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Google Drops H264 from Chrome


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#1 of 37 mattCR

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Posted January 11 2011 - 09:58 AM

While HTML5 has a [video] tag, the content within it isn't a guaranteed type.. at least not yet. 

http://www.engadget....he-masses-towa/


Now it gets interesting.. Google drops H264, which isn't open source per se, and still has a licensing agreement, in favor of WebM. Combined with their move to integrate Flash into their browser, this is a clear end-around to put pressure out to adopt WebM, which it will now support for YouTube over H264, and also Flash.. but H264, Apple & Microsoft's choice.. crickets.


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#2 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 12 2011 - 02:35 AM

This is gonna get REAL UGLY fast.


Google needs to explain why they are being proactive here against h.264 and not Flash.

http://daringfirebal...imple_questions

http://techcrunch.co...1/google-flash/


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#3 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 12 2011 - 05:15 AM

Deep details:

http://farukat.es/jo...4-and-video-web


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#4 of 37 Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 12 2011 - 06:48 AM

Maybe I am missing the picture, but I guess I don't see this as being a big deal from a desktop users perspective.  Just switch to a browser that does support it if its important.  Are other browsers available on android phones?


Yes it is hypocritical, but for better or worse I realized Google was a "real" company a long time ago.



#5 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 12 2011 - 08:12 AM

Are you kidding Adam?  There are still people using IE 5 and earlier and you want users to jump around to different browsers to get different codecs?  Madness!


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#6 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 13 2011 - 02:13 AM

Ars really runs down the issues here and shows the folly in what Google is doing:

http://arstechnica.c...or-openness.ars


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#7 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 13 2011 - 03:17 AM

Via Gruber, but sane words from Ed Bott:

http://www.zdnet.com...g-into-one/2867


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#8 of 37 Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 13 2011 - 05:53 AM



Originally Posted by Sam Posten 

Are you kidding Adam?  There are still people using IE 5 and earlier and you want users to jump around to different browsers to get different codecs?  Madness!


Does IE5 even support h.264 w/o a plug in?  I guess what I am saying is if Chrome is going to cut out features that you want just switch browsers.  Pretty much everyone not using Safari or IE has already made the decision to switch at somepoint and is savvy enough to choose.  If enough people stop using Chrome maybe Google with take the hint.  I would see YouTube switching as the bigger deal.



#9 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 13 2011 - 06:03 AM

I think it will do it via flash but don't quote me on that.


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#10 of 37 Adam Gregorich

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Posted January 13 2011 - 06:51 AM

I think this is Google starting to flex its muscles.  What happens after they eventually buy Adobe?



#11 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 13 2011 - 07:31 AM

They get sued, same as Microsoft...


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#12 of 37 mattCR

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Posted January 13 2011 - 01:55 PM

Yep.. eventually, everyone gets sued.  Microsoft, Google, Apple, Intel... that isn't the question; the question is whether or not they can get far enough ahead that the damages they pay from the lawsuit don't mean much compared to the market share they gain doing it.    It becomes a cost of business.


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#13 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 14 2011 - 01:16 AM

Apple is going to get sued for being a monopoly?  Are you kidding?  They are a niche player in every market they are in.  Now they may be the biggest -profit centers- for those markets but that's a different story....


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#14 of 37 DaveF

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Posted January 14 2011 - 03:33 PM

Hooray!!! Flash made more important!!! The obvious choice for a pioneering company with strong interests in open source!!! I don't see this being good for anyone but Google and Adobe. That is, this is a user-hostile move. There is no benefit to the end user and probably real detriment. By the accounts that I've read WebM is inferior to H264 in display quality.

#15 of 37 mattCR

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Posted January 15 2011 - 01:27 AM



Originally Posted by Sam Posten 

Apple is going to get sued for being a monopoly?  Are you kidding?  They are a niche player in every market they are in.  Now they may be the biggest -profit centers- for those markets but that's a different story....



