back to article Google plugins force-feed open codec to IE and Safari

Google will soon release plug-ins for both Internet Explorer and Safari that play nicely with WebM, the open source and royalty-free video codec that Apple and Microsoft aren't inclined to adopt on their own. The move comes two days after Google announced that its Chrome browser would no longer support H.264, the royalty- …

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  1. snafu

    Flash isn't a factor

    …As this is about baseline video in the HTML5 standard. Flash is a plugin HTML5 doesn't care about. H.254 ought to work like a plugin, too.

    1. DrXym Silver badge

      The video tag

      I can think of two easy ways for browsers to support different codecs without polluting their own codebase:

      1) Use the operating system's media framework. i.e. browser encounters unsupported content type so it asks framework if it can handle it. Every OS has a framework.

      2) Extend the NPAPI to handle audio / video content. i.e. browser encounters unsupported content and asks plugins if they can handle content.

      Locking the browser down to support a couple of codecs is just bizarre given that H264 is an industry standard. Even if WebM is the default it makes no sense to force sites to jump through hoops with 3rd party plugins like Flash or Silverlight to circumvent a silly and avoidable restriction in browsers.

  2. JDX Gold badge

    Strong-arm tactics

    Playing rough... is anyone still buying the "we're nice and friendly" line from Google? They're doing very well at stealthy techniques to grow their dominance and steal customers from companies like MS (GMail acting as an Exchange back-up as an example).

    Giving developers all these free toys is like trying to get us on-side us with sweets.

    1. gnufreex
      FAIL

      (untitled)

      Breaking M$ lock-in is now evil?

      Here I thought Google is doing the right thing...

      1. DrXym Silver badge

        Erk

        When MS forces something on people, e.g. VC-1, people right scream blue bloody murder. While WebM might be open source, it's still Google's codec and I really don't see much difference in what they're doing now.

        Personally I reckon it's a codec is being used as a stick by Google and MPEG-LA in some contract / licencing negotiation that we're not privy to. It really doesn't make sense for Google which has massive investments in H264 (i.e. all the hardware powering YouTube) to jump ship to another codec unless there was something going on behind the scenes.

  3. Wrenchy
    Linux

    What's the problem??

    Just use WebM instead of H.264

    It's "Not that big of a deal".

    1. westlake
      Pint

      It is that big a deal.

      >>Just use WebM instead of H.264

      >>It's "Not that big of a deal".

      H.264 is much - much - more than a distribution codec for the web.

      There is no such thing as a studio production grade WebM camcorder. No such thing as a wireless WebM video surveillance camera.

      Google Shopping returns about 71,500 relevant hits for "H.264."

      For "WebM" about 10.

      No content protection means no Netflix support. No WebM app for the Berlin Philharmonic built into your Sony HDTV.

      No WebM OnLive gaming app for your Vizio.

      20% of peak hour download traffic in the states was a Netflix stream - before - Netflix offered a streaming-only service at $9 month.

      The "walled garden" of the app and app store can't be confined to the smartphone. The browser isn't the only content delivery system.

      There is a very real chance that it could be marginalized.

      1. malcolmus_rex
        Linux

        give it a year or two

        There's no production grade studio camcorders yet - but when WebM is available on pretty much every computer, either directly or as an IE plugin, then manufacturers realise they can add WebM as an optional format FOR FREE... and allow a significant increase in the number of hours recording they can fit on the memory stick*, then It won't be long before WebM is available on every new camcorder...

        * I know it's totally unscientific, and only a single device, but I was playing around, converting my home videos from H.264 to WebM and the files shrank by anything from a factor of 25% to 50% without loss of quality.

      2. Joe 3
        Stop

        Re: It is that big a deal.

        True, H.264 is used in other applications, but the discussion here is about websites showing video through browsers, so yours is a moot point.

        Does anyone who has a studio-grade camcorder put the results straight on the web with no editing (and therefore rendering)? Professionals have always used different codecs to consumers.

  4. cynic 2
    Big Brother

    Easy

    So... time to return the favour and write a H.264 plugin for Chrome then?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not a problem.

      Yes, I'm sure there will be an H.264 plugin for chrome soon.

