back to article Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 shuns open video

Microsoft has voted to keep internet video a closed art form. In a Friday blog post, Internet Explorer general manager Dean Hachamovitch said that the forthcoming Internet Explorer 9 will only play HTML5 video using the H.264 codec. That means Microsoft has ruled against using the open-source Ogg Theora codec from Xiph.og, …


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  1. Kevin 6


    "Flash does have some issues, particularly around reliability, security, and performance," he said.

    sure he was talking about flash and not IE itself?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Concision, my boy, concision

      "Flash does have some issues, particularly around reliability, security, and performance,"

      Applying lessons learned from Strunk and White, that could be expressed more concisely as "Flash sucks" - reliability, security and speed being all there is to the matter. Well, ok, maybe a pretty face counts for something.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: huh?

      I like the way that when a similar comment is posted on any thread even vaguely Mac related, all the Wintards downvote it. Post one here and it gets upvoted...

  2. LaeMing Silver badge


    I'm more interested in the BBC's Dirac codec anyway.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up


      Though I wondered if the latest release was christened Schrödinger as the developers weren't certain if it was dead or not.

      Its exactly the kind of fabulous old-school BBC innovation that The Trust are likely to drop as soon as a bit pressure is applied.

  3. the bat
    Thumb Down

    It is called planning for the future!

    Lock you in now (free) -Then bill you later!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Sort of...

      >Developers won't pay "any additional royalty" for H.264 because MPEG LA charges PC makers, software companies, and services providers that offer the tools for playing video using the codec.

      This is true of some applications - eg perhaps ironically, when using the H.264 codec in Flash video, however the Windows 7 H.264 Codec is licensed only for non-commercial use when encoding - though its unrestricted as a decoder.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Black Helicopters

      You underestimate MS.

      What seems to have gone unnoticed about this choice is that it gives MS a good chance to kill off Firefox and Opera.

      As is generally lamented here, developers tend to write their code for as few platforms as possible and then tweak it to run on others if they're important enough. This means that few sites are going to want to keep multiple versions of their video files around. Thus they're liable to only encode videos in the most prominent format.

      Google and Apple had already signed on with h.264. And while Google is supporting Ogg Theora, Mozilla and Opera have refused to use anything but Ogg Theora. Finally, MS also went with h.264. This firmly put the three major systems vendors on the side of h.264 and left Mozilla and Opera on the other side.

      This means that anyone that wants to target average users, who are unlikely to change their browser unless the OS updates it, must at least use h.264 or Flash. YouTube can already be rendered using HTML5 with h.264, and this is the most likely path that other sites will go with as HTML5 gains share on the internet.

      While, HTML5 may do a good job of replacing Flash, Apple's push to kill Flash directly only aggrevates the issue in ensuring developers that want their websites to be seen on the iPhone/iPad/iPod cannot use Flash.

      If you put all of that together, then it seems likely that the presence of Flash will diminish as HTML5 replaces HTML4 and h.264 is the likely cantidate for the video component.

      By waiting to announce their position until last MS won't lose nearly as much credibility as if they'd come out first saying that they were against Ogg Theora, but they'll still be able to put some pressure on Mozilla and Opera. If h.264 does win out on net presence then Mozilla and Opera will either have to recant their position on the video codec and lose face, or they'll be visiting Netscape.

      ...Or maybe I'm just paranoid...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Weakens HTML5, stengthens case for Flash continuity...

        >While, HTML5 may do a good job of replacing Flash, Apple's push to kill Flash directly only aggrevates the issue in ensuring developers that want their websites to be seen on the iPhone/iPad/iPod cannot use Flash.

        Its not about developers making choices. Commerical efficiency means working to the lowest common demoninator, most clients don't care about Standards, only compatibility and those that do care about Standards care more about compatibility. Flash continues to provide that while browser makers take positions on an unfinished Standard hardly anyone is actually implementing anyway. This is main reason Flash exists and will remain so pervasive.

        If you disagree, just think about IE6 for a minute - even MS have been unable to kill it, developers hate it, yet its still in a least half of the reqs I see.

        >Apple's push to kill Flash directly only aggrevates the issue in ensuring developers that want their websites to be seen on the iPhone/iPad/iPod cannot use Flash

        Its not a big deal. Flash is coming for every other smartphone this year, Apples position will just look silly to most consumers - and right now the sexiest smartphones are not made by Apple.

        In any case, such devices are secondary/tertiary devices and their owners use desktops for more lengthy browsing and most commerce activity. How many potential iPad/iPhone owning customers don't do desktop browsing as well? Easy answer, none at all. Even Apple's focus is on the desktop when it comes to selling its wares to iDevice owners.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        no, you're not paranoid...

        The big corporations have apparently stumbled upon a method of killing off open source browsers and, by which, making open source operating systems much less attractive to the average user.

