back to article Google axes Jobsian codec in name of 'open'

Google has announced that its Chrome browser will no longer include support for H.264, the patent-encumbered video codec favored by Apple and Microsoft. Future versions of Chrome will only include support for the open source and royalty-free WebM and Ogg Theora codecs. This past May, Google itself open sourced the WebM codec as …

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Anonymous Coward

Flash

While Flash is not open, Google doesn't pay a royalty to incorporate it into the browser either. The Flash plug-in is free to download and use. The same cannot be said for H.264. So the real difference is free compared to royalties. If H.264 was free to use, this would be a non-issue. Steve needs to lay off the whole Flash thing, it is tiring hearing him repeat the same points over and over.

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Ignorant? or just disingenuous?

"While Flash is not open, Google doesn't pay a royalty to incorporate it "

Google may not pay a royalty, but content producers do when they have to buy Adobe's software to produce Flash-based content.

H.264 *IS* free to use, for end-users, just like Flash.

"The Flash plug-in is free to download and use. The same cannot be said for H.264."

So you've paid for an H.264 browser plugin, have you?

"If H.264 was free to use"

Seriously. Please direct me to where all these paying H.264 users are?

"Steve needs to lay off the whole Flash thing"

Impressive. You took an article about Google and managed to wheedle in an irrelevant dig at Jobs. Good work. Take the rest of the day off.

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Actually

Although the development of flash is not quite open as in opensource, the creation of content does not require anyone to shove money at Adobe. There are plenty of ways to create content for flash without ever using any Adobe product. Even a series of opensource products that support the creation of flash content.

Flash develop for example is a IDE you can use on windows. The Flex SDK is opensource(Adobe). Then you can also use HAXE and SWFmill on linux to build and program flash movies. And for visual content you can use GIMP if thats your thing. There are also players out that support the flash format. So you really dont have to use any Adobe produced tools/content to do anything with flash.

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@Ian Davies

'"If H.264 was free to use"

Seriously. Please direct me to where all these paying H.264 users are?'

In the same way the NHS is free. You can use it as many times as you want but you don't have to pay.

But then you are paying for it. In your taxes. Even if you don't use it, you are still paying.

So, if the likes of Mozilla want to use it, they either have to swallow the cost or start charging people for Firefox to pass on the codec's cost.

And if they charged for Firefox, people would be paying even if they didn't watch any online videos.

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Flip reversing it

Flash supports H.264. Some, but no means all, browsers support H.264. As a content provider, you can (in theory) therefore keep a single encoded video and serve it in either a Flash container or an MP4 container as the browser will accept. Per the current version of Flash, you definitely need that H.264 video in order to reach the majority of end users. So whatever licensing issues may apply to Flash, you're already having to navigate them. From that point of view, H.264 as a supported <video> tag codec is a big technical win.

Of course, I take Google's point that integrating something that is patent encumbered into the core stuff of the web — whether by specification or by common practice — could stifle innovation and raise costs in the future. See also: the GIF debacle. WebM hasn't been litigated yet, which is a worry, but the simple act of muddying the water is likely to be beneficial while the standard is still up in the air. I'm willing to take Google at face value when they say that they expect WebM to be litigation proof; their very selective stands against proprietary technology may be self serving but in this instance Google's best interest aligns with the web's best interest.

What I don't put any stock in is ad hominem attacks on anyone that calls Google hypocritical. Even supposing that all those calling Google's stance hypocritical are doing so through a vested interest in the Apple ecosystem and that Apple themselves take hypocritical positions, how does that exonerate Google?

For my money, the people Google are being hypocrites and we're all benefitting as a result.

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WTF?

H.264 is not 'open', use involves paying bills

Open means open: open and FREE for all to use.

Little from Apple. or MS, is truly 'open' unless there is a benefit from them making it open, which happens on occasion and sometimes only under duress.

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Grenade

What does "open" mean?

I thought "open" meant free as in speech, not free as in beer?

The reason Apple don't like Flash is because they have no control over the technology. If everyone uses Flash, and Adobe chooses not to support Flash particularly well on Apple hardware, there is NOTHING Apple can do about it. Having been in that uncomfortable position before, they don't want to be at the mercy of 3rd parties in that way ever again.