      Google isn't blocking or interfering with that in any way - they're just not including it (and paying the licensing fee) themselves.

      This is not like Apple blocking flash - users still have the choice.

      As for them including Flash but not H.264 - Flash is already used on millions of websites. I dislike it, but I need it. Hopefully, with the action that Google is taking with WebM we can avoid everyone becoming dependent on yet more non-open technology for the web.

    2. OffBeatMammal

      plug-in for H.264

      luckily it already exists - and activates the <video> tag in pre-HTML5 browsers as well

      http://visitmix.com/labs/gestalt/widgets/video.html

  5. trafficking
    Unhappy

    Evil Google

    How dare they spend millions on a codec, release it freely for all the world to use however they like then promote it's use over a tightly controlled patent encumbered alternative. In a wonderful new world of double speak, this is the very essence of evil.

    1. OffBeatMammal

      it's just not as good

      the problem with WebM is that it's not as good as H.264 (though it is better than Ogg)

      * quality is poor - requiring larger files and more CPU to deliver the same quality

      * no hardware acceleration - so battery life will suffer (and no iOS)

      * for a site to add support for webM they have to double their costs to support a very small slice of the market

      * no drm or content protection story. while we don't care studios won't let their content out that way

      * no adaptive streaming (Smooth Streaming or HLS like)

      all this does is push video sites back to using H.264 (which works on iOS) and for platforms that support it a Flash player to consume the H.264 ...

      Google are not in this to be nice. They are a commercial, for-profit entity (just like the MPEG-LA folks). Follow the money and work out how this benefits them / hurts their competitors before lauding them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Heart

        Meh

        HTML5's <video> tag is still flakey in most browsers anyway and Flash is still by far the de facto standard. By the time HTML5 becomes mainstream issues such as quality, DRM, hardware acceleration will be largely resolved.

        1. Mike Dimmick

          H.264 is the de-facto standard

          Flash is not a video codec. It's a container for video encoded in other formats. H.264 is by far the most common codec in the Flash container.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      Do you really think...

      that this move is altruistic? How very fucking naive! Google are interested only in Google and it's potential revenue streams. None of you freetards have picked up on the fact the h.264 is *the* industry standard, ISO backed video codec. I'd like to ask you and any of the 22 morons that up-voted you to prove that WebM *isn't* patent encumbered.

      1. fandom
        Thumb Down

        Why you are it

        You could also prove there are no submarines patents that will attack H.264 any day now

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          re: fandom

          No, not at all. See Mike Dimmick's post http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/958556

      2. C Yates
        Thumb Down

        RE: Do you really think...

        "None of you freetards have picked up on the fact the h.264 is *the* industry standard"

        And now there's going to be a new one which we don't have to pay for.

        This is how standards are made you moron.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          FAIL

          @C Yates...

          No, it's not how standards are made at all. See http://goo.gl/S1bgS for a description of how this process is achieved, because it's quite clear that you haven't got a bloody clue. Next time, think before posting.

          1. C Yates
            FAIL

            @Mr Coward

            Part of the 'standards' process involves considering the users or "freetards" as you so colourfully describe them. (See your own link.)

            Perhaps you yourself should think yourself before spouting off.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Gates Halo

          Err.. hello?

          Standards are also made through use of paid for licensed technologies, compact disc, DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS.... Cost has nothing to do with creating a standard. Standards are driven by features. As consumers we don't care that we pay a few extra dollars for a Blu-Ray player becuase it has to support VC1, it's the price of having something fit for purpose. WebM is a long way short of H.264 in video quality. I want Blu-Ray quality web video and I'm prepared to pay for it. Heck, I'd pay for IE9 if it came to it.

          People of the world need to learn that everything has a price. There is no such thing as free and nor should there be.

  6. Joshua M. Clulow
    Unhappy

    Something that seems to get little attention...

    At the very least the various file/data formats for Flash has been published under an open license at the Open Screen Project. The FAQ for the project suggests that "Developers are now free to implement what is documented in the specifications without restrictions from Adobe."

    So, while the Flash player bundled with Chrome is proprietary software, not *all* flash players must be proprietary. Adobe does not collect license fees on players based on the specifications - the flash *format* is open.

