Google Explains Its H.264 Move At Greater Length

By  |  Friday, January 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Just about all the discussion I’ve seen of Google’s decision to dump Chrome’s native support for video in the H.264 format has been negative–and Google didn’t help things by announcing the move in a terse, bland blog post. Now the company has taken a second pass at explaining its rationale. I don’t think it’ll leave most of the unhappy campers any more gruntled, but it’s good to see Google delve into the topic at greater length.

Google’s response does underline that the browser business has a basic problem: Everyone agrees that browsers should have the built-in ability to play video, but there’s no agreement whatsoever on the standards to permit this. (Internet Explorer and Safari use H.264; Firefox, Opera, and now Chrome use Google’s WebM and the older Ogg Theora.) Most normal human beings couldn’t care less about this and simply want video to play on all the devices they use, ideally with high-quality results and without killing their battery. As far as I can tell, the industry is making no progress whatsoever towards unification, and Google’s move–whatever the reason–simply confuses matters even more.


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. tom b Says:

    Schmidt is a bonehead. Android is an unnecessary OS — they could have simply stayed friendly with Apple to get into the mobile ad space. Chrome is an unnecessary browser: slower than Safari (Mac and; fewer features than Firefox. Supporting Flash in the MOBILE space is dumb; it IS a CPU hog. Dropping H.264 is just insane. I own both AAPL and GOOG stock. I'd REALLY like to see the latter better managed– to go back to the "don't be evil" days.

  2. JohnFen Says:

    I’m no Google fanboi, but I welcome alternatives to Apple. Android is hardly unnecessary in that it gives a way to avoid Apple. This is a business/political, not technical issue to be sure — but there is quite a large group of people who would like to have high-end smartphones, but who would even more that that like to avoid doing business with Apple.

    That means Android addresses a market Apple can’t touch, which means it’s not useless.

  3. Weili Says:

    As much as I love my iOS devices and can't imagine ever switching to Android, I still believe Android is completely necessary. Competition is what drives progress. Without Android, iOS probably wouldn't advance nearly as fast or as well. Let's face it, besides Android, iOS has no true competition.

  4. tom b Says:

    Without Android progress could have been FASTER. Consider: Verizon is on a primitive CDMA network. They SHOULD be on GSM. Still, since they have boatload of cell towers, their coverage is widely respected.

    If Android had never appeared, basically, they'd have nothing that even simulates a smart phone– they'd have, maybe WinMo 7, Palm, and Blackberry. Suppose Apple then told them no GSM; no iPhone. This would give them a HUGE incentive to upgrade their network to something modern. As it is, they took the baby step of beginning to add in LTE, and that sounds like it still is not ready for prime time. And you could say Apple blinked a little. By releasing a CDMA phone, they can now put Android out of its misery before it becomes too much of an annoyance. I'd rather have Apple driving the agenda than Verizon. Apple is very user-focussed– that's why they put so much effort into design and UI. VZ is just another greedy, non-innovative service provider.

  5. Rob Says:

    Verizon had a large investment in CDMA before GSM became the global choice. Both were available and Verizon bet on CDMA. In hindsight, it would, apparently, have been much better for them to have selected GSM, though it might be that CDMA gives them better network coverage than would GSM.

    Given their current investment in CDMA, you would have them duplicate tower hardware throughout their network in order to provide a transition to GSM for eventual customers, later followed by removal of the CDMA hardware once no customers use it. Thus, they would spend a tremendous amount of money to duplicate their current coverage, maintain both networks for many years, and then decommission the CDMA hardware, just because you think they should support GSM.

    I have no idea what Verizon's real plans are, but I can only guess that they intend to seek the next, global standard via stepwise transitions to keep customers happy while avoiding outright duplication in the interim.

  6. Brandon Backlin Says:

    All these video formats make managing videos on the web suck (for independent publishers that don't wish to use Youtube – not that many). Not only is more time used, more file space is used and the code is longer.

    If it's a licensing issue it's not a big deal. While it is a proprietary codec, it is owned by the International Standardisation Organization (ISO) and will remain free for playback <a href="http://(” target=”_blank”>(

  7. slebetman Says:

    "…the industry is making no progress whatsoever towards unification". If by 'industry' you mean web browser makers then previously the progress towards unification was H264 since everyone but Firefox implemented it. Microsoft even went as far as developing a plugin to make Firefox play nice with H264. But if you look at the wider world then the progress towards unification is clear: mobile phones: H264, low end camcorders: H264, digital TV: H264, internet video streaming services: H264, Blueray: H264.