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17 March 2011, 10:13

Microsoft cautiously welcomes WebM support for IE9

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Microsoft has cautiously welcomed the WebM Project's release of WebM Components for IE9 (Preview). WebM Components for IE9 is, in fact, a renaming of the "WebM plug-in" that was released on 15 March. The WebM Project now has a page which covers known issues and frequently asked questions about the WebM Components for IE9 and Microsoft is hosting a video format demo page where HTML5 WebM and H.264 (high and baseline profile) can be compared with H.264 delivered using Adobe's Flash.

In an announcement on the WebM project site, it is now made clear that what has been released is not a plug-in but in fact a Microsoft Media Foundation component which has allowed the project to "seamlessly integrate WebM with Windows". A plug-in would only have been necessary if the HTML5 <video> tag implementation blocked the use of other codecs, as in Mozilla's Firefox; IE9's implementation will play back video in any format supported by the operating system's media framework, but Windows 7 and IE9 do not ship with a WebM codec. "Microsoft collaborated closely with us to make the components fully compatible with HTML5 in IE9", said the WebM Project posting, which went on to thank the Microsoft engineers who "provided technical assistance and hosted our team in Redmond last month". The download page for the components now no longer carries the text about how, "They said that one of the world's most popular browsers couldn't play WebM video in HTML5".

Although Microsoft has given the arrival of WebM in IE9 a cautious welcome, the company does not plan to ship the WebM components with IE9 or Windows 7. Microsoft's Dean Hachamovitch, IE VP, continues to express concern over who takes on the patent liability and risk for WebM usage, and when and how Google opens WebM to the web standards community. "The people who build and use the Web deserve practical and consistent video support rather than ideology" said Hachmovitch, linking "ideology" to Google's announcement that it would remove HTML5 H.264 from Chrome — a step that has yet to be taken by Google in the latest version of Chrome.


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