back to article Microsoft reinfects Chrome with closed video codec

Microsoft has reinfected Google's Chrome browser with the patent-encumbered H.264 video codec, banned by the search giant last month. On Wednesday, the world's largest software company released a plug-in for Chrome that allows Windows 7 PCs to play video using the proprietary format that's part-owned by Microsoft and Apple – …


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  1. Tom 7

    "able to play mainstream HTML5"

    Correction :"able to play nonstandard HTML5"

    there I fixed it for you like you want to 'fix' it for us, by completely inverting the meaning.

  2. Chris Thomas Alpha
    Thumb Up

    but this is perfectly ok

    because the user has to install it, if they installed it without permission, or seemingly obvious permission, that would be wrong.

    but a user who wants to play h264 content on their computer by installing this plugin, is totally ok with me, it's like when I wanted to play content that windows media player didnt support, I downloaded vlc and the k-lite codec packs....

    so whats the problem?

    1. lurker


      There is no problem. If MS and Google are the kids in the playground having a tussle, El Reg is part of the surrounding crowd which is gleefully shouting "Scrap! Scrap! Scrap!".

      Someone was always going to write a plug-in for Chrome to do this.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Definately not a problem

        It's better MS doing it than anybody else.

        Because they pay the license fee, can't sensibly demand a fee from anybody else and it's a PR disaster if they drop support for it when it's popular.

  3. g e

    Microsoft respects...

    How much doing this could dilute non-H.264 support. Maybe their altruistic tendencies will prompt Apple and Linux versions shortly.

    Thought not.

    Wonder how long it'll be before someone finds a security flaw in it.

  4. Peter X

    Presumably there's a Firefox plugin too?

    Presumably MS have also released a Firefox plugin considering it currently has more market share than Chrome? Or is this _formally_ a pissing contest?

    Is there any where I can see the the user-base for H.264, 'cos it seems to me that only OS X and Win7/Vista (ignoring mobile users) users get H.264 out of the box? So as far as I can tell, Flash still seems to be the best* way to deliver video over the interwob to desktop/laptop clients.

    *best in this case meaning least likely to fail.

    1. big_D Silver badge


      There is an equivalent plug-in for Firefox.

  5. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Balmers Revenge!

    for the 'low down dirty tricks' that Google played on thing with the Bing search results thingy.

    Now I wait with anticipation for Google's retaliation.

    This is for Stevie B.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      here! here!

      Pooor Microsoft. Somebody needs to stick up for them.

  6. Annihilator
    Paris Hilton


    Does anyone think that Google will give a rats ass? They said *they* wouldn't support it, but doubt they'd ban someone from developing a plug-in. I'm assuming that Chrome can cope with MP3 files, and hopefully this is through a 3rd party plug-in if they're following the same logic as H.264 - otherwise I'd suspect they're doing it to p1ss off Apple/MS.

    Find it somewhat odd that they'll continue to include Flash by default though.

    1. Jeremy 2


      "Does anyone think that Google will give a rats ass?"

      They shouldn't! Google have got no grounds whatsoever for complaint about MS using plugins to crowbar features into their browser. Remember Chrome Frame?

    2. LaeMing

      Actually it is good for Google in one way

      They get h264 support in Crome without needing to cough up for a licence.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    "The plug-in is designed to let users running Chrome on a Windows 7 machine – but not on a Windows XP box.. "

    I could have sworn there was an OS in between...

    1. Big-nosed Pengie

      I could have sworn there was an OS in between...

      No-one in their right mind would call that an OS.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      We don't mention the V word anymore.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Shush

        We don't mention Mistake Edition either.

    3. Bilgepipe


      "I could have sworn there was an OS in between..."

      Ahh, so you're the one who bought V.... Vest? V-something....

  8. Cameron Colley

    "...mainstream HTML5..." Bullshit.

    Since the standard is not decided upon Microsoft are, typically, pushing their own proprietary standard. Unfortunately they will win :(

    1. HMB

      like Mozilla and Google are pushing their proprietary standard?

      Like you say, since no standard is decided upon, so Google and Mozilla are just as guilty as Microsoft as pushing a proprietary one.

      Wouldn't it be a nice world if all browsers supported both formats?

