Google Chrome Drops H.264 Support

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Google is pulling support for H.264 from its Chrome Web browser in favor of the its own WebM video codec along with the Theora video codec. The company said it is making the move in favor of supporting open formats, and H.264 doesn’t fit in with Google’s plans.

Chrome, now with less H.264

“We expect even more rapid innovation in the web media platform in the coming year and are focusing our investments in those technologies that are developed and licensed based on open web principles. To that end, we are changing Chrome’s HTML5 <video> support to make it consistent with the codecs already supported by the open Chromium project,” said Chrome product manager Mike Jazayeri. “Specifically, we are supporting the WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs, and will consider adding support for other high-quality open codecs in the future.”

He acknowledged that H.264 has a prominent place in online video playback, but Google wants to focus on what it calls “open innnovation.” Mr. Jazayeri added “Support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.”

Dropping support for H.264 is a big move for Google since most Web-capable devices include H.264 codecs. Apple supports the format across its Mac lineup, along with the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad. Google’s own YouTube supports H.264, as do many gaming consoles, and even the Blu-ray disc format.

In contrast, Google’s WebM hasn’t been widely adopted and isn’t as robust as H.264. WebM also doesn’t support hardware decoders — a benefit of H.264 — which means mobile devices could see shorter battery life and choppy playback when streaming WebM-based content.

Mr. Jazayeri didn’t say if Google planned to drop Chrome’s Flash support as well. Currently, Flash is bundled in the Chrome application, which could be the format that Web developers chose for Chrome viewers over WebM.

Google plans to pull H.264 from Chrome in about two months to give developers time to transition to a different video playback format.

Comments

CJ

Goodbye Chrome. We hardly knew you.

Lee Dronick

AAPL up on this news. smile

John Molloy

Ironic then that VP8 (WebM) contains swathes of code including routine and variable names and the ever popular comments which are cut and paste from H264.

This is Google having a hissy fit that the iPhone is hitting Verizon and they are trying to kill iOS’s hardware accelerated video for their own WebM format, which coincidentally got some hardware acceleration chips at the CES show.

Am loving the “openness” of something that relies on stealing code - but hey.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Google will keep Flash in Chrome, because Google has a cordial relationship with Adobe. You know, Adobe didn’t write a letter to the FCC explaining that it banned Google Voice from its iPhone because it would confuse iPhone users.

Google will also keep Flash in Chrome because Flash can play H.264 hardware accelerated in fallback mode on most HTML5 web pages that have H.264 video right now.

And Google will succeed because they have proven a far better steward of the web video format they champion than Apple/Microsoft/MPEG-LA has with theirs. The royalty situation for all producers and consumers of WebM video is free and clear. No surprises down the road. Actually, they’ll succeed because between them and Mozilla, they have 70%+ of browser market share. How’s that profit share working for you now Apple? grin

And rattyuk, you are right about one thing. Apple brought out its Unicorn yesterday morning, and Google showed up later in the day with a bigger Unicorn.

geoduck

If you are trying to get a piece of software accepted against entrenched well established rivals, limiting it to your own propitiatory file types is just stupid. Include WebM if you want but in addition to the rest. I know they want to push WebM but getting WebM adopted is a separate fight from getting Chrome adopted. By tying these two together I expect it will sink both. 

I know several serious Android Heads. When we’re talking they all keep asking the same question about Chrome: What is the point? Android is more refined and does everything Chrome was supposed to. Why is Google wasting resources on a duplicate effort? Even they cannot understand it.

IMO Chrome will now fade into history alongside other ideas the looked great but disappeared like a stone, leaving just a ripple in the pond.

dlstarr7

More evil from the “Do No Evil” company?  This might make me go back to using Safari.

Steve

Yep… gone, just removed chrome…. what’s the point of keeping it. What a childish response to recent Apple news.

geoduck

Steve:
I don’t believe it’s a response to Apple. Rather someone in Google must assumes that anything they produce will do well and why not use Chrome to push WebM. They just don’t get that Chrome itself is in deep deep trouble.