    The same can't really be said for H.264 where the patent applies not just to the encoder/decoder technology but to the stream format itself -- the two are essentially inseparable from a licensing point of view. So, you *can* have opensource flash players but you *can't* have opensource H.264 codec software.

    Curiously nobody really talks about this distinction, they just harp on about Google bundling Flash (closed software, open format) like it's exactly the same thing as supporting H.264 (closed everything).

    1. TerryAcky
      FAIL

      Eh?

      It may be a case of my misunderstanding you, but when you say "it's exactly the same thing as supporting H.264 (closed everything).", you are either mis-reprtesenting fact or fail to understand fact. Let me explain...

      H.264 *is* an open standard and was always developed openly. WebM was developed as a proprietary, totally closed codec, before bought by Google. So point (1): open != closed.

      H.264 is a collaborative effort and has involved 2 standards organisations. The same cannot be said of WebM, on either count. Point (2): WebM is therefore simply the bastard-child of 1 brain and no standards organisation(s).

      The issue is not one of open vs closed. If it were WebM would actually be lacking here, historically. The issue is one of of patents.

      Concerning patents: H.264 does not require end-users such as joe public to pay for any licence. Businessses, yes. End-users? No.

      Capability: WebM is lacking in so many ways (as 'OffBeatMammal' points out hereabouts). H.264 is the far superior offering.

      Ultimately not only is any 'open standard' argument in favour of WebM doomed to fail (as it's simply a lie, or at best cowardly semantics), but WebM is technically inferior in so many *important* ways.

      Granted, the patents and licencing surrounding H.264 may be distasteful for many, but that is an entirely seperate argument from the (partially) ill-informed (or deliberately mis-informed) one you have presented.

      Personally I would rather see all major user-agents support H.264, WebM and Theora. In my opinion choice is more important than being forced to use an 'open', technically inferior solution. But that's another debate entirely.

      1. Joshua M. Clulow
        Unhappy

        Well, to be fair...

        I didn't mention WebM at all. I was, instead, talking about the rampant "hypocracy" claims comparing the bundling of H.264 codecs with the bundling of Adobe Flash.

        I make the claim that H.264 is "closed everything" because at present it essentially is - you cannot legally distribute a H.264 codec in open source. Either you must pay a fee as the developer, or you must pay a fee as the implementor or you must pay a fee as the user. Plus, without the codec the data in the stream is useless to you! This is in stark contrast to Flash where the data stream is, at least, documented for royalty-free reimplementation.

        Regardless of where the H.264 tax is applied (and it is applied many times between the content creator and content consumer) it certainly *is* paid for by the end user. Maybe not as a discrete line item, but paid for nonetheless. That's why opensource browsers like Firefox will never include H.264 - they can't pay for it because a non-zero license fee does not fit in a zero-cost product.

        I personally think it's pretty hypocritical to claim a standard is "open" if you need to pay to play, but that's, like, my opinion man. The past is also largely irrelevant - no matter how VP8 was developed, it's free-and-open *now*.

        This brings us to the crux of the issue: the W3C HTML5 spec for <video>. W3C specs are royalty-free for a reason - it promotes implementation and innovation in the open web. Nobody is denying you the 'choice' of installing H.264 software on your computer - you are free to do so, at whatever cost. Google has chosen, also: chosen to stop distributing H.264 with *their* browser. This aligns with the distribution choices of Mozilla and Opera. Hopefully it will drive the selection of a W3C-friendly (royalty-free) codec for HTML5 - a selection which is the first step toward ubiquitous use of HTML5's <video> tag.

        None of this, however, was my point. The only point I *intended* to make - though judging by your reply I have apparently failed at even this modest task - was that the "hypocracy" claims regarding Chrome retaining the closed source Flash plugin for the foreseeable future are less than useful.

        Sad Face.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Jobs Halo

    That's a very large public company acting in its own self-interest.

    Quite so.

    And it's all good.

    Haters gonna hate. Frack them.

    1. The First Dave
      Boffin

      @Destroy All Monsters

      "That's not hypocrisy. That's a very large public company acting in its own self-interest."

      Time to head back to the dictionary - this looks to me very very close to the dictionary definition of hypocrisy.

