Posts tagged h264

Last comment on the Chrome WebM debacle

Icon from the Tango Desktop Project

I'm pretty much over the whole Google Chrome WebM debacle, but John Gruber summarised it better than anyone else at the end of a recent Daring Firewall post. I'd leave a comment there, but… y'know ;).

How Google’s decision to drop native H.264 playback from Chrome serves to prop up Flash Player. […]

The least amount of work these companies can do now, to continue serving video to Chrome users, is to keep using H.264-encoded video via Flash Player. There is no sign that any of these companies share the idealistic concerns of H.264 opponents, and every sign that they’re satisfied with H.264’s technical merits and legal status.

Thus, dropping native H.264 playback from Chrome while still allowing H.264 playback via Flash Player isn’t going to drive adoption of WebM. It just means that Chrome users will get H.264 via Flash.


Exactly. As Alexander Sadlier pointed out in the comments thread in my previous post, WebM doesn't need Flash to be played in most browsers. I'm hugely relieved I was wrong about that.

Unfortunately, this doesn't negate the fact the immediate effect of removing the H.264 codec will be to push more people onto Flash. Say what you will about the legal status of H.264, but at least it can be played in an HTML5 <video> tag without the need for a closed, proprietary plugin..

The wrapup

  • Google claims they’re removing H.264 because they want to encourage open innovation, but they keep the closed and proprietary Flash plugin.

  • Google lambasted Apple for being exclusive rather than inclusive at Google IO, and now they’re being exclusive. Had Apple said this about Google, the tech media would be foaming at the mouth reporting how evil, closed and two-faced Apple is, but because its Google they’ve largely ignored it. Grilled cheese sandwiches.

  • Most sites will likely save themselves the trouble and continue serving H.264. It has an enormous hardware install base, mature video editing tools (we’re kidding ourselves if we think a ffmpeg stopgap counts) and can be delivered via Flash to Chrome users.

  • WebM has its own legal and technological shortcomings; for example, did you know Google offers no patent infringement indemnification?

  • I once walked down the street backwards in Raffles Place just to count how many people stared at me. Surprisingly, very few did because they had their faces buried in their smartphones.

  • The legal issues with H.264 have been greatly exaggerated by an easily excitable tech press. I never thought I’d partly agree with Ed Bott on something :O.

  • I also maintain a little conspiracy theory that this is a strategic move to cozy up to Adobe to counteract Apple and Microsoft (and HP/Palm… do people still care about them? Damn I’ve always wanted a Pre), rather than a philosophical position as they’re claiming. They’re proporting to be for openness on the one hand, while pushing people onto Flash with the other. Its an absolute master stroke of geniusness.

I have two footers

Anyway, I'm over this and ready to move on. I don't use Chrom[e,ium], nor do I even watch video through a browser. If I'm going to be downloading video on a relatively crappy Aussie internet connection, I may as well use BitTorrent and create a local copy so I'm not having it counted multiple times on the metered quota thingy. The Bird is The Word.

Chrome dropping H.264 but not Flash?

So the iPhone is coming to Verizon? This is bigger news: The Google Chromium team have announced the impending removal of the H.264 codec from Chrome. Oh well, I never used it as my primary browser anyway.

Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.

I envy their convictions, but I see several glaring issues with this.

Being open by being closed

Leaving aside all the other glaring technical and legal shortcomings of WebM — Google's proposed new video standard that's grounded in good intentions but alas falls short — the main problem with it right now is it requires a Flash wrapper.

Google is claiming they're doing this for the sake of "open innovation"… by requiring Flash? Maybe they mean open because Flash is one of the most insecure pieces of junk online and they give open access to your machine by malicious users. Yeah, that must be it!

If we were to draw their line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, Google should be dropping the closed, proprietary Flash from Chrome [fixed] as well. They're not, and there's no way around this glaring fact. Well, maybe if you're a Fox News presenter you could figure out a way, like Glenn Beck no doubt will after this fiasco! But I digress.

The Google IO Factor

Google IO

This was a comment left by Bob Andfeld on my post back in May 2010 about Google's support for Flash (Google supporting Flash doesn't make it open). My verbosity frustrates even me, he put it more eloquently and in less space than I ever could:

For a company such as Google that prides itself on being open and advertises its mobile platform as such, their support of closed Flash is absolutely baffling, yet enough people are willing to parade in their defense.

But it gets better! Say what you will about the open/closed nature of H.264, but at the last Google IO conference Eric Schmidt made the comment that the web should be about inclusion not exclusion, in reference to Apple's exclusion of Flash from their iDevices. And now, Google is excluding something.

I suppose that's no different than people like Paul Thurrott poking fun at Apple for not including cut and paste, then rushing to Microsoft's defence when they didn't ship the feature in Windows Phone 7. I suppose doing no evil doesn't include having double standards ;).

Knowledge is better than ignorance ~ Sergey Brin

I’m not one to dwell on conspiracy theories (unless they’re fun ones like the moon landing was fake, or Area 51 was actually where Chuck Norris had a house), but I’m beginning to entertain the notion that Google is hiding something, and its only becoming more obvious. Why would a company that prides itself on being open have such support for a plugin that is anything but, even going out of their way to demonstrate their mobile phone hardware with it at events? Are they in kahoots with Adobe?

There’s something more going on here, and we’re not being told about it. I reckon Shantanu wants a ride in Sergey and Larry’s private 767 with the hammocks, and Sergey and Larry want some free copies of Illustrator so they can redesign the Chrome logo to not look like the Windows XP logo that's been swirled once. Yeah, that must be it!

There’s hope!

At this stage I'd triumphantly talk about my browser vendor since 2003, but Mozilla will probably side with Google on this. At this rate maybe I need to switch to Safari with FlashBlock! Nah, eLinks is where its at! :D

Needless to say, I'm glad I heeded no attention to the constant and increasingly vocal barrage of advice from people to move over to it. Ruben, move to Chrome! Hey Ruben, Chrome is cool, use it! Yo dawg, I heard you like Google tracking you…!

With all this gloom and doom talk, sometimes its worth remembering though what makes the web so strong and open in the first place. If a browser vendor starts to not make any sense, or do things we don't approve of or agree with, we can always just switch to something else and access the same internet as everyone else. Well, other than Internet Explorer, or Windows Internet Explorer Service Pack 1 Home Premium Edition or whatever they're calling it now :).

And from how this affects me personally, I use [flavour of the month] wrapped in Matroska from BitTorrent anyway. I mean, wait, no I don't. You didn't read that.