If HTML5 and H.264 are used then Apple are free to provide their own implementation, so if the performance is crap they are in a position to fix it. Even if that involves paying a fee, the point is that it's a level playing field. Anyone and everyone can license the technology subject to the same terms. No one can turn around to Apple and say "we'll only let you license H264 if you bundle X with your computers, or if you agree not to sell in such and such a market, or if you use our decoder chips, or if you pay ten times as high a license fee as our friends Y". I believe that's what "open standard" means in this context.

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Re. "What does "open" mean?"

This.

All of this.

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Anonymous Coward

@Rolf

>Adobe chooses not to support Flash particularly well on Apple hardware there is NOTHING Apple can do about it

Since the Flash specification is open they can always write their own player......others have done so.

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Flash is open??

Are you seriously trying to argue that H.264 is closed, while Flash (which, incidentally, depends on H.264) is open? It's true that Adobe released the SWF specification, but until very recently use of that spec was only licensed for creating software that *exported* to SWF, not for *playback*. Recently they relaxed that restriction, but there are still important parts of the specification such as details of certain of the codecs that are omitted.

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Fanboi stupidity by Google will damage HTML5

Too many groups of fanbois in this modern tech world. Every time fanbois get the better of a situation stupidity like this incurs.

Google are hypocrites.

They can't claim they support being open and offering choice only to then turn around and in an adolescent move decide to drop the more popular of the two choices. Fact is Google already pays other licensing fees for other technology they use within Chrome that is also patented so to say this is about licensing is non-sense.

This whole thing smells of being nothing more than a bit of territorial pissing content to appease WebM fanbois.

I was grateful for Google's previous support of HTML5's main two video codecs H.264 and WebM for the reason that it encouraged HTML5 adoption and helped towards the advancement of the web and was encouraging to see Microsoft help bring both codecs to both IE9 and Firefox, even if Microsoft would only offer WebM as an optional download. So this about turn which in truth if you strip away the stories they are making up is nothing more than a zealot like act only goes to damage the future of the web.

One could fairly criticise Safari (and Apple) for not supporting WebM under Safari but this is not about Apple, this was Google's action, so to talk about Apple is a deflection of the impact of Google's actions here. It is not about Flash either as Flash is not a part of HTML5 technology but it is ironic Google who now has an Anti-H.264 stance still supports and bundles Flash which supports the codec itself.

There are numerous sites which support H.264 as an alternative to Flash, as one site has already pointed it this will only double their costs to support both WebM and H.264 and none will drop H.264 support as this would then effectively kill support for HTML5 video for IE and Safari, Safari on iOS devices.

Furthermore sites that had the relatively comprehensive list of IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari that could all use HTML5 with H.264 for video now may be forced due to this (financial/technical/etc reasons) to drop all HTML5 support and forcing the web's adoption of HTML5 to go in reverse.

So thank you Google for screwing up the future of the web all to appease some fanbois, reducing choice and doing something which had no real technical merit.

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RE: Fanboi stupidity by Google will damage HTML5

So, what you're saying is that the future of the internet should be that only those who can afford to pay royalties to MPEG LA should be able to post video? Because that is the main point here.

Apple thinks, not surprisingly, that HTML5 should force people to pay to license H.264 and that consumers should have the possibility of having free support for viewers removed at the discretion of MPEG LS. Google, on the other hand, wants a free CODEC to be used so that nobody needs to pay license fees to make HTML5 pages.

As for Flash player -- it is currently a necessary evil and nothing more. That said, is it necessary to pay Adobe to use Flash on your website? I'm afraid I don't know as I'm not a web designer.

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eh?

...and making a codec with a royality price tag attached a standard is a good thing for the web how?

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Jobs Halo

Spot the follower of Saint Jobs...

"Furthermore sites that had the relatively comprehensive list of IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari that could all use HTML5 with H.264 for video now may be forced due to this (financial/technical/etc reasons) to drop all HTML5 support and forcing the web's adoption of HTML5 to go in reverse."