OTOH I could see that they know that Chrome is in trouble and are making this change to get more support from within Google. An Office Politics rational.

John Molloy

Bosco - I had a quid on you shoving your face into this discussion.

“Google will keep Flash in Chrome, because”
It is the only differentiation their cheap iPhone rip off has.

“Google will also keep Flash in Chrome because Flash can play H.264 hardware accelerated in fallback mode on most HTML5 web pages that have H.264 video right now.”
Doesn’t help on iOS devices now does it? Which is precisely while Google has pulled this trick.

“The royalty situation for all producers and consumers of WebM video is free and clear.”
the bit that isn’t clear is whether they will get nuked for stealing code. It’s called property theft. I can’t walk into your house and steal your television and then set up on the road to give it away can I? That is theft.

We’ll see how Android performs on Verizon over the coming months. Selling an overpriced feature phone with faster connection in some cities ain’t gonna make a ha’peth of difference. Come July we’ll have a 4G iPhone.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Bosco - I had a quid on you shoving your face into this discussion.

Actually, I just stepped in to tell geoduck that he’s confusing Chromium OS with Chrome browser. But it’s always my pleasure to brighten your day!

And yes, we will see Android continue to take sales share and market share from Apple regardless of the Verizon Unicorn. I know, I’ve sounded like a broken record for more than a year now. It’s the safest prediction I could make.

Ross Edwards

The only way to get a new format to survive is to lock a significant advance in product quality in to the new format.  That forces adoption.  Inertia is otherwise unlikely to be overcome.

MPEG-2 was far better than MPEG-1, but licensing was costly and it was cumbersome to encode and transcode.  Nobody doing computer video in the 1990s wanted to mess with it.  But since it was locked in as the format of DVD video, and that was far better than every other option at the time, it stuck.

Early MPEG-4 (WMV, xvid, divx, 3ivx) wasn’t any better than MPEG-2 except in terms of file size.  Accordingly, there was no real winner in the market.  None of the competing formats prevailed.  And only WMV did decent HD, and with difficulty.

Newer MPEG-4 (H.264) is fully HD, offers better picture than MPEG-2 at any matching bitrate, and offers great picture quality even at very low bitrates (you can encode a TV show at 300k and it’s DVD quality).  It is used everywhere.  It appears in web content.  It appears in the VC-1 container on blu-rays.  Etc.

What is Google offering?  A lateral move to another format?  Why would anyone want that?  Why would anyone transcode web content that’s already out there, and why would anyone want to move away from a format that will continue to appear on 100% of all blu-ray discs for another 10+ years?  Do you think people with media servers and shoebox 2TB HDDs full of video are going to switch to WebM or the joke that the Ogg formats always have been?  No… they’re going to leave everything the way it is, meaning everything encoded between ~2006 and now will be in H.264.

And Bosco, you are misleading by conflating Firefox and Chrome market share, when virtually all of that figure is made up of Firefox (and you know it), and Mozilla has given no indication that they plan to drop any support.  You can be abrasive all you want… I’m down with that… but when you intentionally deceive, you lose all your credibility.

John Molloy

“I know, I?ve sounded like a broken record for more than a year now. It?s the safest prediction I could make.”

You’ve made you point. Fuck off.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

And Bosco, you are misleading by conflating Firefox and Chrome market share, when virtually all of that figure is made up of Firefox (and you know it), and Mozilla has given no indication that they plan to drop any support.? You can be abrasive all you want? I?m down with that? but when you intentionally deceive, you lose all your credibility.

Whoa horsey! Firefox does not handle H.264. Right now, to get video into Firefox without the Flash fallback, one must encode in Ogg-Vorbis.

Browser share… The w3schools numbers are really good for anticipating trends. They definitely lean geek, but the geeks have reach and more mainstream numbers usually reflect the trends within 6 months. Oh, and the geeks encode the video. And YouTube accounts for a good chunk of video served on the web.