      1. Oninoshiko
        Headmaster

        hy·poc·ri·sy [ hi pókrəssee ] (plural hy·poc·ri·sies) n.

        hy·poc·ri·sy [ hi pókrəssee ] (plural hy·poc·ri·sies) n. 1. feigned high principles: the false claim to or pretense of having admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings

        That is nowhere near "(A very large public company) acting in its own self-interest."

        Just thought I would clear that up for you.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Sounds open to me

    There is just a new definition to "open". Previously "open" meant "open standard", as in ratified by a major standards body, but still potentially costing money. This doesn't jive with "open source", because open source can't charge more than the cost of distribution, which is less than the cost of licensing, and so any app that ever wanted to be distributed with say, Ubuntu, couldn't possibly contain H.264.

    The inverse is not true, however. IE and Opera can support WebM, through the plugin. Either way, someone has to have a plug-in, since Opera and FF didn't support H.264.

    The market was split, and Google backed the option that is "most open". Good on them!

    1. Mike Dimmick

      Covering their backsides

      The problem is that there is not an 'H.264' patent. There are a series of patents which are owned by various companies, which have claims on various ideas. These ideas make up the building blocks for how video compression is performed - things like how motion compensated prediction is done, which all video codecs use to encode the small changes from frame to frame, rather than encoding each frame as a separate picture.

      WebM still uses those techniques, but because it's a closed standard, the companies have not had an opportunity to declare which patents cover it. Unlike the terms of their involvement in ISO and ITU, the patent holders will not be bound by any requirements for Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) licensing. If any company includes a WebM codec in their product, they could be liable for virtually unlimited damages on any submarine patents. US courts have assessed up to 20% of the purchase price of the final product as royalties, and 'wilful' infringement carries a penalty of triple damages. In contrast, they know that submarine patent claims covering H.264 will be struck down, because Qualcomm have *already* been prevented from overcharging Broadcom. Qualcomm's limit on enforcing their patents only applies to H.264, though, not to other encodings.

      Fundamentally, MS and Apple are covering their backsides and going with the known limited royalty payments over the potential unlimited liability.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      FAIL

      re: open source can't charge more than the cost of distribution

      I don't think you quite understand what "open source" means.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Anyone or anything that screws over Apple

    is alright with me.

    h.264 has no place in any browser I use now or in the future, so anyone whining about having to support h.264 plus something else has either just woken up, or is a shill for Cuppertino.

    Killing h.264 on the web, and replacing it with an open codec - which Apple can support if they want to - will do everyone a big favour, not least those that are whining about having to support multiple formats.

  10. konstructa

    #Evil Google

    I am pretty sure this is the most "closed" thing Google could of done.

    http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2011/01/googles-dropping-h264-from-chrome-a-step-backward-for-openness.ars is a better reason why WebM is far from "open".

    1. DRendar
      Headmaster

      Grammar Nazi

      No:

      I am pretty sure this is the most "closed" thing Google could HAVE done.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Right on!

    The bloke from SumgMug has hit the nail on the head... 'makes them [Google] 'utter hypocrites'.

    Regardless of what 'they' want you to think, that's all they have been since September 4th, 1998. There's too many people wearing blinkers. I mean c'mon... Just because some business 'open sources' that don't make them Jesus!

  12. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Pint

    Let the figures do the talking

    Google would only make this move if it was confident that the viewing figures make sense. HTML5 video is still nascent partly down to the codec problems - all the video on El Reg is still flash, iPlayer is Flash, Microsoft only support video in a beta version of their browser. The only platform where "native" playback is supported is mobile and there Google is increasingly well-placed thanks to the success of Android. iOS gets its own Youtube player which is presumably going to stay H.264, at least for a while or maybe Google reckons it can shoehorn WebM support in there. Apple, for its part, is probably planning to extend the walled garden so that video can only come from iTunes hoping to get more eyeballs and, thus, eventually some of the advertising revenue that everyone hopes will move from TV online.

