Google drops H.264 support in Chrome

Google has just discontinued support for the H.264 codec within Chrome, which some see as a bold and possibly bad move on Google’s part. More than anything, many are accusing the search giant of hypocrisy. The reason for Google’s move is that it wants to support the WebM project, which is open unlike H.264, though some are questioning that, too.

Of course, this will make things messy for mobile and for folks like Apple who use H.264 for their products. Google is pushing its own video codec in the name of openness, yet leaves Adobe Flash – closed and proprietary – untouched. Could it have opened up the speculation for its anti-Apple stance even wider?

John Gruber of Daring Fireball says:

A bold move, to be sure. H.264 is widely used. WebM and Theora aren’t. Perhaps this move will push more publishers toward serving video encoded with WebM. The big problem WebM has versus H.264 is that there are hardware decoders for H.264. This is key for mobile devices. It’s the hardware video decoding that allows mobile devices to get such long battery life and smooth performance for video playback. There’s no way publishers can drop H.264. To support Chrome, they’d have to add WebM-encoded versions of each video.

However, Google says  of VP8 benefits on the Chromium blog:

  • Rapid performance improvements in the video encoder and decoder thanks to contributions from dozens of developers across the community
  • Broad adoption by browser, tools, and hardware vendors
  • Independent (yet compatible) implementations that not only bring additional choice for users, publishers, and developers but also foster healthy competition and innovation

Depending on whom you believe, this is either great news or a terrible hypocrisy from Google. But in the end, don’t users care more about the end product than the video encoders used? I mean, your average user just wants to see her damn videos and make sure it doesn’t adversely affect a device’s battery life and hardware.

  • One further reason for dropping H.264 might be licence costs. Until now the opensource version of Chrome (Chromium: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromium_(web_browser)) had to omit tihs part of the browser. Now the gap is closing.

  • Anonymous

    Anti-Apple?

    That is just plain silly.

    H264 licenses cost money.

    WebM is open, and doesn’t have the horrible brokered multi-license issues.

    If Google drops H264 in Chrome, users can still use it via Quicktime Plugin and Flash plugin, if they so desire.

    Loss to users? Next to zero.

    Apple doesn’t own H264. Apple can still push Quicktime to their hearts desire. MS can push Silverlight using their own proprietary codecs and Adobe can push Flash with multiple codec support.

    H264 will live or die regardless of whether the browsers internally support it or not.

    I for one think this is a good decision, I just hope they would

    We *need* an OPEN baseline HTML5+ video format.

    I sincerely hope the license ridden and expensive H.264 will not kill this, but if that’s what is decided on, then be it.

  • Dan

    Could you possibly have any more annoying advertising on this blog? Surely not worth it regardless of the content you have. I won’t be beck.

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