Google Chrome Dropping H.264 Support for Open Codecs


Many feel that codec standardization is necessary if the HTML5 video tag is to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of online video. But right now it seems fairly optimistic to even imagine the introduction of a standard format to the HTML5 spec. The battle lines are, in fact, now more pronounced than ever, with Google today announcing that the H.264 codec will no longer be supported in its Chrome web browser. Instead, Chrome’s HTML5 <video> support will be restricted to only open source codecs. However, its own WebM (V8) and OGG Theora are currently the only ones on its list of supported codecs.

“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,” announced Mike Jazayeri, a Google product manager, on the Chromium blog . “These changes will occur in the next couple months but we are announcing them now to give content publishers and developers using HTML <video> an opportunity to make any necessary changes to their sites.”

With this announcement, Google joins the ranks of Mozilla and Opera as a browser vendor who has completely shunned the rival, royalty-saddled H.264 codec. But H.264 is not short of backers either, with the eminent likes of Microsoft and Apple owning patents in the H.264/AVC patent pool. Moreover, H.264 is not only the default video codec in IE9 – the next major release of the world’s most popular browser, but most modern GPUs now feature H.264 decoding.

The confusion created by these competing standards is surely great news for Adobe, whose Flash Player plug-in is the most popular way of delivering video on the internet. The plug-in already supports H.264 encoded video and VP8 support is on its way. If the deadlock persists, as is most likely, support for both these rival codecs will guarantee Flash’s popularity long into the future.

What to do you make of Google’s move? Do you think the internet giant has done the right thing by withdrawing H.264 support from Chrome on the pretext of promoting open web technologies, especially when the very same browser comes with Adobe’s not-so-open Flash Player built into it?

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