    The move is really about Google feeling confident enough that, via mobile, it will soon need fewer server licences for streaming Flash and can look forward to a certain amount of rationalisation server side. On the desktop - not being able to watch video is probably sufficient reason for many, those who can at least, to install a different browser as the current default ad for Safari in Youtube points out. For those of us putting video out there things just got easier as well - <video> with WebM wrapped around the <object> and <embed> for the Flash version.

    As for the patent pool - if Viacom hasn't been able to get much from Google with its very clear cut case of copyright violation then Google are probably pretty confident of sitting out any WebM patent suits, especially with the limited jurisdiction of software patents.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Grenade

      Playing in a warzone

      This is the only game Microsoft plays (and Apple for that matter). Create product most people use. Change from standard to proprietary method so content creators are forced to change leaving small operators to die.

      Google are doing the only thing they can in an arena of Microsofts and Apples: it's called fucking over the competition. There's collateral damage, sure, you and me, but maybe at the end of this war there might be some small guys still around (using open-source codecs).

      Remember GIF? How that became a web standard while being patented is anybody's guess.

      1. Doc Spock
        Alert

        @Anon 16

        Let me get this straight. Apple, who eschewed the closed and proprietary Flash in favour of the open and W3C-backed HTML5 suite of technologies is somehow worse than Google, who are removing support for the open (albeit not free for everyone) h.264 standard backed by TWO international standards bodies for the aforementioned closed and proprietary Flash?

        Web users have been bent over a barrel by Adobe for the last decade in their reliance on Flash. Apple have done more than any other major company to try and break Adobe's stranglehold. Google are simply undermining the recent progress in order to push their own agenda.

        Ask Google (or any of their supporters) about the licensing fees that content creators must pay to Adobe for producing Flash content? (via Adobe software) Google only cares about distribution fees so they have no problem using Flash. What I don't get though is, given the same quality, WebM produces slightly bigger files. This results in more storage space required, and higher bandwidth costs for anyone storing/distributing WebM video. My only conclusion therefore is that Google is using WebM as a tool to leverage additional concessions out of MPEG-LA, or trying to undermine Apple in the iOS vs Android battle.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Jobs Halo

        GIF: I'll tell you why

        Because at the time there was no alternative. Free of cost does not come into it. Whatever tech meets the needs is used, even if there is a cost.

  13. justaview

    I wasn't surprised at all.

    H.264 has an open source alternative in Webvm. Flash does not yet. HTML5 is not good enough yet despite the hype. When it is Google will do the same thing. For Google it makes sense when ever possible to use open source. The Google strategy is OS wherever possible as that reduces costs - no licence fees and they have enough developers to make things work and they can modify if improvements are needed. However they have to be pragmatic with flash at present.

  14. technome

    Hmmm

    Expect to see the "patent unencumberence" of WebM tested (and found to be entirely fictitious) in court sometime soon.

    1. gerryg

      LMFTFY

      Expect to see the "patent unencumberence" of WebM to be determined in court sometime around 2097

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    ... and for web developers, things start to get..

    ... that more complicated and fractured.

    Standards are and always have been a pipe dream - some sort of nirvana we will never reach.

    But heck, that keeps me in a job, as it makes developing websites - in this case, sites that deliver web video - that much harder to do.

    Once upon a time, there were no web standards, Netscape ruled the www roost, we coded for a single platform. It was easy.

    Now things are so damn fractured, there's so many competing technologies and differing platforms, it makes a mockery of the idea of an open web - the sharing of information.

    This, however, is what makes things so very interesting... and as I've said, keeps me in a job ;)

    I for one, welcome our many competing overlords.

  16. SAP Bod
    Thumb Down

    Power Sucker

    WebM ain't going nowhere until there's hardware decode support ... which h264 already has plenty of. Especially important in the mobile and newly emerging tablet markets.

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge

      WebM hardware support exists already

      http://blog.webmproject.org/2011/01/availability-of-webm-vp8-video-hardware.html

      http://www.design-reuse.com/news/24961/dual-hd-video-ip-core-vp8.html

      Of course things are still in their infancy vs h264.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I know of at least one mobile GPU

      that has WebMM support, along with H264 and H263, plus a load of other stuff.

      The people who make these chips (i.e us and our competitors) know that WebMM is required, and are putting it in. By the time the chips hit market( weeks not months as its a internal SW upgrade rather than building new chips) , acceleration will all be there.

