Looks like the future of web based video just got a little more interesting. Apple has been supporting a technology called H.264 for HTML 5 video on all of its devices and in its QuickTime Player software. However, earlier this year Google announced the launch of a royalty free open source codec called WebM for HTML 5 video. Then Google ironically decided to drop compatibility for H.264 altogether in their Chrome web browser opting exclusively to use their WebM codec citing its open nature while at the same time continuing support for Adobe Flash. So on the one hand Google Chrome has dropped its compatibility with H.264 video a proprietary HTML 5 video codec opting to exclusively implement their WebM codec but is supporting the closed Adobe Flash plugin.
Meanwhile Microsoft is surprisingly supporting both formats in Internet Explorer 9. Clearly Google knowing all too well of Apple’s dislike for Adobe Flash and their refusal to allow it on their iOS devices has chosen to continue supporting Adobe Flash while also pushing their WebM technology for HTML 5 video. H.264 is clearly the industry leader for HTML 5 video and was even before WebM’s launch but its worth wondering how competition from WebM will affect H.264? Some speculate this may hurt Google others think it will help them. I have no insights to offer on whether it harms or helps Google to drop H.264 but one thing is clear. That is going forward Google Chrome will only support HTML 5 web videos using Google’s WebM (VP8) codec or the open source Theora codec.
If H.264 becomes the industry standard for HTML 5 web video this would not bode well for Google. Imagine for a moment if all or most of the HTML 5 videos on the web are made compatible with the proprietary H.264 codec that is now incompatible with Google Chrome. H.264 is even used for Blu Ray and Apple uses it in all of their entertainment devices and software. So I repeat the question was dumping H.264 completely in Chrome a smart idea of Google’s or a bad idea?