H.264 Remains Strong with this War on WebM - The UpStream

H.264 Remains Strong with this War on WebM

posted Sunday Mar 13, 2011 by Nicholas DiMeo

H.264 Remains Strong with this War on WebM

The ongoing battle between WebM and H.264 high definition video formats continues as this week we received some interesting stats in favor of Apple and Microsoft's side, H.264. If you remember back in January, we discussed that Chrome decided to discontinue the use of H.264 in their Chrome browser in order to defend the side of "open source" and their WebM format. Mozilla also stood by the side of Google and supported their decision. This led Apple and Microsoft, who are in the patent membership for H.264, to do something they never usually do, agree on a topic and help each other out.

Let's quickly recap the importance of this war between the two video formats. The browsers are going to decide which format they choose to go with and developers, like us, are going to have to create their videos in both formats to allow all users to see our content. HTML5 and the H.264 HD video codec will become the standard and Google is going to try to make WebM the more widely used format by forcing Chrome to not read H.264. Then, Google will turn their formerly open source codec into a closed internal project, further proving that they are really trying to control the Internet instead of trying to empower the people with options.

However, I did mention that H.264 stats have been released by video-sharing site MeFeedia that may help swing things back to the good side. For those stats, click the break.

It turns out that 63 percent of all video on the Internet is compatible with HTML5, which, considering last year it was only at 10 percent, is a pretty big deal. This means developers are going the way of making videos browser-ready in H.264 directly with HTML5 instead of solely using Flash.

In regards to Google's WebM format still being second to HTML5's H.264, MeFeedia reported,

The current order of popularity: H.264, VP8, Ogg – However, VP8 (WebM) could get a boost if YouTube decides to use it as their default playback mechanism. Currently, a user needs to know how to call a WebM YouTube video.

They also explain the developer problem with several formats very clearly.

The choices between Flash, H.264, Ogg, and VP8 means that if a video publisher wants full user support (and they should), they’ll need to support several formats for each video. Publishers are now having to address this cost/benefit scenario and the complications are compounded through tracking, monetization & delivery. Put simply, web video is maturing & becoming more complex.

Google also says that H.264 royalty fees are expensive, which is true, and Microsoft and Apple are in the patent pool of companies who license the codec, so Google and Mozilla are left paying the tab.

MeFeedia indexed over 30,000 sites for this report, including big names like Hulu, CBS, ABC, YouTube and DailyMotion.

What does this mean for us? Well, the war is going to continue until somebody backs down or agrees on one standard format. As we discussed on the show, the hardware, like video cameras, isn't going to change so we don't expect H.264 to go away anytime soon.

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