So, Google wants to be open and is going to drop support for H.264 video from Chrome in favor of WebM somewhere in the not too distant future. That’s interesting, I’m waiting for their announcement to drop support for Flash, too. Seriously, who made this decision? What in the world were they thinking? H.264 may have some patent licensing issues, but it is certainly more open than Flash.
So what are web developers supposed to do now? H.264 has become a de-facto standard on the web. A web developer can today offer a video in H.264 using the HTML5
<video> tag, and use Flash to play the same file as a fallback. Nearly every PC supports one or both. Nearly every mobile device sold today will happily decode H.264 in its video chip. Mobile devices that can decode WebM in hardware are scarce, to say the least.
Does Google really want web developers abandon a de-facto standard for something of less quality that isn’t nearly as widely supported? And with which a patent troll might still have fun someday? Or do they now have to serve two files for the same video, just to cater to Google’s whims? Microsoft’s Tim Sneath hits the nail on the head, if you ask me. One could opt to just offer the H.264 video and have Flash handle it in Chrome. But what if Google does drop support for Flash next year or so? Then what?
And what about users? Chrome’s already got quite a market share. If H.264 is no longer natively supported, Flash is the user’s only option on many sites. YouTube isn’t the only video provider out there. Most, if not all, serve H.264. Google could convert YouTube to WebM, but not all those others. And what if Google does drop support for Flash next year or so? Then what?
To me, this comes of as kind of lame. It seems like Google wants to push its WebM at the expense of its users, and throws the specifics in the hands of web developers so they can mop up the mess. Don’t be evil, anyone? And how about pragmatism? Openness isn’t everything, you know.
Just my two cents.