Google Explains H.264 Codec Drop

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Google Explains H.264 Codec Drop

Immediately after Google announced that they were dropping the H.264 video codec — the codec being used by major competitor Apple, for one thing — in their Chrome browser, there was an uproar in the community. Some accused Google of favoring one product simply to hurt a competitor. Others felt that Google had presented a double-standard, since Flash videos also use H.264, but these were still being supported. Others still said that Google’s commitment to an “open Internet” was nothing more than a move to control how the Web worked. Now, however, Google has followed up on their codec shift and given an official response.

Posted on the official Chromium blog, this response answers several key questions.  Here is a brief summary of the questions and answers provided in this post.

  • Why did Google select WebM as their supported video codec?
    Google chose this solely because of its open nature and compatibility with HTML 5’s <video> tag.
  • Why not just choose H.264 for the <video> tag?
    Google could have. However, licensing issues and the potential for high royalty fees on H.264 led Google to select an open alternative instead.
  • So, I can’t watch H.264 videos in Chrome anymore?
    Only if they’re directly embedded into the HTML. If they’re part of Flash or Silverlight, they’re viewable.
  • Aren’t you just trying to run the show, Google?
    No. We chose to support something that’s free, open, and broadly supported by the web community.
  • Won’t I have to create multiple copies/versions of my videos now?
    No more than before. Opera and Firefox never supported H.264. But, yes, Chrome can now be added to the list of those prompting you to make a WebM version.

While it is unlikely that these responses will stem the tide of complaints, it does at least give us a better idea of where Google is coming from with the codec shift.


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Rob D Young

Rob has been insatiably obsessed with Google, search engine technology, and the trends of the web-based world since he began ... [Read full bio]

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