Feeds

back to article Google plugins force-feed open codec to IE and Safari

Google will soon release plug-ins for both Internet Explorer and Safari that play nicely with WebM, the open source and royalty-free video codec that Apple and Microsoft aren't inclined to adopt on their own. The move comes two days after Google announced that its Chrome browser would no longer support H.264, the royalty- …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.

Page:

Flash isn't a factor

…As this is about baseline video in the HTML5 standard. Flash is a plugin HTML5 doesn't care about. H.254 ought to work like a plugin, too.

4
2
Silver badge

The video tag

I can think of two easy ways for browsers to support different codecs without polluting their own codebase:

1) Use the operating system's media framework. i.e. browser encounters unsupported content type so it asks framework if it can handle it. Every OS has a framework.

2) Extend the NPAPI to handle audio / video content. i.e. browser encounters unsupported content and asks plugins if they can handle content.

Locking the browser down to support a couple of codecs is just bizarre given that H264 is an industry standard. Even if WebM is the default it makes no sense to force sites to jump through hoops with 3rd party plugins like Flash or Silverlight to circumvent a silly and avoidable restriction in browsers.

1
1
JDX
Gold badge

Strong-arm tactics

Playing rough... is anyone still buying the "we're nice and friendly" line from Google? They're doing very well at stealthy techniques to grow their dominance and steal customers from companies like MS (GMail acting as an Exchange back-up as an example).

Giving developers all these free toys is like trying to get us on-side us with sweets.

8
9
FAIL

(untitled)

Breaking M$ lock-in is now evil?

Here I thought Google is doing the right thing...

4
1
Silver badge

Erk

When MS forces something on people, e.g. VC-1, people right scream blue bloody murder. While WebM might be open source, it's still Google's codec and I really don't see much difference in what they're doing now.

Personally I reckon it's a codec is being used as a stick by Google and MPEG-LA in some contract / licencing negotiation that we're not privy to. It really doesn't make sense for Google which has massive investments in H264 (i.e. all the hardware powering YouTube) to jump ship to another codec unless there was something going on behind the scenes.

1
2
Linux

What's the problem??

Just use WebM instead of H.264

It's "Not that big of a deal".

12
7
Pint

It is that big a deal.

>>Just use WebM instead of H.264

>>It's "Not that big of a deal".

H.264 is much - much - more than a distribution codec for the web.

There is no such thing as a studio production grade WebM camcorder. No such thing as a wireless WebM video surveillance camera.

Google Shopping returns about 71,500 relevant hits for "H.264."

For "WebM" about 10.

No content protection means no Netflix support. No WebM app for the Berlin Philharmonic built into your Sony HDTV.

No WebM OnLive gaming app for your Vizio.

20% of peak hour download traffic in the states was a Netflix stream - before - Netflix offered a streaming-only service at $9 month.

The "walled garden" of the app and app store can't be confined to the smartphone. The browser isn't the only content delivery system.

There is a very real chance that it could be marginalized.

2
1
Linux

give it a year or two

There's no production grade studio camcorders yet - but when WebM is available on pretty much every computer, either directly or as an IE plugin, then manufacturers realise they can add WebM as an optional format FOR FREE... and allow a significant increase in the number of hours recording they can fit on the memory stick*, then It won't be long before WebM is available on every new camcorder...

* I know it's totally unscientific, and only a single device, but I was playing around, converting my home videos from H.264 to WebM and the files shrank by anything from a factor of 25% to 50% without loss of quality.

4
1
Stop

Re: It is that big a deal.

True, H.264 is used in other applications, but the discussion here is about websites showing video through browsers, so yours is a moot point.

Does anyone who has a studio-grade camcorder put the results straight on the web with no editing (and therefore rendering)? Professionals have always used different codecs to consumers.

1
0
Big Brother

Easy

So... time to return the favour and write a H.264 plugin for Chrome then?

7
2
Anonymous Coward

Not a problem.

Yes, I'm sure there will be an H.264 plugin for chrome soon.

Google isn't blocking or interfering with that in any way - they're just not including it (and paying the licensing fee) themselves.

This is not like Apple blocking flash - users still have the choice.

As for them including Flash but not H.264 - Flash is already used on millions of websites. I dislike it, but I need it. Hopefully, with the action that Google is taking with WebM we can avoid everyone becoming dependent on yet more non-open technology for the web.

