Google political move stifles web video distribution & complicates our workflow

Google has thrown a monkey wrench in present & future recommended practices
Allan Tépper
By Allan Tépper 01.16.11

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In case you didn't hear yet, Google recently announced the elimination of support for H.264 in HTML5 video in its popular Chrome web browser within the next few months, in favor of WebM (VP8) and Theora video códecs. Despite Google's official justifications for the move in the name of openness, many analysts (including myself) see this as a political move against Apple, and even hypocritical since the Chrome browser has contained (and will continue to contain) an embedded Flash player. Our logical conclusion is that Google's next step will be to drop support for H.264 in its Android operating system too. This happens after H.264 already has achieved support from Adobe, Apple, and even Microsoft. Up until now, Google's Chrome browser has directly supported H.264 with HTML5's video tag. Before this shocking below the belt punch, many content producers were well along the way of offering HTML5 video with H.264, playable as raw or automatic fallback to the same file embedded in Flash if the browser didn't support it in HTML5, as I have covered in my seminars. However, as we see the writing on the wall, this will likely no longer be sufficient for the ever popular Android devices as they likely become updated to newer versions which would purposefully exclude H.264 playback, especially considering the poor Flash performance on most of the current Android devices that even support it at all. So within a short time, the preferred video códecs for Android devices will likely be WebM (VP8) or Theora, while for Apple iOS devices (AppleTV, iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch), it will remain to be H.264.

What does this mean for us content producers? The goal of any intelligent content producer is to create material which is visible on all popular computers, mobile devices, set top boxes & HDTV sets with onboard streaming, including Apple's iOS (AppleTV, iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch) and Google's Android phones, tablets (including most non-Apple ones), and GoogleTV. Unless Google relents (which I hope but do not expect to happen), content producers who want to offer a universally accepted, seamless experience on the mentioned devices will be now need to encode web video in at least two video códecs (i.e. H.264 and WebM or Theora) with the required web code to auto-negotiate among raw H.264, raw WebM (or Theora), and H.264 embedded in Flash. Google has thrown a monkey wrench into our workflow and best practices, and I'm not the only one complaining. If Google doesn't relent almost immediately, I'll be writing articles and creating tutorials about how to solve this mess. Stand by…

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