        Issues like these proprietary codecs make the Internet a smaller place, in a bad way, unless you want to pick which proprietary walled garden to surf in. Google, and I'm not a fan of any corporation having as much power as they do, needs to establish their new acquisition as an open standard to help keep the Internet worth using. Once the Internet is carved up by the Mega corps there will be little point in using it which leads to there being little point in having a computer at home.

        hhhmmm. that last sentence might make having the Mega Corps fragment the Internet a good thing. We'd doubtlessly all waste a lot less time. Fragment away Mega Corps.

      3. The BigYin

        You forget...

        ...Google are going to open up VP8. Ogg Theora is basically VP3 and some people argue it can approach n264 (I've new compared, I can't comment). However, when VP8 is opened and supported by Chrome, Firefox, Opera and others, h264 will hopefully fall from favour.

        Technically there is nothing wrong with h264. It's a good codec.

        But there is that poison, proprietary pill and for that reason alone it should not be used.

  4. Smokey Joe

    It's not what they say...'s what they DON'T say.

    Yet more proof that Apple and Microsoft are scared of something...

  5. Lance 3

    Far from over

    Microsoft went the Apple route because Google was in the other camp. The battle is far from over. Google has Chrome and they could easily just suggest users upgrade to it. They also have chrome in IE as well. Google could convert all of their content, including YouTube to Ogg or one of it's successors and that would leave Safari as the odd man out. Google could force Apple to support Ogg or lose customers. How many iPhoney users and now iPadders would go without YouTube or other Google sites?

    1. DavidRobertRoy


      Google are more locked into Safari's path than the other way around. Safari holds the keys to Webkit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      That would instantly obsolete every Android based phone out there, including Google's own Nexus One. In other words, it'll never happen.

    3. Gilbo


      Google are going to 'convert' YouTube to a format that can't be played using Internet Explorer and Safari, effectively wiping out 65% of their user base and ad revenue.

      I can just see that happening.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      RE: It's not what they say...

      "Yet more proof that Apple and Microsoft are scared of something..."

      Yes, we know what they're scared of though.

      They're scared they implement one of the "free" codecs, only to find that it actually uses features that are so similar to a non-free one that they're liable to be sued.

      It's that simple!

      <<Paris, cos she's been paying more attention...

  6. Anonymous Coward


    I just waiting in the wings as I believe all CODECS currently in use infringe upon technology that I developed. IT is impossible to develop any video compression technology that does not infringe on DOZENS of patents. Patent Law has made innovation by the individual impossible.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's possible

    To get video Ogg in IE, but with a plugin without Google Chrome Frame. this explains how to test it

  8. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Just add a codec plugin system

    Just add a codec plugin system to Firefox and add ogg theora by default. If an user wants to have h.264 he can it from "somewhere else". I guess the patents will be unenforcable just like with GIF.

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Why hard-code codecs into the browser?

    (Or, in Microsoft's case, I suspect they're limiting the browser to just Vista's and 7's built in H.264 codecs.)

    All the browser needs to do is say, 'This codec isn't installed, you can get it from here', similar to Firefox's plugin installer. That way the browser 'vender' doesn't need to worry about patents at all and the user doesn't have to be a pawn in this game and be forced to change their browser depending on the website they want to see.

  10. lucmars

    The goal seems to be clear

    H264 will be free to reading, hence Moz and Opera won't care about Theora or else. Though, for distributing and encoding one will have to pay and so Google will have to arbitrate but I think that MS, Apple and the Chocolate Factory are happy to stay together.

    1. Renato

      Re: Why hard-code codecs into the browser?

      > All the browser needs to do is say, 'This codec isn't installed, you can get it from here', similar to Firefox's plugin installer.

      Or the browser can just use the underlying operating system's media framework (DirectShow on Windows, QuickTime on OSX, libavcodec on *nix) and the user won't even need to know what a codec is.

  11. Anonymous Coward

    What's the point ?

    This is so 2006, H.264 has already won that battle a few years ago : it is now widely deployed in most video processing chains, used in digital TV streams, VoD offerings, IPTV, internet video streams (embedded in Flash) and hardware-decoded by 90% of the existing graphics chips.

    It is a standard, de facto (most used codec in the world) and de jure (ratified by ITU and MPEG) and also one of the best existing codecs.

    It's telling that Microsoft is not even trying anymore to push their own codec (VC-1) on which they spent years and millions of dollars of development.

    Mozilla's Theora crusade is just quixotic.

  12. MarkOne


    The big game of Chess has just begin.

    Google's next move.

    Opensource VP8, turn Youtube into ONLY using VP8 enabled browsers like Opera, Chrome and Firefox...

    Poor old IE and Safari will see their marketshare collapse even quicker than it is already...

