Last Tuesday Google casually announced on it's Chromium Blog that it would be phasing out Chrome support for H.264, the video codec and standard supported by Adobe Flash, Blu-ray, Internet Explorer, Safari and others. Instead, it will be supporting WebM and Ogg Theora, which are supported by Mozilla and Opera.
Ever since this announcement the tech media has been in a dither with explanations and interpretations of what this means and why Google is doing it. At this point everyone is choosing sides and drawing lines in the sand. I tried to sort this out but I can't. All I can do is to make a few general observations:
- This war (Google and Mozilla against Apple and Microsoft) will eventually make our lives as video producers and video consumers more difficult. We are all caught in the middle.
- Consumption of online video is moving more towards mobile devices everyday so how video is served to mobile devices is a big factor in this war. In fact, this war may be more about control of the mobile video space than anything else.
- Apparently Google's announcement doesn't mean that YouTube will stop serving H.264 video, yet. Eventually maybe. YouTube is a "big gun" in this war. No one wants to miss out on those 800,000 cat videos they have on YouTube!
- Apple appears to be locked in to H.264 on it's mobile devices. Anyone wanting to deliver video to Apple IOS devices must encode it in H.264. See Chris's comment below regarding http://videojs.com which allows you to serve non-H.264 video to IOS devices.
- Google claims that Android will continue to support H.264 but this is confusing to me. I don't know what it means for Android to support H.264 and Chrome not to support H.264. Seems like it's the browser that matters.
At this point the whole subject is pretty confusing. The only reason I even bring up the issue is video producers need to track what's going on in this battle so that their video is accessible to everyone. The nice thing about standards is that there are so many of them to choose from.