Chrome will no longer support h.264 video, leaving Microsoft and Apple as the only players who support the proprietary codec.
Says it will only support open and free codecs

In a 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 codec technologies. 

The move 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 codec.

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 there's video.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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