  9. Dan Paul

    Help me see the video cuz I'm still using XP

    What do the bookies in the UK have for odds on how long it will take to get a plug in or cracked codec for H.264 that will work on an XP box?

    Sorry to say but I have a perfectly good XP SP-3 box that does not nag the shite out of me when I want to run a program that M$ hasn't created itself. I don't really want to "browse" for a codec since that is one of the fastest ways to get infected I know.

    A plug in or reliable source for a codec would be welcome.

    I for one welcome our video compression overlords IF they would be platform independent.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Troll icon correct

      "not nag the shite out of me when I want to run a program that M$ hasn't created itself."

      Funny I've installed about 50 - 60 programs and I don't see a sinlge nag box. Oh sorry your either to thick to turn the UAC down or you just some retard that listens to his mates in his schoolyard (who are to thick to turn the UAC down), or maybe you just don't know what the fuck you are talking about.

      The reason (i'm guessing) it's W7, is something to do with Windows XP being a decade old and not really supported any more. Just a guess.

      PS you can still use ie8 to view it.

      1. Kubla Cant

        On the subject of retards

        Pot, meet kettle.

        "Oh sorry your either to thick" should be "Oh, sorry, you're either too thick".

        "or you just some retard" should be "or you are just some retard".

        "who are to thick" FFS, it's "TOO thick".

      2. Danny 14


        mummy take away your sugar?

  10. Paul 135
    Dead Vulture

    Register anti-H.264 bias

    What is the deal with The Register's bias on this issue? Microsoft is doing everyone a favour. loaded words such as "reinfected" and "patent-encumbered". WebM is most likely "patent encumbered" as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The deal is...

      The MPEG people have been saying exactly that, however have yet to put anything on the table saying so.

      The promise not to charge anyone for using H.264 is for END USERS ONLY.

      There is nothing to stop them turning around later and demanding royalties for Opera and Mozilla at some later stage, when HTML5 is well establised, They are just not doing it at the moment.

      Embedding H.264 in free software is just asking for the likes of Microsoft to come along and kill your project when it gets "Inconvenient".

      TBH, I never understood why the old Amiga system of Datatypes became popular in the PC world. You end up having one codec for all programs, accessable by any program through a library with a standard API. Programs like Web browsers shouldnt really have any business doing their media decoding themselves (Including Sound, video and images)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They're already charging browsers (operating systems, portable devices etc.)

        They already charge browsers. Mozilla would be on the hook for $6.5 million dollars a year (for the next five years, after that it can go up by any amount till the patents run out in about 20 years) so we're talking over a hundred million dollars.

        That's not even getting into the fact that Mozilla is a charity dedicated to the "open web" and W3C standards don't allow patent royalties, and that any other upcoming browser (or web based re-encoding tool or video editor) would also be on the hook, which a profit driven business would obviously think is a good thing to reduce competition (see Apple and Microsoft's stance) but is hardly appropriate for a non-profit. Or that products built on Mozilla's source would also need to find money to pay for this tax.

        1. LaeMing

          Wheras this way

          Microsoft (one of the IP owners) supplies a codec plugin for free.

          (as mentioned above for Chrome, I know, but the point is very relevant for FF too)

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Tell your boss

      Thank you kindly, but I'd rather Microsoft not do me any favors.

    3. Paul 135
      Dead Vulture

      h.264 is NOT "closed" either

      .... not to mention El Reg's loaded description of H.264 as being "closed", despite being developed by a standards body with input from many different organisations, despite being the most widely used video format on the planet with hardware support from millions of devices, and despite an openly available specification with many open source code for H.264 implementations being available.

  11. EWI
    Dead Vulture

    Better articles, please

    "the patent-encumbered H.264 video codec"

    I think you mean "the patent-indemnified H.264 video codec". Why will Google not indemnify against being sued for using WebM?

    1. Bilgepipe


      Hmm, lots of downvotes with no responses to argue against your post. Sounds like you touched a nerve, there.

      1. hplasm


        Trolls snogging!!!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      H.264 isn't idemnified

      H.264 isn't indemnified, though people often think it is.

      Perhaps because people like Microsoft and Apple fans keep asking about indemnification for WebM and hoping you don't notice the hypocrisy?

      From the MPEG-LA FAQ for AVC (aka H.264):

      "Q: Are all AVC essential patents included?

