Your Say: How Do You Feel About Google Dropping H.264?

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Google have dropped support of H.264 video in their Chrome browser in preference for their own WebM format. What’s your take? Are they backing a winner, doing an Apple, manipulating the market or eating their dogfood? What should they do?

  • Lilian

    I support Google in this move. It’s good to have a royalty free format option in this still emerging field of HTML5 video. The dropping of h.264 in Chrome shows Google is taking it’s own format very serious and gives others users the necessary trust in this new format. Go, Google!

    • Chris Pratt

      Please… VP8 is no more royalty free than h.264. It’s simply not big enough yet to be challenged. It utilizes patented technology that will eventually require royalty fees.

      Now, while h.264 is a proprietary format, the MPEG group, the organization behind the technology, has committed to continue to allow free private usage of the codec; the license period was actually just extend even further into the future last year.

      So, since neither one is technically “free”, it comes down to which is better. VP8 is *vastly* inferior to h.264, which is a tried and true codec test and refined by time. Meanwhile, VP8 is new, untested, bug-ridden, and just generally inferior in terms of video quality, streaming ability, etc. Add to that that h.264 is supported on every computer, operating system and browser (other than Firefox, who intentionally left out support), while VP8 is supported currently in none. Firefox, Opera and Chrome are adding support, but Internet Explorer and Safari, from Microsoft and Apple, respectively has made no commitment to ever support VP8, and indeed will probably never support it natively since it’s produced and run by a competing company — switching to VP8 would require putting their browsers into Google’s hands, subject to its whims. These two browsers cover the majority of Internet users, which means using VP8 on your site would require the majority of your users to download a plugin or put us right back into the dark ages of online video where Flash is required play a video — we were only just now pulling our heads out of that quagmire.

      This lack of market share among VP8-supporting browsers means that businesses, will likely continue to use h.264 for the forseeable future. As a result, browsers that choose not to support h.264 will be putting their users at a disadvantage. As a Chrome user myself, I’m not happy with that at all.

      This is an absolutely bone-headed move by Google, who are most likely attempting to bolster support for their lame-duck codec. Anyone who knows anything about VP8, doesn’t want VP8. Get a clue, Google.

    • Daniel Balfour

      Rock-and-Roll Chris!

      I’ve got $10 that says Google back-pedals on that move within the next year…

      The proliferation of Html5 + native video playback is practically cementing h.264 is the world’s default web-codec. This is in part because most media that targeted Flash player was in fact encoded in h.264, if only because of its superb efficiency!

      Dropping Flash from the equation and supporting native playback is the natural next step, and ensuring the “backwards-compatibility” (so to speak) of ALL existing media is at the very top of the priorities list. After all, what good is change if it requires backbreaking labor to adopt? Not to mention thousands of hours transcoding existing media.


      sorry Google. You don’t get to “Play Steve” on this one. Get with the program.

  • njw

    I really don’t mind all that much, so long as, in the end, we get fewer formats and the ‘winners’ are open.

  • Jonathan Ogden

    Sounds to me like they’re all trying to push the format they think is best. I’m not really too bothered by Google doing this but the sooner they all decide on a standard format, the better.

  • iacami

    chrome is opensource, download an old version and make your own.

  • wattscreative

    I’m uncertain, of course Google are serious about their own format, why wouldn’t they!

    But is that good for everyone else?
    H.264 is probably the most commonly and widely adopted format for dealing with high definition video, and google thinks they have the right to say, “so what”!

    It’s just another format to have to support, but on the other hand it is open source and if it helps standardise HTML video on the web, that’s good!

    • Daniel Balfour

      Considering its market share, Google’s “decision” to drop support for h.264 is largely symbolic and really doesn’t influence the general direction of media.

  • Will Steinmetz

    I find it kind of annoying because now there are 3 video formats and developers have to pick which combo they want to support (yes, I know that Firefox and Opera are moving from Theora to WebM).