Since when has Firefox (currently THE most popular web brower in Europe*) supported H.264...?

*http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/01/04/firefox_just_beats_internet_explorer_europe_market_share/

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Happy

H264 costs money

If you feel that strongly about it then why don't you offer to pay the H264 royalties on behalf of Google? If you're prepared to chip-in then I'm sure they'll reconsider their decision.

Google and many other people and companies are not dropping H264 just for a laugh. And not just to piss you off. The problem is that H264 is not free (it costs real money, or at least the consortium controlling it is suggesting that it will cost real money in a few years time). If there is a lower cost or zero cost alternative, then Google (as a commercial company), or indeed anyone else, would be bonkers not to consider it. They have considered it and made the decision that H264 costs more than the alternative. What's the argument againt this?

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@AC: Fanboi stupidity

You are missing the point.

Flash has been the standard technology for video on the web for the last ten years. HTML5 video creates a possibility for another technology to be the next new standard.

Google's own WebM is supported by Chrome, Opera and Mozilla (something like 50% of actual browser usage, depending on statistics you use). H.264 was supported by IE, Safari and Chrome (something like 62% of actual browser usage). Thus H.264 was in the better position because Google Chrome supported it. Google's own browser support for H.264 was set to undermine Google's efforts on behalf of WebM.

By dropping support for H.264, Google has reduced support for H.264 to about 50%. This gives WebM a fighting chance (and insures that the battle for the HTML5 video standard on the web will rage on for another three years at least).

Regardless of fanboi stupidity, it makes perfect sense for Google not to undermine it's own investment in WebM.

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Because HTML 5 is all about video

Get a grip!

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you've got it wrong

h264 for is standard and has been for several years. it's free to use for end users. video content creators need to pay royalties (and this also depends on the nr of distributions - check mpegla website for details)

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Happy

Not because H.264 costs money

H.264 does cost, but I doubt this is the reasons for it being dropped.

This has to be seen in the wider context of the war between Google and Apple. Google needs to lock people into its proprietary services (paid search and advertising, mainly) as this is where they make their money. Apple threatens this revenue stream as the iOS platform might, some time soon, choose to direct searchers to other engines (Bing supported added recently). Further (and more fundamental), iOS users use search less than those on desktop browsers, instead using apps to pull content from the web. On top of this, Apple is challenging Google in its core market of advertising, further threatening to lock google out of the lucrative segment represented by iOS users.

This is a push by Google to erect a wall around its web services and lock-out iOS users. They're already doing this. For example, the new (and very cool looking) Maps only work on Android right now. If Google can reserve access to its web services to users of its money-making products, it its market position is strengthened.

My guess is that Apple has anticipated this and will soon roll-out their own versions of Google web services (a Mobile Me YouTube alternative being the obvious one).

So, Google's move it to shore-up their threatened business model by undermining how far their services can be used on iOS devices. Far from being a move to 'openness', it's a move that steals the language and work of the Open Source movement to support the completely closed services from which Google makes its money. This is a tough reality to accept for many people, but very clearly true.

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@Hex

>it's free to use for end users

Nope. Its only free for Internet Broadcast AVC Video, anything else and MPEG-LA requires a royalty.

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@JimboG

I agree with your post. However, I would like to add one key point that everybody seems to be missing: while Google is concentrating on "The Web" as the sole source of content for consumption (GoogleTV, I'm looking squarely at you!), Apple seems more preoccupied with the inter-working of various media devices for this same purpose. In a very true sense, iOS devices form a rich ecosystem that encompasses *much* more than the Web. Tablets, television sets, HD movies, personal computers, content streaming, DVDs, etc. are all treated mostly equally in this ecosystem.

Now, the key point is that, outside the World Wide Web, the main codec for digital video used--and the de facto standard--is H.264. There is no question about this. Thousands of products, devices and applications alike, support this standard, which enriches and simplifies the experience of streaming and transferring video between them. More importantly, it opens it to any manufacturer of devices and to all creators of content, equally.