      A: No assurance is or can be made that the License includes every essential patent."

  12. jonathanb Silver badge

    Good news for chrome

    Good news for Chrome. Bad news for IE.

    When, I'm looking at web pages, I prefer to have them actually work, and not have to switch between browsers depending on which video codec they happen to support. If Chrome is the only browser that supports both formats, then that is what most people will use.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    The Gentle Giants

    I will sleep soundly at night in the knowledge that two industry giants have my best interests at heart.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft's Statement

    Is most notable for it saying that Windows customers want the best experience of the web want this plugin for Chrome as it's says that Windows customers who want the best experience of the web use Chrome, not Internet Explorer. Imagine that!

  15. JDX Gold badge


    Google have their "run Chrome in IE" plugin, now MS release plugins for Chrome. Hoping this feud will provide us entertainment for some time, both companies have money to spare on it!

  16. supervan


    This is such a non, story. Google hardly banned the codec, it only dropped official support for the codec, and more specifically in relation to the video tag in HTML5.

    Microsoft is really clutching at straws now to try and take attention away from the fact that they have been caught copying Google search results. Look here everybody, nothing to see over there!

    1. LaeMing

      As much as I dislike MS

      I doubt this has anything to do with the GoogleSlurp allegaions. MS is too big a company for things to flow that neatly that quickly.

  17. Oninoshiko
    Thumb Up

    10 points Google!

    Wow, who'da thought the way to get out of paying the licenses was "refuse to put them there, the supporters will just cover it for us!"

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    Surprised, I'm not

    Chrome may have dropped H.264 for cost reasons but MS writing a plugin... that's just following the bottom line.

    H.264 is not free for use, it requires a paid licence to be able to use it. Guess who is part of the consortium that owns the patent pool and backs H.264? That's right, Microsoft is part of that group.

    Consequently, I can only speculate that Microsoft producing such a plugin is for the purposes of not discouraging use of H.264 because if everyone moves off H.264, that's less licence cash...

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      @Surprised, I'm not

      The decoder license is only part of the picture. Look at the MPEG-LA license with regard to using the coder part for commercial content. There is a fee payment due on each item encoded for commercial use, and IIRC, it's not pennies.

      I'm fairly certain that things like TV-on-demand, adverts, commercial presentations, pornography and even free videos on an ad-supported site (think Facebook and YouTube) can be considered as a commercial use, so there is much money to be extracted from content providers. In order for the providers to consider H.264 over a free codec, they have to see almost a clean sheet of browsers supporting it at no cost to the end users. Otherwise they will not see it as an expense worth paying.

      It is interesting that WinXP is being avoided. Probably trying to provide more leverage to get end users to fork out for another Windows license.

      I would love to see a system for recycling transferable XP Retail licenses from scrapped systems, rather than them disappearing into the smelter with the system case. Anybody any ideas about setting something like this up before they all disappear?

  19. HMB

    For those who bother to read...

    ...Microsoft's blog on the subject, it was really done rather well. They are supportive of WebM, but they've quite rightly pointed out that just because Google asserts that it's patent free doesn't mean people wont get sued by others for using WebM. Google choose not to indemnify others (protect them against being sued) for using the codec either. Might be a bit of a money and mouth problem there.

    Not only that, let's not forget H.264 is a superior codec with higher quality for lower bandwidth. Politics aside, the engineer part of me wants the best technical product to succeed.

    1. Nextweek


      What about the engineering part of you that wants the freedom to innovate?

      Software patents are clearly hampering codec development, the legal threats to anybody that produces an alternative means that developers stay away from the field.

      H.264 may be technically superior in quality, however its backers are spreading fear about using alternatives.

      Google are good for standing right in the firing line with releasing WebM. The fight over H.264 verse anything else is not about technical excellence today. Its about technical excellence in the future.

      What I find odd is that in reality its not the browsers that are going to decide, its the content. If Youtube went all WebM and had a banner offering the plugin for installation (like they do with flash player currently). 90% of the users of youtube would install it. Youtube like facebook and ebay have critical mass, they can decided the fate of millions.

      1. HMB

        That's a good reply!