Group hug for rattyuk.

snarron

Chrome is becoming less shinny by the day! Google can and does STUPID things like everybody else. By by, Chrome…......

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Chrome is becoming less shinny by the day! Google can and does STUPID things like everybody else. By by, Chrome?......

At the risk of causing rattyuk to have an aneurysm, why are you ditching Chrome? Here are some facts:

1. Future versions of Chrome will still play H.264 via Flash.

2. Flash is baked into the browser. Google (unlike Apple) has made a strong effort to make the interface between Flash and the browser more robust.

Ergo, there isn’t any video on the web that Chrome can play today that it won’t be able to play tomorrow.

Meanwhile in Safari land and iOS land… As large properties such as Google-owned YouTube switch their primary delivery format to WebM, you’ll need that Flash plugin to play WebM video unless Apple implements it natively. Oh right, no Flash in iOS browsers. Might present a problem… I see why you’re upset, but maybe you should be upset with Apple for shilling for a license-encumbered video format.

Ethan

Why is it that you guys were supporting Apple nixing Flash as it was not open (even though a defacto standard) and as cool as html5 but when Google nixes h.264 because it’s not open suddenly they are evil? If you say h.264 is the defacto standard well that’s the same as Flash which is a defacto standard.

As HW support shows up for WebM and IE 9 supporting WebM (decoder will need to be on the system) the only vector that gets hurt with the rise of WebM is the iOS platform. Maybe Apple should just add it to their system? They are so big on Open standards why wouldn’t they?

jfbiii

Much easier for Apple to support WebM if necessary or even add support for—now, much improved—flash than for everyone encoding in h.264 to re-encode.

ADDED: It’s important to note that Flash’s exit from being supported by Apple was based in large part on the fact that Adobe failed to deliver a Flash player that was worth a crap on OS X and their inability to deliver a Flash that was efficient enough to operate on a mobile platform. Since their banishment, Adobe has finally invested some effort into making Flash more competitive in terms of resource utilization.

John Molloy

“Why is it that you guys were supporting Apple nixing Flash as it was not open (even though a defacto standard) and as cool as html5 but when Google nixes h.264 because it?s not open suddenly they are evil? If you say h.264 is the defacto standard well that?s the same as Flash which is a defacto standard.”

Because, if you have been a Mac user you would realize what a steaming pile of hell Flash is. Why should I have all of the cores on my machine running at 100% just to display an Advert?

Also the low powered IOS devices have H264 decoding in hardware which is why it works so well.

You may not be able to grasp the difference here, but Apple’s stance on Flash was trying to improve things. Google’s stance on H264 is purely one of trying to kill off Android opponents.

If this were not the case then how come they left it until after the Verizon announcement to make it known. The same way that the Verizon iPhone announcement leaked on Friday afternoon to take the wind out of CES.

It takes a lot for me to think that Microsoft are the good guys but this move from Google is moronic.

jfbiii

Note the outrage at Apple’s “lie”  about Flash development (which was a legitimate reason rather than a lie) and the corresponding lack of outrage at Googles lie about dropping h.264 because it’s not open.

Ethan

rattyuk: I’m an owner of a g3, g4 tower, clamshell ibook, mac mini, two MBK pros, apple tv, and 3 imacs over the last 12 years. So you can stop the “if your a mac user” arrogant BS. This is why people disregard you guys-it’s all anger at ppl who challenge Apple. Get over it. I develop flash content EVERY DAY on the MBP over the past 6 years. Flash Player never spiked my dual core cpu’s the way you describe. The player is much better now than last year but that has a lot to do with the Video Decode Acceleration Framework Reference that Apple recently rolled out so Flash can talk to the GPU.

Here is the framework for you to read up on:
http://developer.apple.com/library/mac/#technotes/tn2010/tn2267.html

Even before that it never spiked my CPU watching a couple ads in the side bar of a website. If you have issues historically with Flash Player take it up with Apple who holds ALL the keys to the underpinnings of the HW that SW can access. They started to open up but have a long way to go.