  17. Brian2
    Megaphone

    Brian Barker

    I am not certain where you received the information that Esperanto has "failed" ; in fact no-one can predict the future :)

    During a short period of 122 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA World factbook. It is the 22nd most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

    Native Esperanto speakers, (people who have used the language from birth), include financier George Soros, World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet.

  18. Cowboy Bob
    FAIL

    This Is A UK Site

    There are no royalties payable on H.264 here so I don't get the tone of the article. Surely we should just be laughing at the septics and their ridiculous patent system, carry on using H.264 for free as we have done all along, and ignore Google and its strong arm tactics.

  19. skyroski
    Linux

    Good

    Google WebM is a much needed presence in the market of video codecs that offsets the alliance of the MPEG LA.

    'Technical Performance' debates aside, factoring in the risk of royalities from MPEG LA should ring alarm bells on everybody that are not part of the MPEG LA.

    The plugins for Safari and IE are to me are more symbolic than of real use. The two browsers are going downhill anyway.

    So what if they're hyopcrites? Aren't we all? I for one cannot care less what they're branded, all I know is they're doing something good.

    re: Hardware Decode support, look it up, it's in the pipeline. Don't forget WebM only came to being middle of last year.

  20. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    a few points

    firstly, don't see google "force-feeding" anything here. Force-feeding the plugin to me would be if they had like auto-installed it with googleearth for instance. They didn't, they just make it available and recommend it.

    regarding hardware acceleration -- chips don't accelerate mpeg2, h.264, mpeg4, etc., they accelerate idct, motion compensation, deblocking, rescaling, etc. So if webm uses those functions it can be accelerated. The acceleration apis for linux (va-api for instance and i think xvmc too) directly expose these, can't speak for windows.

  21. Arion

    Pretentious Gits

    It looks like there are a lot of pretentious gits out there who want to slate Google, and aren't going to let reason or logic get in the way.

    Other than being part of the MPEG LA Patent Pool, which licences H.264, I can't see any logical reason to object to Flash without objecting to H.264. From the other perspective, if you're OK with H.264 ( and aren't a H.264 patent holder ), then there's no reason to object to Flash.

    1. Doc Spock

      Flash vs h.264

      "Other than being part of the MPEG LA Patent Pool, which licences H.264, I can't see any logical reason to object to Flash without objecting to H.264"

      It's very simple really. Anyone can obtain the complete h.264 spec and build a fully compliant encoder and decoder (e.g., the x264 guys). This is not possible with Flash. The OpenScreen project is only a partial spec - it does not cover any of the DRM aspects of Flash.

      Consequently, the only company that can build a fully compliant Flash player is Adobe. If this were not true, Gnash would be a lot better and would be used by a lot more people. If you believe anyone can create a fully compliant Flash player, please answer the following question: why is it the case that, even after so many years, has not a single person or group in the worldwide open source community has produced such a product yet (remember, Gnash does not support Adobe's DRM).

  22. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Judging from the opposition

    there's a lot of people going to loose a lot of money with this.

    Presumably they were going to ask me to pay for their 'free' option and will try and make Google pay in the courts.

    Good luck with that - Google will just fight back and not crumble under extorton demands and software patents will go to the wall. G

    And you can get a job providing a service and not a tollbooth. You'll fell better in the long run.

  23. DrXym Silver badge

    Now how about opening up Firefox, Chrome & Opera

    It is absurd see the codec being forced through for browsers. WebM might be an okay codec but it's not the industry standard (which is also an open standard) and applying lossy compression to lossy compression is plain stupid. Shunning a codec which has universal hardware support and is built into virtually consumer and broadcast piece of kit is just plain stupid.

    Opera, Firefox and Chrome all support the NPAPI. If they want to ship WebM by default then fine, but open up the video tag. Define a video plugin extension (being NPAPI + well defined interfaces) whereby any users may install additional video codecs as they see fit. The irony is seeing Google write an ActiveX control for IE to play a foreign codec, but not opening up their own browser to do the same.