        I like your reply. I would agree that software patents are a festering pustule of law. They're wrong and shouldn't be around in the first place. I do think patents are important to a point, but you can't blame companies for abusing them, ultimately it's government's responsibility to get law right, and they're driven by the people.

        Time to support the EFF and lobby.

        While I'm very happy to hear about H.264 getting better support, I would really like to see people supporting both standards. Since end users don't pay, let the site developers choose whether they're costs are spent on licensing or extra bandwidth for WebM.

    2. Frank Bough

      not only that...

      ...but h.264 will be decoded in the majority of instances entirely using gfx specific hardware meaning much lower power use along with superior performance and low CPU overhead.

      This CODEC battle has come at exactly the wrong time, we were on the cusp of a unified and excellent video architecture. Why couldn't Google have used its mighty dollar to buy off MPEGLA instead?

      Microsoft aren't right often, but they are this time.

    3. Lewis Mettler 1

      no doubt you are against the forced sale of IE

      No doubt you are dead set against the forced sale of Internet Exporer?

      Or, did you mean after all consumers are illegally required to purchase IE? Then and only then you claim you want the best technical product to succeed?

      How about giving each consumer the right to decide that issue at the time of purchase?

      Microsoft claims to have the interests of consumers at heart. After they buy that is.

  20. David 141

    Sick of this s**t

    I for one would be happy to use a codec that was larger and slower if it worked _everywhere_ and didn't require that I download and install a dozen different (incompatible) players, codecs, plug-ins and f***ing DRM.

    I'm sick of content being distributed in 10 different formats, in 10 different containers, with 10 different DRM schemes. I'm tired of some clips in some obscure format that only works in VLC, or working on a PS3 but not a PSP even though they both (supposedly) support it. I'm sick of half-baked plugins that crash; of codecs that come with malware, and software that requires diligent searching on obscure nerd video forums to get to work.

    Sick of it I tell you!

    The next half-wit who devises yet another media format should be locked away in a dark room and forced to watch silent black and white movies for the rest of their life.

    This is why is like MP3. It has many flaws, but at least you know it works in every damn player on the planet.

    1. James Hughes 1

      If the world worked like that

      We would still be using motion JPEG, which is shit.

      These video codecs are getting better all the time - lower bandwidth for the same quality, faster encode/decode etc.

      H264 is really very good, and has features in it that haven't even been implemented by most codecs yet. (Better and smaller encoding). WebMM is also very good - perhaps not quite as good but very good nevertheless.

      But there are constant developments going on to make them even better.

      That's why there are so many different sorts.

      There are a number of alternative to MP3 as well, but because music is relatively low bandwidth, there is not the incentive to change as there is with video formats. Bandwidth vs quality is the driver here.

  21. ~mico
    Thumb Up

    This is as it should be...

    End users should not suffer from the wars of industry giants. Now, with Google releasing webm plugin for IE, and Microsoft - h.264 plugin for Chrome, all is good with the world.

    1. Lewis Mettler 1

      all is as it should be?

      Since when is being forced to buy IE first "as it should be"

      Consumers want to pick and choose all of their applications and not be force fed first.

      Microsoft claims to act in the consumers interest. But, only after they have been forced to buy key Microsoft only applications. Before that it is screw all consumers.

      If you have a copy of IE, you were forced to buy it first. No choice to avoid the purchase at all. Only later do the idiots from Microsoft act claiming to be in the interest of consumers.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Hmmm a nice way to spin vertical integration and product lock in.....

    Microsoft said on Wednesday that it has built the Windows Media Player HTML5 Extension for Chrome because it respects the fact that "Windows customers want the best experience of the web including the ability to enjoy the widest range of content available on the Internet in H.264 format."

    VLC media player - plays anything.

    1. Paul 135

      VLC not good in the browser

      VLC is great for playing local content, but in terms of browser plugins the Windows Media Player one is superior. As it stands VLC's browser plugin (especially the one for Firefox) is downright AWFUL.

  23. J I
    Thumb Down

    Are patents only bad if it's video?

    I'm with Paul 135 on this one. What has The Register got against H.264 in particular? MP3 is a patent-encumbered codec too, but I don't recall any articles complaining that audio players and browsers are "infected" with it. It's just a codec. It's up to the person encoding the video to choose whether they want to use it or not, but I'd prefer it if my browser made it easy to play back video and audio in common formats without me having to faff about downloading extra plugins. Google deciding to deliberately not support H.264 in Chrome seems, from a user-friendliness point of view, a bit annoying, but in the end not very significant.

