Google: ‘More About the Chrome HTML Video Codec Change’

Mike Jazayeri, Google:

As it stands, the organizations involved in defining the HTML video standard are at an impasse. There is no agreement on which video codec should be the baseline standard. Firefox and Opera support the open WebM and Ogg Theora codecs and will not support H.264 due to its licensing requirements; Safari and IE9 support H.264. With this status quo, all publishers and developers using the <video> tag will be forced to support multiple formats.

Or they’ll take the path of least resistance, and continue supporting only H.264, requiring Flash Player for browsers that don’t support H.264 natively.

Unsaid is that Apple and Microsoft are surely as unwilling to support WebM as Mozilla and Opera are to support H.264. The impasse is unchanged. However, with Firefox and Opera, users can still be served H.264 through Flash Player. With iOS and Windows Phone 7, users cannot be served WebM, because there are no plugins. (There could be plugins for Mac OS X and Windows 7, but aren’t yet.)

Q: Does this mean I will no longer be able to play H.264 videos in Chrome?

H.264 plays an important role in video and the vast majority of the H.264 videos on the web today are viewed in plug-ins such as Flash and Silverlight. These plug-ins are and will continue to be supported in Chrome.

Thus, Chrome users will continue to be served most video, with the possible exception of YouTube, through Flash.

Our announcement was only related to the <video> tag, which is part of the emerging HTML platform. While the HTML video platform offers great promise, few sites use it today and therefore few users will be immediately impacted by this change.

And fewer sites will use HTML5 <video> than if Chrome had continued to support both H.264 and WebM. This move is about encouraging web video publishers to stick with Flash.

Friday, 14 January 2011