But Google makes no money outside the Web. Their core business is advertising within the World Wide Web. Therefore, it is in their most pressing interest to disrupt these external ecosystems, and promote the Web as the centralized point of access to content, while simultaneously segregating it from outside access (come on, do you think a name like "WebM" suggests it's focus on any other source?).

Make no mistake: this is purely a move against Apple. It is no coincidence that they chose to keep support for Flash--the single technology disavowed by Steve Jobs in iOS. By removing H.264 from their browser and promoting technologies not readily supported outside the Web, they are attempting to force content producers to support their "Die Web ist Alles" model with the expectation that Apple users will come back to use "their" Web, and thus extend their advertising reign and cast Apple's ecosystem to irrelevancy in one single master stroke.

That all this is done under the guise of "open" and "free" is not only disingenuous, but downright malicious. Google fans should think carefully about their allegiances, despite Apple's intentions and motivations.

-dZ.

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@JimboG

You're probably correct about Google's motivation -- but I would argue that in this case the end result, that WebM has been made completely free of patent and royalties and that it may end up the CoDeC of choice for HTML5, is a good one for everyone. Regardless of Google's eventual aim it is hard to see how having an open CoDeC as the standard could harm Mozilla or Opera, for example.

@DZ-Jay: You may be right to some degree. However, if you were to look into WebM you would find that it is a container format and that the equivalent to H.264 is called VP8 and that AMD, ARM, Broadcom, Qualcomm and Intel have all suggested they may include hardware acceleration* for this in upcoming chips. So, far from being web only, this is something which everyone but Apple can enjoy -- well, in fact, Apple could enjoy it too if they felt like it.

*Whatever that means -- I'm inclined to agree with Philip Storry and ask just what this really means.

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WebM in itself isn't bad, but the strategy is

@Cameron Colley

"but I would argue that in this case the end result, that WebM has been made completely free of patent and royalties and that it may end up the CoDeC of choice for HTML5, is a good one for everyone."

I take the point that a patent unencumbered WebM might not be a bad thing...putting aside the fact that it seems certain to be challenged by the big patent owners to see if they can ring some royalties out of it, the big question is if you want the Google Everywhere strategy to succeed. Google's model relies on near-monopoly for the business's survival. Apple's model relies on convincing the top, say, 25% of every market that they produce the best products. I feel much less threatened by Apple's model than Google's. Much like MS, Google's pretty much given up on competing on quality and instead has moved to competing on FUD and locking-out the competition.

Two things give me hope that google will fail. One; they're not very good at being lock-in merchants. This WebM decision smells like a U-turn waiting to happen. As others have said, there's so much momentum behind H.264 that it will be extremely hard to shift to WebM anytime soon. Two; the industry is wise to MS-style tactics. Never again will companies be so naive as to let one company control all the standards (I''m not suggesting that companies in the 80s and 90s acquiesced to MS, but that they were unable to stop them).

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Amen

"What we can say is that you should always be wary of anyone who uses the word "open""

Particularly from any company with shareholders.

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FAIL

wait, what?

"Then MacAskill tweeted again: "I'm left with two choices: Gulp and double my costs on an unknown tech, or return to Flash as primary solution. Ugh. Thanks, Google.""

Umm... last I looked there are a number of browers (ok, 2, but that is a number!!) which do not support H.264, which means MacAskill always had this problem but choose to ignore it before now. Why doesn't he just ignore Crome like he has been (apperently) ignoring FF (on some platforms)?

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

Are you serious?

you cannot be serious? So.... and open source kernel, tools, browser, server applications, and protocols are not counting? You truly have no clue (aka ignorance).

http://www.opensource.apple.com/

I am not trying to defend anyone..... but man.... lets have some honest and sincere debates. People on the net these days are just whacked.

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Jobs Halo

Yes, they are serious

"I am not trying to defend anyone..... but man.... lets have some honest and sincere debates. People on the net these days are just whacked."

You'll never get that with the anti-Apple-tards, who seem to think this whole issue is down to Jobs and his Army of Dark Minions because he spoke it one time. Just look at the downvotes - you were destined for a drumming just for posting an Apple URL, let alone trying to present reasoned debate.