6
2

plug-in for H.264

luckily it already exists - and activates the <video> tag in pre-HTML5 browsers as well

http://visitmix.com/labs/gestalt/widgets/video.html

0
0
Unhappy

Evil Google

How dare they spend millions on a codec, release it freely for all the world to use however they like then promote it's use over a tightly controlled patent encumbered alternative. In a wonderful new world of double speak, this is the very essence of evil.

34
5

it's just not as good

the problem with WebM is that it's not as good as H.264 (though it is better than Ogg)

* quality is poor - requiring larger files and more CPU to deliver the same quality

* no hardware acceleration - so battery life will suffer (and no iOS)

* for a site to add support for webM they have to double their costs to support a very small slice of the market

* no drm or content protection story. while we don't care studios won't let their content out that way

* no adaptive streaming (Smooth Streaming or HLS like)

all this does is push video sites back to using H.264 (which works on iOS) and for platforms that support it a Flash player to consume the H.264 ...

Google are not in this to be nice. They are a commercial, for-profit entity (just like the MPEG-LA folks). Follow the money and work out how this benefits them / hurts their competitors before lauding them.

6
4
FAIL

Do you really think...

that this move is altruistic? How very fucking naive! Google are interested only in Google and it's potential revenue streams. None of you freetards have picked up on the fact the h.264 is *the* industry standard, ISO backed video codec. I'd like to ask you and any of the 22 morons that up-voted you to prove that WebM *isn't* patent encumbered.

2
7
Heart

Meh

HTML5's <video> tag is still flakey in most browsers anyway and Flash is still by far the de facto standard. By the time HTML5 becomes mainstream issues such as quality, DRM, hardware acceleration will be largely resolved.

2
0

H.264 is the de-facto standard

Flash is not a video codec. It's a container for video encoded in other formats. H.264 is by far the most common codec in the Flash container.

0
0
Bronze badge
Thumb Down

Why you are it

You could also prove there are no submarines patents that will attack H.264 any day now

4
1
FAIL

re: fandom

No, not at all. See Mike Dimmick's post http://forums.theregister.co.uk/post/958556

0
1
Thumb Down

RE: Do you really think...

"None of you freetards have picked up on the fact the h.264 is *the* industry standard"

And now there's going to be a new one which we don't have to pay for.

This is how standards are made you moron.

3
2
FAIL

@C Yates...

No, it's not how standards are made at all. See http://goo.gl/S1bgS for a description of how this process is achieved, because it's quite clear that you haven't got a bloody clue. Next time, think before posting.

0
3
FAIL

@Mr Coward

Part of the 'standards' process involves considering the users or "freetards" as you so colourfully describe them. (See your own link.)

Perhaps you yourself should think yourself before spouting off.

2
0
Gates Halo

Err.. hello?

Standards are also made through use of paid for licensed technologies, compact disc, DVD, Blu-Ray, VHS.... Cost has nothing to do with creating a standard. Standards are driven by features. As consumers we don't care that we pay a few extra dollars for a Blu-Ray player becuase it has to support VC1, it's the price of having something fit for purpose. WebM is a long way short of H.264 in video quality. I want Blu-Ray quality web video and I'm prepared to pay for it. Heck, I'd pay for IE9 if it came to it.

People of the world need to learn that everything has a price. There is no such thing as free and nor should there be.

0
3
Unhappy

Something that seems to get little attention...

At the very least the various file/data formats for Flash has been published under an open license at the Open Screen Project. The FAQ for the project suggests that "Developers are now free to implement what is documented in the specifications without restrictions from Adobe."

So, while the Flash player bundled with Chrome is proprietary software, not *all* flash players must be proprietary. Adobe does not collect license fees on players based on the specifications - the flash *format* is open.

The same can't really be said for H.264 where the patent applies not just to the encoder/decoder technology but to the stream format itself -- the two are essentially inseparable from a licensing point of view. So, you *can* have opensource flash players but you *can't* have opensource H.264 codec software.

Curiously nobody really talks about this distinction, they just harp on about Google bundling Flash (closed software, open format) like it's exactly the same thing as supporting H.264 (closed everything).

7
2
FAIL

Eh?

It may be a case of my misunderstanding you, but when you say "it's exactly the same thing as supporting H.264 (closed everything).", you are either mis-reprtesenting fact or fail to understand fact. Let me explain...

H.264 *is* an open standard and was always developed openly. WebM was developed as a proprietary, totally closed codec, before bought by Google. So point (1): open != closed.