    My company recently started supporting HTML5 video and it was a fight for me to get just H.264 support and now it’s going to take a long time before I can even begin to prove WebM’s worth because of storage concerns and not wanting to have multiple copies of a video.

    I wish W3C would pick a standard sooner rather than later.

  • Nathan

    I personally think in the end this is better for standards sake. I would much rather have an opensource format that is certain to stay that way, as opposed to having a format that is royalty free until a later date, 2015 if I am not mistaken. H.264 is a good format, theres just to much variability as to whether or not it will stay royalty free.

  • Dustin

    It’s for the better. Anyone saying otherwise needs to rethink the entire picture. The devices that can’t be updated or made to work with other formats don’t even play well with the web in the first place. So that argument is moot.

    H.264 obviously has more support right now. But the plan is that all major browsers will be behind at least one of two open standards soon (minus safari of course). The only thing holding back the web on deciding h.264 is Apple pushing it’s own agenda. They absolutely can’t let h.264 support go now that its the only media format on their mobile devices (their own fault). Without a flash backup, it’s either they use h.264 or their electronics are worthless.

    Apple will either support an open standard soon and stop whining about it’s own mess, or or will have to make a work-around for it’s users. There aren’t any other options. The industry won’t suddenly support a closed, licensed format just because Apple didn’t think for the future.

  • Jarel Remick

    It’s a very logical move and I support it. WebM is an open format and is supported in Firefox, Opera, Chrome and will be in IE 9. With that kind of adoption, Safari will hopefully follow suite soon (though we know what Apple does with formats it doesn’t like).

  • Roland

    Yeah, go, Google, go!

  • Vitor Oliveira

    I think that Google is doing the right thing: we need to have the choice!
    Having only a commercial format is too restrictive and somehow someone has to pay somewhere … having a competition assures that both the format improvements and licensing will will go for end user best interest ! (as it’s being the case for iPhone challenged by Android universe)

  • Joseph

    Excellent choice by Google, but you realize it puts Adobe Flash as the default medium for all these different open video format.

    Regardless of what you feel towards Flash, it is one heck of a player with lots of capabilities HTML can’t handle, or change at the rate of 2011, and the next decade.

    HTML5’s specs are expected to be complete by 2020. By then Flash would have also a leap in other fields, and capabilities.

    • sekler

      Joseph, my friend, you are a wise man.

  • Christopher Anderton

    And there goes the HTML5 video tag up in smoke. H.264 in some browsers and WebM (talking about open, the code is a mess!) in others.

  • Christopher Anderton

    Don’t forget the world outside browsers. Like almost every mobile phone, TV set top boxes, Gaming consoles and Broadcasting and more supports H.264.

    The tools for WebM is right now slow and bad. It will get better of course, but then the code is a total mess, so it will take a very long time i think.

    • Dustin

      @Christopher, the video tag isn’t doomed now lol. It’s actually a genius thing that google wrote a check for an open standard that the web can use for it’s video media. Even though Safari is the last to support h.264, there will end up being only two possible formats you need. WebM will work on most (if not all) modern desktop web browsers, and h.264 will work on all the random little mobile devices. (and a flash fallback obviously for old browsers on both.) If you want to support the entire market, double encode. If not, then simply choose one or the other, easy solution.

      The argument that it may be too complicated for the ‘average joe’ to use is moot. Average joe isn’t going to be writing his own html/css at that level anyway.

      It’s a very good thing theres a fracture between desktop and mobile video. With companies looming over data caps and UBB cycles, watching how much data you consume is important. Now you’ll have two formats, one for desktop and one for mobile. Making it easier to target what you serve to mobiles, as well as how you serve it to them.

  • Christopher Anderton

    However, H.264 is a ISO standard (within MPEG4) and WebM is not. I like open source too, but i don’t see the problem for Google and everyone else (including Apple) to support both WebM and the ISO standard. They are supporting Flash right out of the box (Google), so what’s the big problem to support H.264?

    Google is not dropping support for MP3 or AAC, even if the license is similar to H.264.