  24. Mikel

    If you want one, make one

    Like I said when this brouhaha started. Chrome's got an open interface. If you want an H.264, make one. And they did.

    Of course it's only for Windows 7. Why would they make one for XP? They don't sell XP any more.

    The purpose for H.264 is to ensure that no free systems can play video, by threatening patent suits and injunctions. That war was lost on the day Google bought ON2 Technologies.

    BTW, apparently Microsoft pays more into MPEG-LA than it gets out in licensing fees - by about twice. This despite contributing to the patent pool. So obviously their efforts here are about control, not directly about money.

    Hardware accelleration of VP8 is well underway, with systems shipping any day now. But if you must have your H.264 and you run the rather bizarre combination of Chrome browser on Windows, here you go. Be careful what you click on from here on out - Microsoft's been known to make some curious decisions in software design, particularly when integrating their products with a competitors'.

    1. Frank Bough


      "The purpose for H.264 is to ensure that no free systems can play video, by threatening patent suits and injunctions."

      Absolute horseshit. Why do freetards think everyone else's time, talent and sweat isn't worth paying for?

      Bloody hippies.

      1. Lewis Mettler 1

        because you were not given the choice

        No Microsoft customer is given the choice NOT to purchase it.

        Only illegal acts sell "time, talend and sweat" and force consumers to pay for it.

      2. myhandle

        Re: bloody hippies

        Have you sent your donation to the mozilla organisation yet? Everybody benefits from these "hippies". I guess people forget so easily the price that software used to be before the hippies got involved some 20 years ago. You have to be that old I guess.

      3. Anonymous Coward

        FFS indeed

        Some good souls (not you) have freely contributed their talent and time to build stuff for the world to enjoy for free (as in beer).

        To make sure it stays free (as in beer) they distribute it under a free (as in escaped from guantanamo) licence. They do that because they want the world to be a better place, or they hate software patents, or they are tired of corporate abuses, etc.

        What escapes you ?

        Bloody red neck. :o)

  25. JaitcH

    I am tired of all this underhanded downloading of bloatware

    The early versions of Windows Media Player were of a reasonable size and I left the on my machines. Slowly they grew in size as new 'features' were added. What really grabbed me was bloody advertising appearing under "Media Guide".

    So I dumped it and live happily with Irfanview and some very handy plug-ins and VLC which handles any video I am interested in.

    1. Lewis Mettler 1

      but you still have to purchase the Windows Media Player

      No consumer I know of or have ever heard of wants to be forced to buy something if they think they want other technology.

      You can claim to dump Microsoft software only after you are first required to purchase it.

      If you have a copy of the Windows Media Player, your opinion simply does not count. Microsoft got your money just the same.

      1. Renato

        Re: but you still have to purchase the Windows Media Player

        I don't know why the freetards here are talking about purchasing IE and/or WMP.

        IE, WMP, the h264 decoder, Notepad etc, etc, comes with Windows. Microsoft makes you purchase those software the same way Apple forces you to purchase Safari, QuickTime & its codecs and TextEdit with MacOS X.

        If you want to licence the Windows kernel but not IE and a h264 decoder, but want a MP3 decoder, you can go ahead and licence only those components. By the way, when Windows is licenced this way it is called Windows Embedded Standard 7.

  26. myhandle

    Re: Bloody hippies

    Actually, this is funny. I remember actually buying my first copy of netscape. Then the non-hippy, i.e. microsoft, installed explorer for free. And that was the end of that.

  27. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Whoa there!

    I like to have a bash at MS as much as the next person, but where's the problem here?

    If MS want to waste their time and money doing this, that's there business, isn't it? There is nothing wrong with adding closed source into open-source, it's not a crime you know.

    Nvidia produce closed source drivers for Linux, which quite a few of us use to ensure our Linux boxes work properly as the open drivers are yet 100%.

    You make a choice and accept the risks. Google are not forcing you to use Chrome. MS are not forcing you to use this codec. You make a choice to play certain types of video format, if you have to go that route then that is your choice.

  28. codemonkey

    ...while Rome burns...

    Springs to mind....

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