Just when it look as if if the de facto Flash web video standard would be replaced by the greater performance of H.264, Google says, No H.264 for you! Stephen Shankland in CNet News:
Google announced plans today to remove built-in Chrome support for a widely used rival codec called H.264 favored by Apple and Microsoft. The move places Google instead firmly in the camp of browser makers Mozilla and Opera, who ardently desire basic Web technologies to be unencumbered by patent restrictions.
That means no H.264 for you in Chrome, Firefox, or Opera.
Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.
What’s wrong with H.264?
H.264, also called AVC, is widely supported in video cameras, Blu-ray players, and many other devices, but it comes with significant royalty licensing fees from a group called MPEG LA that licenses a pool of hundreds of video-related patents on behalf of patent holders including Microsoft, LG Electronics, Panasonic, Philips Electronics, Samsung, Sharp, Sony, and Toshiba.
Ah, the money trail. What will Google use in Chrome to replace H.264 video? Their own WebM video format.
WebM, in comparison, has been an open-source, royalty-free specification since Google announced it last May. It comprises the VP8 video codec Google got through its $124.6 million acquisition of On2 Technologies and the Theora audio codec associated with an earlier and otherwise largely unsuccessful royalty-free codec effort.
Who is sleeping with the enemy?
Adobe has become a major Google ally since Apple began taking a very hard-line stance against Flash in 2010. Google has heavily promoted Adobe’s mobile Flash agenda and built its Flash Player directly into Chrome. Adobe gave WebM a big boost by deciding to build VP8 into Flash.
What’s the solution?
It’s possible Apple and others could embrace WebM. Microsoft has refrained from glowering too harshly on WebM even as it’s issued an H.264 plug-in for Firefox users on Windows. But even if a change of heart occurs today, it will take a long time for tech giants like Apple and Microsoft to regear.