Google will stop supporting H.264 for HTML5 in their Chrome browser, the company has just announced. This latest development has serious implications for the HTML5 format.
Google will now support only Ogg Theora, and their own WebM format. The company says this decision is due to the closed proprietary nature of H.264 licensing, as compared to the open nature of WebM (and Ogg Theora).
This now leaves Microsoft's IE and Apple's Safari as the only two major browsers to support the industry standard H.264 codec. H.264 is also for Blu-ray encoding, iTunes videos and YouTube videos. Mozilla FireFox and the Opera browsers already support Ogg Theora and WebM.
But critics say that WebM is far from being the perfect open format for HTML5, saying that the codec itself could be using the very same patents used by H.264. With the way modern video decoders work, it's almost certain that WebM will have been using patents not held by Google, which could mean lawsuits and even royalty payments, the very thing WebM was designed to avoid. And some even say that Google's move today may in fact be a way to prod the MPEG-LA, the license holders for H.264, to come out and sue Google for breach of patent, so that this issue can be settled once and for all in the courts.
And there's implications for Google's other assets, namely YouTube. If YouTube's HTML5 implementation only supports WebM/Theora, and not H.264, and with Apple's reluctance to allow Flash to work on iDevices, it could mean that the HTML5 version of YouTube would simply no longer work on iDevices, which would not help to mend the already broken fences between Apple and Google.
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