H.264 is a collaborative effort and has involved 2 standards organisations. The same cannot be said of WebM, on either count. Point (2): WebM is therefore simply the bastard-child of 1 brain and no standards organisation(s).

The issue is not one of open vs closed. If it were WebM would actually be lacking here, historically. The issue is one of of patents.

Concerning patents: H.264 does not require end-users such as joe public to pay for any licence. Businessses, yes. End-users? No.

Capability: WebM is lacking in so many ways (as 'OffBeatMammal' points out hereabouts). H.264 is the far superior offering.

Ultimately not only is any 'open standard' argument in favour of WebM doomed to fail (as it's simply a lie, or at best cowardly semantics), but WebM is technically inferior in so many *important* ways.

Granted, the patents and licencing surrounding H.264 may be distasteful for many, but that is an entirely seperate argument from the (partially) ill-informed (or deliberately mis-informed) one you have presented.

Personally I would rather see all major user-agents support H.264, WebM and Theora. In my opinion choice is more important than being forced to use an 'open', technically inferior solution. But that's another debate entirely.

5
3
Unhappy

Well, to be fair...

I didn't mention WebM at all. I was, instead, talking about the rampant "hypocracy" claims comparing the bundling of H.264 codecs with the bundling of Adobe Flash.

I make the claim that H.264 is "closed everything" because at present it essentially is - you cannot legally distribute a H.264 codec in open source. Either you must pay a fee as the developer, or you must pay a fee as the implementor or you must pay a fee as the user. Plus, without the codec the data in the stream is useless to you! This is in stark contrast to Flash where the data stream is, at least, documented for royalty-free reimplementation.

Regardless of where the H.264 tax is applied (and it is applied many times between the content creator and content consumer) it certainly *is* paid for by the end user. Maybe not as a discrete line item, but paid for nonetheless. That's why opensource browsers like Firefox will never include H.264 - they can't pay for it because a non-zero license fee does not fit in a zero-cost product.

I personally think it's pretty hypocritical to claim a standard is "open" if you need to pay to play, but that's, like, my opinion man. The past is also largely irrelevant - no matter how VP8 was developed, it's free-and-open *now*.

This brings us to the crux of the issue: the W3C HTML5 spec for <video>. W3C specs are royalty-free for a reason - it promotes implementation and innovation in the open web. Nobody is denying you the 'choice' of installing H.264 software on your computer - you are free to do so, at whatever cost. Google has chosen, also: chosen to stop distributing H.264 with *their* browser. This aligns with the distribution choices of Mozilla and Opera. Hopefully it will drive the selection of a W3C-friendly (royalty-free) codec for HTML5 - a selection which is the first step toward ubiquitous use of HTML5's <video> tag.

None of this, however, was my point. The only point I *intended* to make - though judging by your reply I have apparently failed at even this modest task - was that the "hypocracy" claims regarding Chrome retaining the closed source Flash plugin for the foreseeable future are less than useful.

Sad Face.

2
1
Silver badge
Jobs Halo

That's a very large public company acting in its own self-interest.

Quite so.

And it's all good.

Haters gonna hate. Frack them.

3
3
Bronze badge
Boffin

@Destroy All Monsters

"That's not hypocrisy. That's a very large public company acting in its own self-interest."

Time to head back to the dictionary - this looks to me very very close to the dictionary definition of hypocrisy.

2
0
Silver badge
Headmaster

hy·poc·ri·sy [ hi pókrəssee ] (plural hy·poc·ri·sies) n.

hy·poc·ri·sy [ hi pókrəssee ] (plural hy·poc·ri·sies) n. 1. feigned high principles: the false claim to or pretense of having admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings

That is nowhere near "(A very large public company) acting in its own self-interest."

Just thought I would clear that up for you.

2
0
Thumb Up

Sounds open to me

There is just a new definition to "open". Previously "open" meant "open standard", as in ratified by a major standards body, but still potentially costing money. This doesn't jive with "open source", because open source can't charge more than the cost of distribution, which is less than the cost of licensing, and so any app that ever wanted to be distributed with say, Ubuntu, couldn't possibly contain H.264.

The inverse is not true, however. IE and Opera can support WebM, through the plugin. Either way, someone has to have a plug-in, since Opera and FF didn't support H.264.

The market was split, and Google backed the option that is "most open". Good on them!

