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Google, the world's largest Internet services company, last week said that it would not support H.264/MPEG4-AVC codec with its Chrome browser software as well as operating system with the same name. The move seems to be a more than questionable one for many reasons. Microsoft Corp. has already proclaimed it to be similar to switching from English to Esperanto.

Google Chrome browser, as well as a number of other browsers from other vendors, at present supports playback of HTML5 embedded videos that are encoded using H.264/MPEG4-AVC codec. But in two months time Google plans to disable support of the industry-standard H.264 in favour of open-source WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs so that to focus its resources towards completely open codec technologies. At the same time, Google will continue to support commercial Adobe Flash plugin.

"We are focusing our investments in those technologies that are developed and licensed based on open web principles. We are changing Chrome’s HTML5 <video> support. [...] 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. [...] 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," a statement by Google reads.

The move of Google is not only questionable, but is also a risky one. MPEG LA has already  announced that it would not charge royalties for free videos encoded using H.264/MPEG4-AVC, which automatically means that Google's decision will not change anything for the majority of end-users (they were not supposed to pay for videos or watch additional ads anyway). The WebM format is unknown by the majority of developers and in two months time it will not become so popular among consumers that everyone will have a reason to use it. Moreover, the H.264/MPEG4-AVC can be accelerated by modern graphics processors (which saves energy among other things), the WebM cannot. To make the matters even worse, WebM is not supported by popular encoders, which means that webmasters will have to change their tools to keep videos for Chrome users. Finally, MPEG LA believes that WebM may violate patents, which means that the technology may be banned virtually any day.

Naturally, Google's move boosts importance of Adobe Flash, which is not supported by Apple iOS, but is supported by Google Android. Even though the dynamics of adoption of Google Android is faster than that of iOS, even with it Google cannot dictate standards for the Web.

According to statistics by NetMarketShare, Microsoft Internet Explorer was used by nearly 55% of the Internet users. Mozilla Firefox was used by 18.5%. Only 7.32% and 3.24% utilized Chrome 8.0 and Safari 5.0 browsers, respectively. Even if Chrome is used by 10% of users, there are 90% of the Internet users who do not utilize it.

With rather low market share, Google Chrome may support or not support almost any possible technology: it will hardly make any changes to the market. At some point in future WebM may, perhaps, be more adopted by hardware and software makers; but this point is unlikely to be close: open-source technologies (software, codecs) tend to change and without specs cast in stone it is hard to expect commercial companies to adopt them.

Tags: Microsoft, Google, Chrome, Windows, Apple, Flash, Adobe, HTML5


Comments currently: 8
Discussion started: 01/17/11 09:06:39 PM
Latest comment: 01/18/11 04:10:21 PM
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Excellent article, very well thought out. It pointed out things I would have, yet even more I had not taken into consideration.

Not only is this move foolish and self-defeating in the present, as every other competitor will support gpu-assisted playback, it seems a business decision driven by money (rather than user experience) moving into the future.

I would ask people think about Google's famous mantra, 'Don't be evil", and their 10-point philosophy. Amongst them are two of their ten supposed principles:

(3.) Fast is better than slow.
(6.) You can make money without doing evil.

ATTN Google: You've just failed.
0 0 [Posted by: turtle  | Date: 01/17/11 09:06:39 PM]

Yet another attempt to denigrate Esperanto, the international language.

However during a short period of 122 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide. It is the 22nd most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox, Ubuntu and Facebook.

Native Esperanto speakers, (people who have used the language from birth), include financier George Soros, World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet.

Your readers may be interested in the following video.

The study course is now receiving 120,000 hits per month. That can't be bad
0 0 [Posted by: Brian Barker  | Date: 01/17/11 09:28:18 PM]

firefox, opera support webm (vp8) and WILL NOT even support h264

h264 is a industry standard yes but you have to pay to use it commecialy, so basicly everyone that wants to sell h264 encoded file on the internet will have to pay mpeg la monkey and if mpeg la sues google, they will be in a trench patent warfare in court for decades and their own patents might well be invalided by google's

you say there is no encoders for webm?, ffmpeg and videolan support webm(vp8), there is a reference encoder at, most of the open source community is adding support in their apps, there is even a new and vp8 better encoder/decoder in ffmpeg

the only thing apps developers need to add to their apps are vp8 decoder/encoder, vorbis decoder/encoder (this codec is over 10 years old) and webm container support (this container is based on matroska that is also over 10 years old)

all the videos on youtube is already webm and all new ones are automaticly encoded to webm aka vp8+vorbis in a matroska based container, to make it cear

FYI: google uses ffmpeg to encode videos on youtube, and many other sites uses ffmpeg, its realy simple to add webm support, basicly install latest ffmpeg! and modify your encode script

webm is supported in
Firefox 4.0
Chrome 6.0
Opera 10.6

webm not supported in
Internet Explorer (dooh microsoft is a member of mpeg la)
Safari (again dooh apple is a member of mpeg la)
0 0 [Posted by: wiak  | Date: 01/18/11 12:40:06 AM]
- collapse thread

H.264/MPEG4-AVC is free for free videos:

Commercial companies will have to pay for it certain sums, though.
0 1 [Posted by: Anton  | Date: 01/18/11 08:41:09 AM]

Not a very thoughtful piece. Currently, the nearly 55% share of Internet Explorer does not matter, these users are using IE8 and lower which does not support any kind of HTML5 video whatsoever.

Better read:
0 0 [Posted by: stevefrench  | Date: 01/18/11 12:41:40 AM]
- collapse thread

People who use IE 6 and 7 will most likely transit to IE as well when they need to, not to Google Chrome, which limits their abilities.
0 1 [Posted by: Anton  | Date: 01/18/11 08:42:15 AM]
That's funny cause I use mainly IE 6 SP1 (fully updated) and I hate sites full of animations and bling and sites that are not compatible with IE 6 anymore.

The second/reserve browser that I end up using more often lately is, of course, Opera 11. I just love the combination between AdSweep and NoAd (element blocking).

What I never install, on any of my computers nor the ones I work on, is FireFOX while I DO have, just as a very rarely used backup Google's Chrome.
0 0 [Posted by: East17  | Date: 01/18/11 04:09:00 PM]

What googles browser does doen`t matter what googles OS does ...does
I`m guessing this move would only gain weight if all the pirate groups that encode HD using H.264/MPEG4-AVC codec switiched as well because as most internet traffic is P2P if people cannot watch what they `decide` to download then their not going to change or move over to google at all. Microsoft must be scratching it`s head as this move sort of helps them ....weird.

Also the electronic industry uses this codec in most of the HD TV`s and they have to go with the masses ...double weird
0 0 [Posted by: efex  | Date: 01/18/11 01:20:15 AM]


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