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.

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Ruben Schade is a technical writer and infrastructure architect in Sydney, Australia who refers to himself in the third person. Hi!

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