    Better yet enable the browser to ask the operating system's built in media framework to play unrecognized content. Linux has GStreamer. Windows has DirectMedia. OS X has Quicktime. Those frameworks exist for a reason. Most people already have an H264 codec sitting their in their media framework or can acquire one. Browsers could and should be using those frameworks to play content.

    In summary, state WebM is the web standard but don't shut the door on other codecs especially one as important as H264. It's in nobody's interest to see browsers engage in this pointless little war.

  24. TeeCee Gold badge
    Grenade

    Definition of "free".

    There are enough of those around already, so did we really need a new one:

    Free, as in: Until Google use the words "leverage our assets"......

  25. stewski

    is HTML5 a standard?

    Odd that people skirt around the idea that webM is a standard, despite open specification documents and source for encoders and decoders. Often h.264 gets the defacto standard applied without figures for its adoption on web video encoding and then HTML5 is described as a standard (which I'd agree with) but it is yet to become a candidate recommendation from the w3c and has not been agreed by ITU or ISO (which is where h.264 supports suggest standards come from).

    In fact HTML wasnt iso/itu agreed for 9 years and xHTML and a bunch of w3c tech still isn't.

    -

    Either way, w3c recommend only royalty free tech for a good reason, the idea that users will mostly be able to access such tech for video is not bad thing!

  26. Doug Glass
    Go

    So? What's You Point?

    Don't like it? Don't use it. Simple choice a person can make. We on this side of the pond call that freedom of choice. The only Evil Google product worth using is the search engine, and even then TrackMeNot is running full bore. Meh, BFD.

  27. Jethro Q. Bunn Whackett Buzzard Stubble and Boot Walrustitty
    Paris Hilton

    Just don't get

    all the ranting about this.

    Surely open source has proved itself over the years to develop top quality applications etc (Chrome funnily enough being one of them). Unless of course people think that the developers of h264 are the only ones capable of designing a quality codec.

    Surely this is the best opportunity to make the web just that bit freeer(?). The idea that webm "isn't good enough" as a reason not to use it is pure bullshit. khtml wasn't perfect when I first started using it years ago but boy is it good now.

    As for flash, well surely one of the ideas behind html5 is that proprietary plugins such as this will not be needed once all the browsers are supporting canvas etc... Surely, we don't want to rid ourselves of one proprietary system (and noone can argue that flash is really what we want) just to replace it with another that is also proprietary. Flash's days are numbered and so should h264's.

    Paris: because, like me, she can't figure out what the f%$^ing fuss is all about

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    h.264 isn't proprietary...

    It's a completely open standard. It's not free (as in beer) though.The fuss is about Google dropping support for it in their browser in favour of their own codec, of which they are refusing to indemnify third parties from submarine patents, suggesting that they are aware of infringements and further muddying the details of the proposed <video> tag in the developing HTML5 standard and taking us closer to a similar situation of the original format and browser wars. *NB* HTML5 detractors; this does not mean that HTML5 is not 'ready' to use. Go and read http://www.diveintohtml5.org and educate yourself.

    This codec, named WebM, was a developed privately and subsequently open-sourced by Google. *NB* Open source != open standard. h.264 is an ISO ratified industry standard HD video codec. Pretty much /everybody/ uses it.

    Google have left in support for the closed, proprietary Flash plug in from Adobe, which is seen by many as hypocritical of Google and goes to highlight that this move isn't as altruistic as Google would have you think. Flash, developmentally, has more in common with the proprietary WebM (yes WebM /is/ proprietary) codec than the open h.264 standard. Obviously a royalty free solution would be ideal, but one that offers sufficient quality (no, it's not bullshit. Video compression is not the same as HTML and CSS rendering at all) and that doesn't infringe on existing patents hasn't been presented, and I doubt it ever will. It's a politically and finically motivated move by Google that could be seen as anti-trust as they are arguably doing this to leverage contral over internet and mobile video (via Android) thus leveraging one market to control another. Do no evil my arse. Not that difficult to understand really.

    1. Oninoshiko

      h.264 cannot be implemented by anyone, only those with a license, and even then...

      MPEG-LA will not indemnify third parties from submarine patents either. By your own logic that suggests "that they are aware of infringements." The reality is that submarine patents are too high of an unmitigatable risk that NOONE indemifies. To put is in perspective, the last group to make that as an argument was SCO, look where they are today.

