Chrome Drops Support for H.264 Video

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Today brought another big development in the world of HTML5 video, which I’ve been covering for some time. Via the Chromium blog, Google has announced that it will drop support for the H.264 video codec in its Chrome browser, preferring instead to focus on Google’s open-source WebM format, as well as the older Ogg Theora codec. This brings Chrome in line with Firefox and Opera in terms of codec support.

Quoth Google:

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.

The overall tone of the comments on the announcement post seems negative, which is surprising, at least to me. I can’t help but see this as a good thing, as I’ve been a proponent of a move to a fully open solution for HTML5 video for some time. Of course, with IE9 only supporting WebM if the codec is installed in Windows separately, and Apple’s Safari remaining the lone holdout to only support H.264, we’re probably still a good long way away from being able to provide HTML5 video in a single format and have it work seamlessly across browsers.

But even Adobe has promised to support VP8 video (the video codec underlying the WebM format) in the Flash player. WebM support in the Flash player would almost bring us to the point where we could encode our video once (in WebM), and wrap it up with Flash as a fallback for browsers that don’t support the codec (Safari and IE). However, that will still leave one niggling group of users whose browsers support neither WebM nor Flash: iOS.

So, again, it would appear that it’s Apple’s move.

What are your thoughts? Is this a step in the right direction for Chrome, and for the Web at large? Do you think Apple will eventually cave?

Louis SimoneauLouis Simoneau
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Louis joined SitePoint in 2009 as a technical editor, and has since moved over into a web developer role at Flippa. He enjoys hip-hop, spicy food, and all things geeky.

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