Eyes Above The Waves

Robert O'Callahan. Christian. Repatriate Kiwi. Hacker.

Monday 17 January 2011


Reading Google's latest update on media codecs in Chrome, I am immensely pleased to observe how much cover they get from Firefox having held the line. Because we don't support H.264, they can say that Chrome dropping support doesn't make things worse for Web authors. I bet the fact that users can't switch from Chrome to Firefox to get H.264 also made the decision easier for them, although they're not saying that out loud :-). Hopefully we've also just been setting a good example.

Effects like this are why Mozilla is needed and why I do what I do. Hooray!

PS: I suspect that if Google had held the line harder and never supported H.264 in Chrome they'd be in a better position now, but "I told you so" is so tiresome :-).


John Drinkwater
It really is time for some extra-more-than-usual evangelism from browser vendors, especially Mozilla, please. Only so many people are being focal about how useful an open video codec is going to be - there’s been very little shouting from rooftops about how many browsers are going to be supporting (in numbers that video content hosts will understand) WebM.
Props to OSnews.
I reckon come Christmas if Firefox has a good adoption curve, and along with Opera & Chrome, we’ll have about 40% of the Web able to load WebM.
Yeah but you could also say that they put up $133M.
And you didn't... so I wouldn't feel that smug.
Google did good here, you can tell from all the screams from their competitors and hangers on.
Robert O'Callahan
I agree Google is doing good here. I said so.
Any thoughts on why H.264 support happened in the first place?
Robert O'Callahan
On the other hand, it is widely agreed that H.264 is technically superior and devices like iPhones already have dedicated hardware for h.264. Ie9 is a lot more on par with Chrome/Firefox than it has ever been.
Not saying that Ie9 will reign supreme because of its built in h.264 support, more likely, the video tag will never go anywhere.
It's likely that Chrome supported H.264 because it is fast becoming the standard codec for the web, is used by youtube, vimeo, etc. and supported by lots of smartphone hardware including iPhone and Android devices.
I already have my H.264 fix for Firefox, so I'm happy. Thanks Microsoft!
The factors that went into Google's decision are complex, and I'm sure there was a lot of internal debate at Google that preceded this announcement.
H.264 originally appeared on Youtube as part of an agreement with Apple to support the iPhone, back when Apple and Google got along. Youtube's H.264 support has always been a little odd. Their encoder doesn't fully utilize many features of H.264 and produces relatively poor visual quality. It's not clear whether they were trying to avoid patents, work around decoder bugs, or just save CPU time, but moving to VP8 will be a clear upgrade for Youtube.
I have no idea why Chrome ever supported H.264. Whatever the reason, they now acknowledge that it was a mistake. Since many distributors of Android have to separately license H.264, perhaps they were getting some pushback there.
As for continuing to support Flash, well that makes H.264 licensing Adobe's problem.
Flash is probably destined to suffer the same fate as RealPlayer. Adobe will have to pay the licensing fees for the codec somehow, and if they do this with bundled advertising, people will get irritated with them just as they did with RealNetworks.