Google to Drop Support of H.264 Video Codec in New Chrome Browsers

By Beecher Tuttle January 12, 2011

Google created a storm of controversy in the Internet world on Tuesday by declaring that it will no longer support the patented H.264 video codec in any future releases of its Chrome browser.

The move, according to Google product manager Mike Jazayeri, is an effort by the search engine giant to embrace only open-source technologies, which H.264 is not. The patent rights for the well-established video codec are owned by the MPEG-LA consortium, which includes major players like Microsoft and Apple.

"Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies," noted Jazayeri in a recent blog post.

Google received some immediate backlash for its decision to eliminate support for the H.264 video codec for two main reasons.

First, Google announced that it will replace H.264 with support for "high-quality open codecs," which, as one would expect, includes its own WebM initiative (with its VP8 codec). By dumping H.264, Google is creating a great opportunity to encourage the adoption of its own technology.

The bulk of the outrage seems to stem more from Google's rationale behind the move, rather than the decision itself. A number of users jumped on the message boards today to bash Google for hiding behind its embracement of open source technologies, instead of simply admitting that it wants to push its own product.

"This just looks like a lame duck attempt by Google to promote their own Video Codec. Thanks for making the HTML5 Transition even more messy," commented one user on the blog post.

Meanwhile, others have pointed out the fact that Google will still support Flash, which also uses H.264 and is owned by Adobe. "Is there any more concrete definition of 'not open?'" asks BeatWeek Magazine.

So, why will Google Chrome support Flash? Well, Adobe took part in the WebM project and will support Google's WebM technologies inside Flash, according to TechCrunch.

Although the move by Google to drop support of H.264 for its own initiative is understandable, the company's reasoning behind the shift seems a bit promotional and hypocritical.

TechZone360 reported recently, however, that an increasing number of businesses may opt to use Google’s Chrome web browser, given the latest improvements.

Beecher Tuttle is a TechZone360 contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Tammy Wolf

TechZone360 Contributor

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