"Waahh, Jobs, waahh, walled garden, do what I want, waahhh," etc, etc.

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FAIL

@Bilgepipe: Serious?

Michael 5's post consisted of:

A question directed at someone for something they said, without much clarification as to whom and what it was that they said,

A series of ad hominem attacks,

and a single URL apparently intended to show that Apple is an open-source angel, but which actually serves to illustrate the point that Apple, like pretty much all tech companies today, use open source pretty much only when it's convenient for them -- and then make sure to keep key parts to themselves.

All of this misses the general point of the article and relevant comments, which are about open video standards, not about open source.

So the "reasoned debate" is where...?

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Google has it right

"this undermines Google's claims of openness. 'Dropping H.264 but keeping Flash makes them 'utter hypocrites''"

Nonsense!

Flash is an add-on, not part of a technology defined by an Internet specification. It is NOT part of HTML--any version. As such, it's technology is arbitrary.

Google is not "keeping" Flash at all. As it and all browsers should, it is keeping the support for <object> and <embed> which makes it possible for arbitrary add-ons like Flash to work. There is no Flash technology in the browser to be removed; it's in the plug-in.

HTML5 IS an Internet specification, and one that browsers must support. That is an entirely different case. Supporting H.264 means supporting a de facto requirement for patented technology to creep into the open specs of the Internet or risk compliant video failing to play in compliant browsers.

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Stop

Safari on the desktop

Not only this but we're comparing apples with oranges here! Have Apple blocked Flash in the desktop version of Safari? NO!

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Standards and patented tech

"Supporting H.264 means supporting a de facto requirement for patented technology to creep into the open specs of the Internet or risk compliant video failing to play in compliant browsers."

<- THIS

This is precisely the point. Furthermore, if somebody with influence doesn't act, we'll be looking another generation of open source platforms / browsers that are locked out of HTML 5 video by simple merit the the fact that Apple and MS have used their influence to ensure that a patented codec is in widespread use, rather than an open one.

I applaud Google for have the balls to do this. As has been pointed out, it is in their interests, as they have Android and Chrome OS to consider, both of which will really need to default to WebM if their are going to remain open and also natively support HTML5 video.

From a wider POV, it is in all our interests. What ON EARTH in the point of moving away from a closed proprietary plugin (Flash) for video, to a close proprietary codec which has somehow infiltrated its way into an open standard?

That's going from bad to worse, surely?

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Numpty

"Google is not "keeping" Flash at all."

Chrome ships with its own embedded, sandboxed version of the Flash plugin.

What would you call it?

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Fail

"There is no Flash technology in the browser to be removed; it's in the plug-in."

Nice try, but Chrome has Flush sandboxed into it. Google = hypocrisy.

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You nailed!

Exactly. Flash and H264 are in 2 different categories.

People seam to forget what "royalty" means...

Examples:

If I have to develop a program using VS2008, I have to acquire the license for it, once. If tomorrow I have to make another program that requires me to use VS2008 I don't have to buy it again.

If i were a music company, i would have to pay a percentage of each song sold, always. If that is not bad enough, i would also have to pay a percentage to the owner of the "encoding" FOR EACH SONG SOLD, not just for the right to encode it the first time...

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WebM already well adopted, thanks to Android!

Which desktop browsers do not support WebM is going to get increasingly irrelevant! Android devices (both phones, pads and notebooks) are spreading like the kudzu, and they support WebM (except for very old Android releases). This is why Google feels confident it can make this radical move.

I predict that Apple and Microsoft are going to have to swallow their pride and start supporting WebM properly as well, otherwise their browsers get marginalized.

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Once again

Once again Google choose the inferior option (just like using s VM in Android is inferior) just because it is open.

H.264 has hardware decoding on many devices.

When did everyone ditch MP3 and use alternatives due to licence fees? oh right, that'll be never then.

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Troll

"except for very old Android releases"

What, like on phones from Sony that are only 6 months old and aren't getting any new updates?

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Anonymous Coward

Funny you should say that...

If Google do aim to make the browser completely closed technology free, the next to go will be MP3 and AAC support.

