Google Bets On WebM vs. H.264 Video
More news on the online video standards battle: Google will be removing support for the H.264 video codec.
Why is this significant?
First, here is a bit of clarification and some relevant background. A video codec is software that enables video compression and/or decompression of digital video and audio—hence the term codec. This compression software can be programmed into applications, or installed as plug-ins (i.e. for QuickTime™), used in browsers, or built into devices. A codec is the central part of any digital media-delivery platform. Because of this importance, there has been a standards battle going on for years. There are dozens and dozens of codecs out there. For example, most audio players use MP3, DVD players use MPEG 2, Blu-rays and many online streaming services like YouTube use the H.264 codec. Most codecs are patented, owned and licensed by the companies that developed them (or the consortium of large companies that invested in them—patent pools). So if you want to play MPEG videos in your Apple QuickTime™ player, you need to pay the MPEG patent pool (Moving Picture Expert Group) $19.99 to install the MPEG plug-in component. You're not paying Apple.
Now what about H.264?
H.264 is one of the the most ubiquitous codecs in use. Most people don’t know the H.264 codec is owned by MPEG-LA and this patent pool has the right to control the royalties for its use at any time. The MPEG-LA patent pool includes Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Sharp, Cisco, LG Electronics, Hp, Toshiba and Dolby and others. Consider that H.264 is built into devices like Blu-ray players and yes, even your new DSLR video camera! Many people think the MPEG-LA consortium has not been aggressive about the collection of these fees in order to encourage this mass adoption—then they will drop the hammer. Some of those people work at Google.
Google owns YouTube
This brings us to the Google announcement that it would be removing Chrome’s HTML5 support for the H.264 video codec. Now you may see the logic here and now we can connect the dots. Google’s stated reason to drop H.264 is to "focus its support on open-source standards":
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Google states: “Specifically, we are supporting the WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs, and will consider adding support for other high-quality open codecs in the future. 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. ...To use and distribute H.264, browser and OS vendors, hardware manufacturers, and publishers who charge for content must pay significant royalties—with no guarantee the fees won’t increase in the future. To companies like Google, the license fees may not be material, but to the next great video startup and those in emerging markets these fees stifle innovation.”