That's not what I'm saying.. I'm saying all big companies have taken up strategies that risk them being labeled as having stalled, delayed or hindered competitors as a matter of strategy, and they wait until they are sued.. and if it balances out, it is still a net benefit, even after they pay settlement.    Apple has been through this a few times, early on with the iPod, years and years ago (I mean a LONG time ago), the EU with their guidelines on iTunes, etc... none of those are monopoly, they just get investigated.. it becomes par for the course.   Google is making the gamble that they can get enough of a % of the market - not a monopoly, just a large percentage... enough that even after they pay out, they would still be ahead.  After all, they could argue "well, Youtube isn't all of network media.. it's just one source.." and so on..


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#16 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 27 2011 - 05:10 AM

Well...  There's a big difference between investigations and accusations and 37 outta 50 states attorneys general and the EU launching decades long, company defining / modifying suits...  Apple is in no danger of that.  Google is.


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#17 of 37 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted January 27 2011 - 10:56 AM

Originally Posted by Sam Posten 

Google needs to explain why they are being proactive here against h.264 and not Flash.


Flash is an established web format used by everybody. H.264 is not. The fight for the future of web video is just beginning, and lack of Chrome support for H.264 will actively discourage webmasters from using it. If you're designing a side with the <video> tag, are you going to use the codec that two of the four major browsers support or are you going to used the codec that all four support?


H.264 presents a hindrance for web video now similar to the hindrance the GIF file format presented for web images back in the 1990s. Not only is H.264 not a truly open format, it is explicitly NOT royalty-free except for non-commercial purposes. The last US MPEG LA patents for H.264 won't expire until 2028, which means that the patent pool would have an effective stranglehold over web video for the next 17 years. If H.264 become the web standard, it means only browsers that can afford to pony up the fee (up to $6.5 million annually) will be able to adequately compete. Websites will constantly have to consider whether their particular use of a video constitutes a royalty-free use under MPEG LA's licensing terms. Now, $6.5 million a year is a drop in the bucket to Google. It could pay it without blinking twice. WebM is not going to be a profit center for the company.


The question is whether MPEG LA will able to extend any of its patents to WebM in court. VP8 was developed about 20 minutes from where I'm sitting, and I know On2 took special care to avoid any MPEG LA patents when it was designing the codec. Whether Google can convince a patent judge of that is the real question. The more challenges to its open status that WebM survives, the stronger forces for its universal adoption will grow. On the flip side, if MPEG LA succeeds, it'll completely undercut the whole premise of WebM.


Originally Posted by DaveF 

By the accounts that I've read WebM is inferior to H264 in display quality.


H.264 has a marketing drive behind it, WebM doesn't. Most users have experienced H.264 video with a quality encode. Most users haven't experienced a WebM video with a quality encode. Theora, which is objectively inferior to H.264, was spun off from one of WebM's distant ancestors. As WebM penetration expands, some glaring technical deficiency may reveal itself. But for the time being, it's simply impossible to make a far apples to apples comparison. We have no idea what WebM will be capable of right now.


Most importantly, there is a lot of hardware support for H.264 on both the PC side and the mobile side. Of course hardware-decoded H.264 is going to outperform software-decoded WebM. It's just not a fair test. I would gladly take the year or two it will take for hardware encoding and decoding of WebM to take root over the nearly two decades it will take to get out from under MPEG LA.



#18 of 37 DaveF

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Posted January 27 2011 - 12:39 PM


I've heard some more about this and realized that I don't know much about it.  But I won't let that stop me from expressing further opinions. ;)




Originally Posted by Adam Lenhardt 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sam Posten 

Google needs to explain why they are being proactive here against h.264 and not Flash.


Flash is an established web format used by everybody. H.264 is not. The fight for the future of web video is just beginning, and lack of Chrome support for H.264 will actively discourage webmasters from using it. If you're designing a side with the <video> tag, are you going to use the codec that two of the four major browsers support or are you going to used the codec that all four support?


Or you use Flash to serve the H.264 content you already have and not spend the time and money to convert to WebM.