4
3

Covering their backsides

The problem is that there is not an 'H.264' patent. There are a series of patents which are owned by various companies, which have claims on various ideas. These ideas make up the building blocks for how video compression is performed - things like how motion compensated prediction is done, which all video codecs use to encode the small changes from frame to frame, rather than encoding each frame as a separate picture.

WebM still uses those techniques, but because it's a closed standard, the companies have not had an opportunity to declare which patents cover it. Unlike the terms of their involvement in ISO and ITU, the patent holders will not be bound by any requirements for Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (RAND) licensing. If any company includes a WebM codec in their product, they could be liable for virtually unlimited damages on any submarine patents. US courts have assessed up to 20% of the purchase price of the final product as royalties, and 'wilful' infringement carries a penalty of triple damages. In contrast, they know that submarine patent claims covering H.264 will be struck down, because Qualcomm have *already* been prevented from overcharging Broadcom. Qualcomm's limit on enforcing their patents only applies to H.264, though, not to other encodings.

Fundamentally, MS and Apple are covering their backsides and going with the known limited royalty payments over the potential unlimited liability.

0
1
FAIL

re: open source can't charge more than the cost of distribution

I don't think you quite understand what "open source" means.

0
0
Go

Anyone or anything that screws over Apple

is alright with me.

h.264 has no place in any browser I use now or in the future, so anyone whining about having to support h.264 plus something else has either just woken up, or is a shill for Cuppertino.

Killing h.264 on the web, and replacing it with an open codec - which Apple can support if they want to - will do everyone a big favour, not least those that are whining about having to support multiple formats.

11
5

#Evil Google

I am pretty sure this is the most "closed" thing Google could of done.

http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2011/01/googles-dropping-h264-from-chrome-a-step-backward-for-openness.ars is a better reason why WebM is far from "open".

5
4
Headmaster

Grammar Nazi

No:

I am pretty sure this is the most "closed" thing Google could HAVE done.

2
1
Anonymous Coward

Right on!

The bloke from SumgMug has hit the nail on the head... 'makes them [Google] 'utter hypocrites'.

Regardless of what 'they' want you to think, that's all they have been since September 4th, 1998. There's too many people wearing blinkers. I mean c'mon... Just because some business 'open sources' that don't make them Jesus!

3
3
Silver badge
Pint

Let the figures do the talking

Google would only make this move if it was confident that the viewing figures make sense. HTML5 video is still nascent partly down to the codec problems - all the video on El Reg is still flash, iPlayer is Flash, Microsoft only support video in a beta version of their browser. The only platform where "native" playback is supported is mobile and there Google is increasingly well-placed thanks to the success of Android. iOS gets its own Youtube player which is presumably going to stay H.264, at least for a while or maybe Google reckons it can shoehorn WebM support in there. Apple, for its part, is probably planning to extend the walled garden so that video can only come from iTunes hoping to get more eyeballs and, thus, eventually some of the advertising revenue that everyone hopes will move from TV online.

The move is really about Google feeling confident enough that, via mobile, it will soon need fewer server licences for streaming Flash and can look forward to a certain amount of rationalisation server side. On the desktop - not being able to watch video is probably sufficient reason for many, those who can at least, to install a different browser as the current default ad for Safari in Youtube points out. For those of us putting video out there things just got easier as well - <video> with WebM wrapped around the <object> and <embed> for the Flash version.

As for the patent pool - if Viacom hasn't been able to get much from Google with its very clear cut case of copyright violation then Google are probably pretty confident of sitting out any WebM patent suits, especially with the limited jurisdiction of software patents.

6
0
Grenade

Playing in a warzone

This is the only game Microsoft plays (and Apple for that matter). Create product most people use. Change from standard to proprietary method so content creators are forced to change leaving small operators to die.

Google are doing the only thing they can in an arena of Microsofts and Apples: it's called fucking over the competition. There's collateral damage, sure, you and me, but maybe at the end of this war there might be some small guys still around (using open-source codecs).

Remember GIF? How that became a web standard while being patented is anybody's guess.

2
1
Alert

@Anon 16

Let me get this straight. Apple, who eschewed the closed and proprietary Flash in favour of the open and W3C-backed HTML5 suite of technologies is somehow worse than Google, who are removing support for the open (albeit not free for everyone) h.264 standard backed by TWO international standards bodies for the aforementioned closed and proprietary Flash?

