We have been following Google’s path through the video codec minefield. After a lot of negative comments and a snarky letter from Microsoft, Google has now responded to its critics and naysayers in the Chromium Blog .
Google has been receiving a lot of flak for its plan to support only the WebM video codec for their tag for the Chrome Browser. Mike Jazayeri, Product Manager at Google said “This is not an ideal situation and we want to see a viable baseline codec that all browsers can support. It is clear that there will not be agreement to specify H.264 as the baseline codec in the HTML video standard due to its licensing requirements. Furthermore, we genuinely believe that core web technologies need to be open and community developed to enable the same great innovation that has brought the web to where it is today. These facts led us to join the efforts of the web community and invest in an open alternative, WebM.”
This step by Google has divided the the browser space in two, Microsoft and Apple support the H.264 codec (MPEG-LA) and use them as standard in their respective tag. Opera and Mozilla on the other hand are opposed to paying the licensing fees associated with H.264. This was where WebM came into the picture.
When asked why such a step was taken, Mr. Jazayeri said “To use and distribute H.264, browser and OS vendors, hardware manufacturers, and publishers who charge for content must pay significant royalties—with no guarantee the fees won’t increase in the future. To companies like Google, the license fees may not be material, but to the next great video startup and those in emerging markets these fees stifle innovation. But it's not just the license fees; an even more important consideration is the pace of innovation and what incentives drive development”.
The codec divide will have a big impact as video publishers will have to create multiple copies of a single video for different browsers and will drive up costs, This will create quite a lot of problems for sites like youtube which cater to an audience which uses a wide variety of browsers.