Googles Abandonment of H.264 Sparks Debate

By Clint Boulton  |  Posted 2011-01-15 Print this article Print

He added that the collection of patent royalties clogs innovation of H.264, which is why Google is pushing WebM and Theora. Google does not desire to "control the WebM format" it fostered; it simply wants to see the HTML <video> tag become a first-class video platform.

Jazayeri also claimed that Google, which owns the massive video-sharing Website YouTube, is sympathetic to the concerns over publishers having multiple versions of video content to run in different formats. However, he said most publishers already produce several video versions optimized for different devices and platforms.

"Our choice was to make a decision today and invest in open technology to move the platform forward, or to accept the status quo of a fragmented platform where the pace of innovation may be clouded by the interests of those collecting royalties," he concluded.

From those sitting on the sidelines of this grudge match, there is no right or wrong. There are those who support H.264, such as Microsoft and Apple, whose patents are protected by the MPEG LA, versus WebM and Theora, which are open source and supported by Google, Mozilla and Opera.

The best point, counterpoint argument about this issue is between Ars Technica's Peter Bright, who argued that removing support for H.264 IN Chrome is a step backward for openness, and Opera's Haarvard, who supported Google's move.

Then there are the third-party observers. Jason Perlow, an IBM infrastructure architect, wrote on ZDNet that despite the discussion about platform and format wars, the issue actually comes down to money.

He said Google will save the hundreds of millions of dollars it costs to support YouTube with servers and storage by supporting a single format instead of multiple formats.

IDC analyst Al Hilwa said that while Google's argument that H.264 licenses are expensive for content owners and developers carries weight, he wondered how long it would be before Google backtracks on its disposal of H.264 support in Chrome.

"With Chrome barely reaching 10% adoption it is hard to believe that Google believes it has the dominance to do this or that it would be helping its browser share," Hilwa wrote.

"What is more is that its open source WebM video container technology and the VP8 codec is still being developed and refined and can hardly be called industrial strength, never mind even narrowly adopted yet."

Ultimately, he argued that Google will harm HTML5 with this move "because it may never have a standard codec."



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