Web users have been bent over a barrel by Adobe for the last decade in their reliance on Flash. Apple have done more than any other major company to try and break Adobe's stranglehold. Google are simply undermining the recent progress in order to push their own agenda.

Ask Google (or any of their supporters) about the licensing fees that content creators must pay to Adobe for producing Flash content? (via Adobe software) Google only cares about distribution fees so they have no problem using Flash. What I don't get though is, given the same quality, WebM produces slightly bigger files. This results in more storage space required, and higher bandwidth costs for anyone storing/distributing WebM video. My only conclusion therefore is that Google is using WebM as a tool to leverage additional concessions out of MPEG-LA, or trying to undermine Apple in the iOS vs Android battle.

0
2
Jobs Halo

GIF: I'll tell you why

Because at the time there was no alternative. Free of cost does not come into it. Whatever tech meets the needs is used, even if there is a cost.

0
0

I wasn't surprised at all.

H.264 has an open source alternative in Webvm. Flash does not yet. HTML5 is not good enough yet despite the hype. When it is Google will do the same thing. For Google it makes sense when ever possible to use open source. The Google strategy is OS wherever possible as that reduces costs - no licence fees and they have enough developers to make things work and they can modify if improvements are needed. However they have to be pragmatic with flash at present.

1
1

Hmmm

Expect to see the "patent unencumberence" of WebM tested (and found to be entirely fictitious) in court sometime soon.

2
3
Bronze badge

LMFTFY

Expect to see the "patent unencumberence" of WebM to be determined in court sometime around 2097

2
0
Coat

... and for web developers, things start to get..

... that more complicated and fractured.

Standards are and always have been a pipe dream - some sort of nirvana we will never reach.

But heck, that keeps me in a job, as it makes developing websites - in this case, sites that deliver web video - that much harder to do.

Once upon a time, there were no web standards, Netscape ruled the www roost, we coded for a single platform. It was easy.

Now things are so damn fractured, there's so many competing technologies and differing platforms, it makes a mockery of the idea of an open web - the sharing of information.

This, however, is what makes things so very interesting... and as I've said, keeps me in a job ;)

I for one, welcome our many competing overlords.

0
0
Thumb Down

Power Sucker

WebM ain't going nowhere until there's hardware decode support ... which h264 already has plenty of. Especially important in the mobile and newly emerging tablet markets.

4
5
Bronze badge

WebM hardware support exists already

http://blog.webmproject.org/2011/01/availability-of-webm-vp8-video-hardware.html

http://www.design-reuse.com/news/24961/dual-hd-video-ip-core-vp8.html

Of course things are still in their infancy vs h264.

2
1
Anonymous Coward

I know of at least one mobile GPU

that has WebMM support, along with H264 and H263, plus a load of other stuff.

The people who make these chips (i.e us and our competitors) know that WebMM is required, and are putting it in. By the time the chips hit market( weeks not months as its a internal SW upgrade rather than building new chips) , acceleration will all be there.

2
1
Megaphone

Brian Barker

I am not certain where you received the information that Esperanto has "failed" ; in fact no-one can predict the future :)

During a short period of 122 years Esperanto is now in the top 100 languages, out of 6,800 worldwide, according to the CIA World factbook. It is the 22nd most used language in Wikipedia, ahead of Danish and Arabic. It is a language choice of Google, Skype, Firefox and Facebook.

Native Esperanto speakers, (people who have used the language from birth), include financier George Soros, World Chess Champion Susan Polger, Ulrich Brandenberg the new German Ambassador to NATO and Nobel Laureate Daniel Bovet.

0
1
FAIL

This Is A UK Site

There are no royalties payable on H.264 here so I don't get the tone of the article. Surely we should just be laughing at the septics and their ridiculous patent system, carry on using H.264 for free as we have done all along, and ignore Google and its strong arm tactics.

1
0
Linux

Good

Google WebM is a much needed presence in the market of video codecs that offsets the alliance of the MPEG LA.

'Technical Performance' debates aside, factoring in the risk of royalities from MPEG LA should ring alarm bells on everybody that are not part of the MPEG LA.

The plugins for Safari and IE are to me are more symbolic than of real use. The two browsers are going downhill anyway.

So what if they're hyopcrites? Aren't we all? I for one cannot care less what they're branded, all I know is they're doing something good.

re: Hardware Decode support, look it up, it's in the pipeline. Don't forget WebM only came to being middle of last year.

1
1

Page:

This topic is closed for new posts.