      WebM and OGG are being preposed as a BASELINE. If there h.264 may be *A* video standard, but it is *NOT* a web standard, ie it is not required to be implemented by the <video> tag. Google is makeing a browser that supports HTML 5. HTML 5 has a <video> tag. That <video> tag does not require support for any particular codec, so Google is fully complient with WEB STANDARDS. It's worth noting that, whatever their reasoning, the effect is that there is one more browser that is only implementing the codecs that anyone can implement, free-as-in-beer. Whatever the modivation, the effect is that they stand in solidarity with Mozilla and Opera. It's not that difficult to understand really.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        @Oninoshiko

        "MPEG-LA will not indemnify third parties from submarine patents either."

        This is wrong. MPEG-LA *does* indemnify licensees from submarine patents. It is Google that does not indemnify WebM licensees from third-party legal action.

        This is why large companies are happy to pay the h.264 license fee - because they know there will be no surprise fees on top of it. WebM doesn't have that kind of security.

        1. Oninoshiko
          FAIL

          I just LOVE the ACs....

          No, an MPEG-LA only licenses the patents that it represents. A MPEG-LA license does not indeminify you against patents they do not control. If you bothered to actually look at the MPEG-LA's web site, you would know that.

          " In addition, as discussed above, users who take MPEG LA’s license may have to negotiate licenses for essential patents that are not included."

          -- http://www.mpegla.com/main/programs/AVC/Pages/FAQ.aspx

  29. Mikel
    Thumb Up

    Netflix on H.264

    H.264 and the MPEG-LA patent pool are tools that Microsoft uses to prevent open platforms like Linux from legally having video players shipped with them. You have to add them, or you have to download them from outside the US and so in some instances break the law. This is just a replay of the .GIF submarine patent fiasco, and we all know how that worked out. Obviously it's in Microsoft's best interest if competing platforms can't do something critical like video as an integrated core feature.

    Reed Hastings is the founder, CEO and Chairman of the Board of Netflix. He also sits on Microsoft's board of directors: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/bod/hastings/default.aspx Of course he's going to take Microsoft's side on this. Netflix is also going to disrespect Android from time to time, like they do here: http://blog.netflix.com/2010/11/netflix-on-android.html

    About all browsers letting the OS handle video codecs like IE does: yeah, that's not going to work. Windows has a long tradition of not working at all for applications that Microsoft has decided to compete with - going all the way back to Windows 3.0 and Lotus 1-2-3. And of course who can forget the glorious decade-long antitrust suit for killing Netscape that got Microsoft to invest in a George Bush presidency to finally get some relief? Do I need to summon the ghost of WordPerfect here to be a witness? You don't let Microsoft's OS have any more of your application's functionality than you absolutely must if you want the app to live for very long.

    So yeah, Google owns the WebM tech. They paid $106M for it. If they want to make it free and open that's their right. If they want to make browser plugins for all the other browsers, more power to 'em. And if they want to omit the H.264 support in their own browser and OS and so both make them more shareable and also save on some H.264 licensing costs, well, that's their right. They're not obliged to keep paying MPEG-LA licensing fees if they have their own video codec. They don't need H.264 - they already bought a codec, and it's quite good, and they've let us all use it any way we like. What evil controlling jerks they are to give us hundreds of millions of dollars worth of intellectual property for free! The hardware builders will come along with hardware acceleration in good time, if they haven't already. If somebody wants to pay the license and make an H.264 codec plugin for Chrome, it's not like the API for that isn't published with everything else in Chrome - with source code and examples even. You want it? Build it. Knock yourself out. Nothing is stopping you. No doubt somebody will before long.

    I'm going to close this with one of my favorite quotes from RAH:

    "There has grown in the minds of certain groups in this country the idea that just because a man or corporation has made a profit out of the public for a number of years, the government and the courts are charged with guaranteeing such a profit in the future, even in the face of changing circumstances and contrary to public interest. This strange doctrine is supported by neither statute or common law. Neither corporations or individuals have the right to come into court and ask that the clock of history be stopped, or turned back." - Robert A Heinlein, Life-Line, 1939.

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