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12 January 2011, 09:22

Google to pull H.264 HTML5 support from Chrome

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Google has announced that it will be removing the support for H.264 video from the Chrome browser's <video> tag. "Our goal is to enable open innovation" said Google of the planned removal which will allow the company to focus exclusively on royalty free and open source based codecs. WebM and Theora video codecs will be left as the only HTML5 video codecs supported by Chrome, both of which Google consider consistent with "open web principles" because they are believed to be unencumbered by patents and require no licensing fees. The change brings Chrome in line with the open source Chromium browser project which has never supported H.264 and only implemented WebM and Theora.

Since Chrome's market share has grown to significant proportions, Google's move will also increase the pressure on other vendors, such as Apple and Microsoft, to implement and support the WebM codec which Google open sourced in May 2010. Google cites improvements in performance, broad adoption by software developers and hardware vendors and the existence of independent implementations of WebM as proof of the benefits of WebM's open development model.

The changes are planned to happen in "the next couple of months"; Google says it has pre-announced the change to allow publishers and developers who use H.264 with the HTML <video> tag the opportunity to make the necessary changes. As Google embed Adobe's proprietary Flash plug-in, which can decode H.264, in Chrome, it is possible that many developers will initially switch to displaying their video using a Flash based player rather than re-encoding it with WebM.


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