You only have to look at the spec differences between Chrome and Chromium to see how things might end up.

http://code.google.com/p/chromium/wiki/ChromiumBrowserVsGoogleChrome

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WTF?

Ermmm

...Mic rosoft as stated many,many,many,many times will allow WebM as it does with many, many,many,many other codecs.

But hey let's bash MS for the sake of it. Facts? Pah who needs them!

Read the article? Nah that's for idiots.

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Mutton dressed as lamb

Just because Sony were stupid enough to use an old release on a new phone and you were stupid enough to buy one doesn't make Android 1.6 any newer. I really liked the look of the X10 but v1.6 vs v2.2 is a no brainer so I ended up with a Galaxy S.

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@Dave Murray

Who said I bought one?

Please try and keep your prejudices and fevered hallucinations from encroaching on what people have actually said.

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Not by default

Re "Mic rosoft as stated many,many,many,many times will allow WebM as it does with many, many,many,many other codecs. But hey let's bash MS for the sake of it. Facts? Pah who needs them!"

There is a big difference between allowing and supporting. Of course you have always been able to use any codec on Windows for which someone has written a dll for, without Microsoft objecting to it, even back in the Windows 3.1 + Video for Windows days (been there). But I don't think any virgin installation of Windows + IE supports WebM. When that happens, I will say MS supports WebM. Not earlier.

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@Giles Jones

"When did everyone ditch MP3 and use alternatives due to licence fees? oh right, that'll be never then."

When hard disks became big enough to encode everything as FLAC, which would be several years ago now.

I don't use a portable media player much these days, but transcoding to ogg while copying files to my iRiver is seamless. Most of the time I listen to music at work via Slimserver. Again, seamless transcoding to ogg.

I can't think of any reason to have your music collection in mp3 these days.

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And soon WebM will, too.

Both nVidia and AMD are prepping hardware updates to allow hardware WebM decoding.

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Are you referring to the X10?

"What, like on phones from Sony that are only 6 months old and aren't getting any new updates?"

Riiiight, except that it got an update, and it now runs 2.1, and they're apparently planning a 2.2 release for this year.

Please try and keep your fevered hallucinations from encroaching on what has actually happened.

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Net Applications would seem to disagree

Android is irrelevant in terms of browser market share. Chrome is the big hitter, and rightly the focus of the story. Per Net Applications, Chrome is the third most popular browser, pushing 10% of the entire market for browsing the web. All the Android devices put together manage just 0.4%. Chrome + Android is about double Safari + iOS, but with the caveat that Chrome (and, usually, Safari, though on some devices you have to install it yourself now) can fall back on Flash support.

iOS versus Android? 1.69% to 0.4%, with iOS up 0.33% during November, Android up 0.09% but by a larger proportion compared to where it started. Neither significant enough in numbers terms to really have an effect.

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Its in the hardware

FLAC and OGG are nice open source formats. I have my entire CD collection ripped as FLAC on my media server. But you know.. I keep an MP3 version of that collect on my desktop PC, because 100% of the portable players on the market play MP3 files, I can't think of one that doesn't have that ability. No extra re-encoding from FLAC to MP3 if a friend wants a song. Even though its only seconds, I'd rather not spend time doing it.

MP3 is going to be around for a long long time just like the CD, heck even Vinyl is still being pressed. OGG came out the gate too slow and too late in the game. And now both it and FLAC don't have hardware decoding. I don't see anyone saying anything about adding that to their processors or chipsets anytime soon, even though their both open formats. Its a shame too, because back some years ago I was doing a FLAC / Musepack combination , but since MPC files aren't supported anywhere, I moved to the MP3 format.

True hard drives are big enough for FLAC collections, but it seems we are putting .H264 HD-like movies on them. Its everywhere and everyone already knows how to use it. FLAC, OGG, and WebM... not so much.

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Buy proper hardware?

Both my phones, my DAP, all my computers, all play OGG Vorbis and FLAC. Just quit buying the crap stuff. ;-)

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@Once again

Nobody is trying to build anything into an Internet specification that results in a dependency on MP3.

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