 

H.264 presents a hindrance for web video now similar to the hindrance the GIF file format presented for web images back in the 1990s. Not only is H.264 not a truly open format, it is explicitly NOT royalty-free except for non-commercial purposes. The last US MPEG LA patents for H.264 won't expire until 2028, which means that the patent pool would have an effective stranglehold over web video for the next 17 years. If H.264 become the web standard, it means only browsers that can afford to pony up the fee (up to $6.5 million annually) will be able to adequately compete. Websites will constantly have to consider whether their particular use of a video constitutes a royalty-free use under MPEG LA's licensing terms. Now, $6.5 million a year is a drop in the bucket to Google. It could pay it without blinking twice. WebM is not going to be a profit center for the company.


I don't really know what any of that means, or how it matters. What is "truly open"? What is an "effective stranglehold"? What browsers are out there that can't "afford to pony up the fee"? Websites already "constantly have to consider [if] video constitutes a royalty free use"; doesn't seem to slow anyone down. Posted Image You've described the state of affairs today, and yet here we are with everyone from YouTube to HTF putting video online. There's Internet Explorer down to Opera making browsers. And people keep crankin' out videos with their iPhones and Flips; I don't see signs of a "stranglehold".





 


Quote:
Originally Posted by DaveF 

By the accounts that I've read WebM is inferior to H264 in display quality.


H.264 has a marketing drive behind it, WebM doesn't. Most users have experienced H.264 video with a quality encode. Most users haven't experienced a WebM video with a quality encode. [...]But for the time being, it's simply impossible to make a far apples to apples comparison. We have no idea what WebM will be capable of right now.

I'll concede the WebM might really be every bit the equal to H.264. I don't know. And further reading indicates the quality difference isn't as large as I first understood.




So, blah blah open source, rah rah power to the people, go standards. I'm for technologies that lead to lower costs, better options, and superior tools for me to use.


I realize my anxiety is that I don't believe that Google is doing this for any reason except to try and unseat Apple as a rising force in the web experience. And while I shouldn't care about the battles between corporate behemoths, I'm increasingly concerned that Google is, in ways, working against the best interests of us in the (false) name of "open" and "free". Maybe Google's interests are aligned with my interests on this matter. But I don't assume so.




#19 of 37 Adam Lenhardt

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Posted January 27 2011 - 04:00 PM

Originally Posted by DaveF 

Or you use Flash to serve the H.264 content you already have and not spend the time and money to convert to WebM.


Absolutely. Until the HTML 5 compliant browsers reach critical mass, pretty much everything's going to be Flash anyway. The battle isn't really going to be over existing content, it's going to be over new content. And depending on how you plan to use the video, producing in WebM could become significantly cheaper.


I don't really know what any of that means, or how it matters. What is "truly open"? What is an "effective stranglehold"? What browsers are out there that can't "afford to pony up the fee"? Websites already "constantly have to consider [if] video constitutes a royalty free use"; doesn't seem to slow anyone down. Posted Image You've described the state of affairs today, and yet here we are with everyone from YouTube to HTF putting video online. There's Internet Explorer down to Opera making browsers. And people keep crankin' out videos with their iPhones and Flips; I don't see signs of a "stranglehold"


I agree "truly open" was bad wording on my part. VP8 was a proprietary technology for a long time, and doesn't have any of the hallmarks of an open source project.


The current "stranglehold" is Flash. With fair warning that it's my turn to express an opinion about something I don't know much about, it's my understanding that that Adobe makes licensing agreements with the patent holders for all of the codecs each Flash version supports. Adobe than recoups this cost by selling Flash to web designers and services like YouTube. The websites and developers don't have to work about royalties, because they have Adobe as the middle man taking care of all that for them. Browsers don't have to worry about royalty costs, because Adobe releases free Flash Player plug-ins for every major browser in order to enhance the value of the product they're selling to customers.


