HTML5 Codec Support New Browser War Or Google Edict?

Google announced it will cease supporting H.264 – one of the major codecs for the HTML5 video platform.

HTML5 Codec Support New Browser War Or Google Edict?

“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,” a Chromium blog post stated.

The announcement met with mixed reaction – some supporting the drive to build open source access and others seeing it as a push for one over another and a division in browser use. Comments at the Google blog jumped from single digit to 600 for this posted announcement.

H.264 is the most used codec at the moment for HTML5 sites, Google is pushing the lesser used open source options and by dropping support for H.264, they are forcing site developers to create two versions of the site or use their ‘supported’ codecs or not be fully seen in Chromium browsers. Google’s position is that it is “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.”

Blogger John Gruber sums up it up as “a bold move, to be sure. H.264 is widely used. WebM and Theora aren’t. Perhaps this move will push more publishers toward serving video encoded with WebM. The big problem WebM has versus H.264 is that there are hardware decoders for H.264. This is key for mobile devices. It’s the hardware video decoding that allows mobile devices to get such long battery life and smooth performance for video playback. There’s no way publishers can drop H.264. To support Chrome, they’d have to add WebM-encoded versions of each video.”

A Microsoft blogger went as far as doing a parody post titled An Open Letter from the President of the United States of Google suggesting the post as an edict. “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,” Tim Sneath, director of the Windows and Silverlight technical evangelism team wrote.

The differences and reactions almost mirror the battle between DVD formats years ago or moves of early Internet Explorer browsers against others. Both saw a major move to one system – which no doubt Google is aware – but IE and Microsoft had problems with restraint of trade issues globally.

As one commenter at TechCrunch stated “As a web developer and tech guru this bothers me altogether… I like options and I do not like that Google is giving me less by removing support for one format…. If they proceed then I will proceed with using another browser instead of Chrome. They should really focus on improving other flagship products and products they have ignored“.

The issue may also be that H.264 is not open source but licensing was waved not made open. However, “considering that the licensing restrictions surrounding use of H.264 were lifted by their license holder to allow ease of adoption on the web and that H.264 is the most popular Video Codec for HD since it is used on Blue-ray Discs and on all Apple Products, I would think this was a dumb idea. I understand being “open” but people slammed Mozilla for taking this stance with Firefox and it’s support of H.264 so this just looks like a lame duck attempt by Google to promote their own Video Codec. Thanks for making the HTML5 Transition even more messy,” a commenter on the Google post stated.

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