Why would Google Chrome remove H.264 video support?

The Google Chrome web browser project recently divulged that they plan to drop support of the H.264 video codec.  It’s left the web/computing industry scratching its head.  Google is getting a firestorm of responses back on this, and deservedly so.

Why would Google make such a move like this?  H.264 “is the standard” for playing and encoding video.  H.264 is open and is royalty free for users.  MPEG LA has even recently stated here that it “will continue not to charge royalties for Internet Video that is free to end users.” The good folks at MacRumors.com as have journaled it here also.

This move by Google is perplexing to many and appears to be inconsistent with the mission for open standards they seek.  What’s confusing is that they are continuing to allow Adobe Flash as a standard.  As you know Adobe Flash is essentially a vendor locked solution to one vendor (Adobe).  H.264 is now an open standard, not something that Apple owns.  Yes,  Apple has a vested stake in H.264, and has basically worked to drive this to the standards base, but H.264 has essentially become the best ubiquitous video standard we have today.  Its used in almost everything we use today to play back video.

As a result of Apples efforts and the standards bodies,  we now have a free standard that is common to mobile phones, PCs, Macs, and game consoles.  Oh and don’t forget your AppleTV’s, BoxeeBox, and GoogleTV devices.  Most of these devices have hardware decoding chips built-in to boost HD video performance.  WebM is going to have to rely on software decoding, probably for a long, long time.   As you know, hardware decoding of video is far faster than software decoding.  WebM on these devices using software decoding will likely result in choppy and slow playback.  Basically I can’t see many companies getting on-board with WebM, just for the previous commitment to H.264 as the standard.

Google is claiming that they want a truly open web standards focus going into their web browser.  The claim is that WebM and Theora are the defacto standard for open web video.    From early reports on WebM, is it isn’t close to coming to the capabilities of H.264.

Is Google taking a swing at Apple or is this something else?  What are your thoughts on Google’s decision?  Do you agree or disagree?  Feel free to share them here them in the comments section.

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About Shawn Brezny
Film photography with Leica M2 and Hasselblad 501CM. Husband. Father. Christian. Eph 2:8

3 Responses to Why would Google Chrome remove H.264 video support?

  1. Ryan says:

    Perhaps I can help.

    H.264 is not “open”, in fact it is heavily patented and dangerous for Free Software to implement.

    The royalty free status is not set in stone, what MPEG-LA actually said was that it will remain royalty free for the next 5 years, which means that in the mean time they hope that it catches on, and that they can start charging for patent licenses for anyone who implements it later on. They’re a business, not a charity. 🙂

    WebM on the other hand, has demonstration code under a very permissive BSD-style license and a patent license issued to everyone on Earth, by Google.

    The MPEG-LA is sort of like a cartel in that they are trying to solicit patents to form a “patent pool” to sue people using WebM and/or Google. This is clearly an attempt to cause a chilling effect and quash a true standard before it can take root.

    Microsoft and Apple are MPEG Cartel members, and they have every reason to lie and promote MPEG specifications as open standards when they are not, simply because they sell everyone who uses Windows or Mac OS an MPEG patent license which is included in the price of Windows or Mac OS. This doesn’t help third party developers avoid the racketeering unless they depend on the Microsoft or Apple codec implementation which may not suit their needs for a number of reasons, including bugs, missing features, or performance issues. It also makes whether or not that application works dependent upon Microsoft or Apple not changing the API to hook into their codec.

    Ever had a favorite program that became abandoned by the developer which ceased working when you upgraded to a new version of Windows? Yes, it’s like that.

    Hope this helps. 🙂

  2. gowriel says:

    Google is “just preparing” for big measures , big censor(allready done in their search engine), control over information (information=power) and H.264 is “just standing in their way” !
    OH , let’s not forget the choice of google to remove all videos by 29 apryl!
    Lots of documentaries , interviews and PRECIOUS INFORMATION lies there!
    Guess it does really mean that New World Order=end of history!
    Google it’s just a small but very important part of it!

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