The <video> tag cuts out the middle man, because suddenly websites are encoding the videos themselves and putting them up directly. If they use the H.264 codec to encode Flash video, the use is covered under their Flash license. If they go to put up a H.624 video file in a freeware container like MKV that doesn't have a licensing agreement with MPEG LA, they may or may not be violating MPEG LA's terms. Will MPEG LA go around suing every violator in sight? Probably not. But it's my understanding that they'd be able to.


Mozilla Firefox won't be supporting H.264 because they can't afford the licensing fee. Mozilla has an annual revenue of roughly $100 million. If they agreed to MPEG LA's licensing terms, more than 1 in every 15 dollars the company took in would go to the annual royalty fees for this one codec. Opera also won't be supporting H.264 because the licensing fee is too steep; under the maximum licensing fee, it would eat up more than 1 in every 13 dollars Opera takes in.


Most smaller browsers wouldn't be subject to anywhere near the maximum licensing fee. But for the immediate future, only the biggest browsers will be able to afford native H.264 support.


So, blah blah open source, rah rah power to the people, go standards. I'm for technologies that lead to lower costs, better options, and superior tools for me to use.


This is my stance too. But while H.264 is more convenient in the short term, the potential restrictions and the negative effect on innovation in the medium term are more worrying to me. I use quite a bit of independent software. Royalty-free code seems to produce a lot more interesting independent software -- or at least interesting legal independent software.


I realize my anxiety is that I don't believe that Google is doing this for any reason except to try and unseat Apple as a rising force in the web experience. And while I shouldn't care about the battles between corporate behemoths, I'm increasingly concerned that Google is, in ways, working against the best interests of us in the (false) name of "open" and "free". Maybe Google's interests are aligned with my interests on this matter. But I don't assume so.

Apple produces extremely successful closed systems. It's a company that is at its best when it controls all of the variables. That model is antithetical to the nature of the web. Apple's most successful products -- iTunes, the iPhone, the iPad -- create an exceptional user experience by corralling off a small part of the web where Apple controls the variables. This is great if you want to buy the package that Apple is offering. If you don't, there are alternative options from other companies.


Whatever codec becomes the standard for HTML 5 video -- and one will, through official sanction or overwhelming user preference -- controls what video we see and how we see it on the web for many years to come. We've already been suffering with the consequences of a one company bottleneck when it comes to Flash for years, because it has a monopoly that discourages further significant further innovation. H.264 is a better and more versatile solution for web video, but it's still a bottleneck.


Google may be pulling a fast one on all of us and will reel control of the WebM standard back in at some point in the future through its backing of the WebM Project. But all of its steps so far have been good faith measures. All of the code for VP8 has been released on a BSD license. Google has irrevocably released all of its patents for the codec as royalty-free. The audio codec for WebM has been free and open source for a long time, and the container is based on Matroska -- which has been open standard and adopted in a grass roots fashion from the start.


EDIT: ]One of the developers at Opera posted a personal blog post (ie. not endorsed by the company) defending Chrome's move to drop H.264.



#20 of 37 Sam Posten

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Posted January 28 2011 - 02:39 AM

Originally Posted by Adam Lenhardt 


Apple produces extremely successful closed systems. It's a company that is at its best when it controls all of the variables. That model is antithetical to the nature of the web. Apple's most successful products -- iTunes, the iPhone, the iPad -- create an exceptional user experience by corralling off a small part of the web where Apple controls the variables. This is great if you want to buy the package that Apple is offering. If you don't, there are alternative options from other companies.


EDIT: ]One of the developers at Opera posted a personal blog post (ie. not endorsed by the company) defending Chrome's move to drop H.264.



I don't think that's true at all, and I would posit that Webkit as a product is FAR MORE successful as a product than iTunes or any of the other iSuite tools are.  Apple is a powerhouse for open standards if not open source.  It's a subtle but very important philosophical difference.


I believe Mr. Gruber just did an extensive talk on this at Macworld this week.  Looking forward to seeing videos of that or a transcript.


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