surprising move, Google has abandoned support for the h.264 video codec, used
(among other codecs) to power HTML5 video in its Chrome browser. The
company writes [blog]:
We expect even more rapid innovation in the web
media platform in the coming year and are focusing our investments in those
technologies that are developed and licensed based on open web principles. To
that end, we are changing Chrome’s HTML5 support to make it consistent with the
codecs already supported by the open Chromium project. Specifically, we are
supporting the WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs, and will consider adding
support for other high-quality open codecs in the future. Though H.264 plays an
important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for
the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open
is extremely significant as it leaves Microsoft Internet Explorer 9 (test
builds) and Apple's Safari 5 as the only browsers on the market that support
The debate over what codec should be used for HTML5 web video has been a
contentious one and a partisan debate among browser makers who ultimately have
to make the choice for their customers.
The group that licenses h.264, which Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs notably
holds stock in, recently came out promising not to charge consumers or web developers to
use its video standard for free web video. It does still plan to charge
for paid video or internal websites. Advocates, though, argue that h.264
offers the best video quality.
Critics oppose the fact that h.264 is proprietary and not always free.
They tend to support either Ogg Theora or WebM.
Theora is supported by Firefox, Opera, and Google Chrome, with Mozilla being its biggest advocate.
However, Apple has raised an interesting argument against Theora, claiming that
unknown “phantom” patents may exist that could result in lawsuits against
browser-makers and web developers if the codec became broadly used. They
claim these patent holders may merely be lying in wait, watching for the ideal
time to strike.
The final alternative is WebM. Whereas Theora is based on an open-source
release of On2 Technologies’ older V3 codec (proprietary), WebM is an
open-source release based on the newer V8 codec. VP8/WebM is supported by
Opera, Google Chrome, and Firefox.
The loss of Google shifts the balance of power in favor of both Theora and
VP8/WebM – but with Microsoft supporting h.264, the proprietary codec
is still very much in the game. The web video mess seems unlikely to sort
itself out anytime soon. That's unhappy news for web developers who have
to encode video for all three formats, and put additional HTML tags anywhere
quote: So I can understand Google taking a moral stand for "open innovation" as they said in their announcement and dropping H.264, but them continuing to ship Chrome with Adobe Flash built-in must mean they feel that Adobe Flash is also an example of the future of the internet and an example of open innovation. Somehow I doubt most people are going to agree with that though.
quote: Flash licensing is out in the open and widely available at acceptable costs.
quote: Perhaps motivated by growing interest from the FTC and a cascade of ongoing lawsuits against companies who have leveraged an under-used portion of Flash technology, Adobe in a blog post has addressed a weakness in the implementation of "Flash cookies," or as Adobe calls them "local shared objects" (LSOs) that allowed other websites -- not Adobe itself -- to track user behavior even after a user has cleared the traditional web "cookie," thus violating their privacy.
quote: This serves two strategic purposes for Google.First, it advances a codec that’s de facto controlled by Google at the expense of a codec that is a legitimate open standard controlled by a multi-vendor governance process managed by reputable international standards bodies.And second, it will slow the transition to HTML5 and away from Flash by creating more confusion about which codec to use for HTML5 video, which benefits Google by hurting Apple (since Apple doesn’t want to support Flash), but also sucks for users.It is, in other words, a thoroughly nasty bit of work. It's not quite as bad as selling consumers down the river to Verizon on 'net neutrality, but it's close. And if Google is actually successful in making WebM, not H.264, the standard codec for web video, they're literally going to render hundreds of billions of dollars worth of tablets, smartphones, set-top boxes, etc. with H.264 hardware support obsolete."But wait!", the OSS fans are saying. "Isn't Google really standing up for freedom and justice, because H.264 requires evil patent licensing?"No. Expert opinion [multimedia.cx] is that WebM infringes on numerous patents in the H.264 pool, and will need a licensing pool of its own to be set up, just like Microsoft's VC-1 did. So the patents are a wash. This is Google manipulating the market entirely for selfish advantage here, and it's all the worse because they're pretending otherwise. And it's going to be really frustrating watching people fall for it.
quote: An Open Letter from the President of the United States of Google The world’s ability to communicate with one another is a key factor in its rapid evolution and economic growth. The Esperanto language was invented last century as a politically neutral language that would foster peace and international understanding. Since the launch, we’ve seen first-hand the benefits of a constructed language: • A pure form of communication that is unsullied by cultural context; • Broad adoption by as many as 10,000 speakers • Independent (yet mostly compatible) dialects that not only bring additional choice for speakers also foster healthy competition and innovationWe expect even more communication between people in the coming year and are therefore focusing our investments in languages that are created based on constructed language principles. To that end, we are changing the spoken and written language of this nation to make it consistent with the form of speech already supported by the Language Creation Society. Specifically, we are supporting the Esperanto and Klingon languages, and will consider adding support for other high-quality constructed languages in the future. Though English plays an important role in speech today, as our goal is to enable open innovation, its further use as a form of communication in this country will be prohibited and our resources directed towards languages that are untainted by real-world usage.These changes will occur in the next couple months but we are announcing them now to give citizens using other languages an opportunity to translate the libraries of the world into Esperanto.
quote: First, it advances a codec that’s de facto controlled by Google at the expense of a codec that is a legitimate open standard controlled by a multi-vendor governance process managed by reputable international standards bodies.
quote: And second, it will slow the transition to HTML5 and away from Flash by creating more confusion about which codec to use for HTML5 video, which benefits Google by hurting Apple (since Apple doesn’t want to support Flash), but also sucks for users.
quote: No. Expert opinion [multimedia.cx] is that WebM infringes on numerous patents in the H.264 pool, and will need a licensing pool of its own to be set up, just like Microsoft's VC-1 did. So the patents are a wash. This is Google manipulating the market entirely for selfish advantage here, and it's all the worse because they're pretending otherwise. And it's going to be really frustrating watching people fall for it.
quote: jeez - conspiracy theorist much?
quote: Not all conspiracy theories are false :)Tell me - how much of your life does Google own/control/watch?What happens when Google's interests and yours diverge?
quote: How could we let someone get such a firm grasp on our balls?