  13. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    Reality check required

    "Google could convert all of their content, including YouTube to Ogg or one of it's successor"

    While they *could* do that it would take a fuck of a lot of resources whereas H264 just needs a different container. Google might push Ogg or open source their new acquisition but only if they see it providing a good business opportunity in the future which might be in their own form of "iAds" for Android.

    Anyway, given the limitation of IE 9 to Visa and Windows 7, the battle on the desktop won't really be fought for a couple of years.

  14. Urs Keller

    H264 is decoded in hardware

    whereas all the other codecs (perhaps with the exception of WMA / WMV) are not. This hardware acceleration has a huge positive effect on battery life. All the moaning about Apple, MS et al being members of MPEG LA and receiving licenses is overblown. Compared to these companies other revenue streams, it's not even bread crumbs on their tables ...

  15. Ossian

    Evil Is As Evil Does

    The flash comment and the alignment over H.264 suggest that Microsoft is siding with the Evil Fruity Empire. Microsoft hasn't been so bold in it's d**king with people since the launch of Vista dicked Creative and all it's buyers. I fear Microsoft could become as evil as Apple.

  16. mark l 2 Silver badge

    google and youtube

    One area not mentioned in the article is Google recent purchase of ON2 who developed the VP8 codec which i beleive is based on the same code that Ogg is, surely if there are any patents regarding Ogg then Google will now own a lot of patents from purchasing ON2. Google also own one of the most popular sites on the web so it wouldn't suprise me if they decided to go native with VP8 support in Chrome and then start encoding Youtube videos in VP8. They could then just say 'cannot see this video? Then download google chrome browser' How long before M$ would then scramble to get VP8 support for IE and if VP8 is open sourced as its expected google will do then opera and mozilla can add support along side ogg without having to pay license fees

  17. Lars Silver badge

    Vendor lock-in

    I think, and hope, that the time for vendor lock-in is about to disappear with a thing like a codec.

    There are too many, luckily, players in the game that anybody could create a "meaningful" lock-in.

    So why do those big players waist so much time and money on a game that will never return anything of importance for anybody.

    Would it not be better to accept an open standard or standards and the move on, and do something of importance for the company and perhaps, even for the consumer.

  18. Volker Hett

    Hardware Accelaration is the key

    As far as I know there is no ogg Theora decoder in hardware, or is there?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No hardware anything

      Correct Ogg Theora may have been good enough 5 years ago (actually, WMV was better then) but today it's really showing the downside of being a niche product with most of the support being on Linux so it's not achieved critical desktop mass for the required investment...

      - No hardware decode

      - No hardware encode

      - No adaptive bitrate (smooth streaming, fragmented MPEG4 etc)

      - No DRM (like it or loathe it, studios will never support it without)

      - No clear license (at least with H.264 you know where you are today. Mozilla just don't want to pay the license fee)

  19. MD Rackham


    I'm feeling a sick sensation of overwhelming disappointment and disgust, like after viewing The Phantom Menace.

  20. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Gstreamer & old ie

    First off, I *urge* firefox to go the gstreamer/ffmpeg route. Every other video player (except flash) does it this way. It's got the same result that ms is crowing about -- firefox won't support h.264 so no license problem, it just plays whatever formats your distro does (which should happen to support h.264). As an added benefit, as optimizations are found for h.264 etc. Playback (lower cpu usage, in particular) firefox will *automatically* benefit.

    secondly, it's *completely* irrelevant what ie's market share is for this instance, *only* what ie9's is. That vast amount of ie6 installs won't support the video tag so it's irrelevant (let alone ie7 & ie8 which don't either).

  21. Jolyon Ralph

    Ogg Format

    I think the Ogg format might have slightly more credibility if it hadn't been named after a fucking caveman.

    At least H.264 sounds technical.

  22. tempemeaty

    Control....Corporates want it...and they want it all....

    Just a minor thought. Corporates are going to war against open source.

  23. DrXym Silver badge

    Well duh

    Microsoft Windows owners have already paid for an h264 licence so why shouldn't the browser support that codec?

    Aside from getting the licence for nothing, the choice simply makes sense.

  24. Mikel


    I imagine once Google open-sources VP8 this issue will go away forever. It's about time too - you'd think we'd have learned after that .gif nonsense that open standards everyone can use are the way to go.

  25. morphoyle


    h.264 is not open. The terms of the contract can be changed at any time to add all kinds of nasty things. Ogg isn't really much better...

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Empire Strikes Back analogy.

    "But the decision to go proprietary on HTML 5 video is more like the kick in the balls you got at the end of The Empire Strikes Back"

    I *loved* the end of The Empire Strikes Back...!!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns


    Just more good reasons to walk from MS and their monopolistic scamware, and to never return.

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