Google and h.264. Hypocrisy? Hardly.

For all of the people out there claiming that Google just wanted to make a “big announcement” on “Verizon iPhone day,” it sure has created quite the buzz. I sincerely doubt that was their mission, but if somehow it was, I’d say they succeeded. Big time.

But for all of the absurd tech pundits who seem to think that removal of h.264 is a bad thing, you’d think the world was coming to an end. But this really is a good thing! Especially for consumers!!

I mean, look at the facts…

  • h.264
    • Almost half (like 47%) of PC browsers in use on the web don’t support h.264. (Firefox, Chrome, Opera…the former two which are still climbing the market share charts)
    • The two browsers that do support h.264 are IE 9 and Safari. IE 9 isn’t even really showing up on the usage charts at this point, and Safari barely holds 5% market share–doesn’t seem to be going much of anywhere.
    • The MPEG LA strictly controls h.264 licensing. It’s currently able to be used “royalty free” to end users, but that clause doesn’t apply if the content encoded in h.264 is produced commercially. Encoders and decoders (hardware and software alike) are required to pay patent licensing fees. (One reason BluRay movies cost so much more than traditional DVDs)
    • h.264 is a well supported codec among consumer electronic devices, and is a “standard” in terms of wide digital media and film studio use. Beyond the ITU group though (which really isn’t a standards body), the codec is not truly a standard–especially in the realm of the web, where there is no native support except via a Flash layer.
    • h.264 is not an open standard or an open source project. In any way. Whatsoever. Period. Anyone declaring otherwise is either mistaken or lying.
  • webm
    • All of the aforementioned browsers (excepting Safari, of course) will fully support the webm codec.
    • webm is an open source project, completely unencumbered by license fees
    • It is fully supported by Google and too many other hardware and software manufacturers to list.
    • While not a true web standard (yet), it is in line with the w3c’s philosophy and is backed by every major open-source browser vendor.
    • It easily matches h.264 in both quality, speed, and efficiency (i.e. neither codec is superior to the other).

As I stated before, the above list is not my personal opinion, it is supportable fact.

Anyway, Google moving away from h.264 is great news for those of us who want an open, unbiased, unencumbered, and generally “free” web! Naturally, the people who support h.264 as a web standard are probably fans of communism and socialism too–just sayin’. It’s not that I’m against the format, just the philosophy behind it. If h.264 could shake the shackles of the MPEG LA and be completely open sourced, I wouldn’t have a problem supporting it whatsoever. But corporations are greedy, so I don’t see this happening anytime soon.

What about Flash, though? I’ve seen many articles and tweets criticizing Google for being huge hypocrites for not removing Flash support from Chrome as well. Unfortunately, most of these folks are mindless drones who have listened to the lies told to them by those with agendas…like, oh…a certain CEO of a major Fruit company. The fact is (and I’ve definitely addressed this in previous posts) that Flash is a web standard, is open-source, and isn’t a video codec. It’s a rich media file format that just so happens to support video in addition to a ton of other stuff. The part of Flash that isn’t open source, is Adobe’s content creation and playback tools. There’s not much stopping any other developer from writing their own open source Flash production tools. I suspect that they’d just have trouble selling it against Adobe’s gold standard products. Google is not being hypocritical at all! Especially since Flash will support webm as well as a plethora of other formats.

Here’s the thing about Flash. The main reason most content publishers are still using it (other than its ubiquity) is the fact that it supports content protection (read: DRM). I’m not a fan of DRM by any means whatsoever. In fact, that was my main complaint with the whole iTunes model earlier this decade. But DRM aside, if Google quit supporting Flash on Chrome, they’d be significantly limiting users’ web experience. There’s not much by way of native h.264 video on the web, so this point is moot. Examine Mozilla’s stand on the issue as well and a similar pattern emerges. They won’t support the majorly encumbered h.264, yet they built better support and security for Flash directly into the browser.

Bottom line: I won’t be supporting h.264 or any browser that does include native support. webm will become the dominant web video standard over the next decade and any who do not provide support for it in their hardware or software will be left in the 2000s. Face it: an open web is better for everyone.

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