What I grasp is Apple presented it as Flash is not “Open” and you guys yapped about how great HTML5 is/will be(depending on a proprietary codec). When it was purely about killing of competition to paid game apps. Now the “Open” arguement is not good enough for you because, gee Apple took the proprietary path with h.264.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

I’m totally confused now. rattyuk, first, please go get some camomile tea, then clarify something for us. Was Google’s announcement and timing evil and likely very effective, or was it moronic?

I think what’s happening here is that Apple’s unwillingness to cooperate with others over the past couple of years is coming home to roost. In the iOS world, H.264 is really important. Super duper important. Combine desktop and other mobile phones, and it’s mostly replaceable. That the replacement will cause pain for Apple and angst for its fans is neither a bug nor a feature. It’s a bonus.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Note the outrage at Apple?s ?lie?? about Flash development (which was a legitimate reason rather than a lie) and the corresponding lack of outrage at Googles lie about dropping h.264 because it?s not open.

Just because you say it’s a legitimate reason doesn’t make it so. You still need to square why Apple later relaxed the approval process to allow apps mades with Flash CS5’s iPhone Packager, and other third party tools. The former tool didn’t improve a single bit from the time it was banned to the time it was reinstated.

But all that aside. Apple just got kicked in nuts his steel toed boots. If you’re Apple, your immediate concern is not to claim that you only kicked your opponent in the nuts with furry bunny slippers or well worn sandals. Your immediate concern is to get some ice. That had to hurt.

Ethan

“Googles lie about dropping h.264 because it?s not open” well it’s not open. It’s licensed by a consortium of patent holders.

Google, MS, Google, Adobe, and yes even Apple are about making money. My point was that you need to apply the arguments the same or they become meaningless. I do think Google sees the bonus of isolating Apple with h.264 much the way Apple saw the bonus to isolate Adobe Flash.

Reality is Google probably made the move in part to ready people for it’s streaming service:

http://www.fierceonlinevideo.com/story/google-grow-streaming-movie-service-2011/2010-12-20

Photobug

Chrome>>>>Trash
Trash: Empty
Done

John Molloy

Nope. You are missing the point Ethan.

“I?m an owner of a g3, g4 tower, clamshell ibook, mac mini, two MBK pros, apple tv, and 3 imacs over the last 12 years. So”

10 pounds saying that they are mostly repurposed to run Linux these days.

“Even before that it never spiked my CPU watching a couple ads in the side bar of a website.”
Maybe you got lucky I was only quoting PERSONAL experience.

“What I grasp is Apple presented it as Flash is not ?Open?”
It isn’t. They have opened up some of the stuff but no body has actually implemented a reliable open source project that runs flash. So for all those calling Flash “open”. It is only in theory. No practical solutions available.

” and you guys yapped about how great HTML5 is/will be”
HTML5 has nothing to do with codecs. You are deliberately blurring the definition in order to score points. HTML5 will be capable of doing all Flash does without any proprietary shit, except Google has blurred that now by making people load flash to play a codec it has taken exception to.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

HTML5 has nothing to do with codecs. You are deliberately blurring the definition in order to score points. HTML5 will be capable of doing all Flash does without any proprietary s—-, except Google has blurred that now by making people load flash to play a codec it has taken exception to.

The filth coming out of your keyboard!!! Well, you seem to have missed the countless animation benchmarks comparing Flash animation to what’s commonly called “HMTL5” (Canvas, SVG, etc.), because they tend to show that Flash does those things pretty snappily now while the HTML5 stuff does not. However, that isn’t the main point here.

The main point is that Google’s decision for Chrome doesn’t affect Apple’s Safari in the least. Safari on iOS and Mac will still play legacy video encoded in H.264 without invoking Flash even as the H.264 format is deprecated, and the web moves on with an unencumbered format.

There really is nothing to worry about. Steve could sell little balls to a bowling alley, and dog knows he has an endless supply of them in his executive suite. He can surely convince content creators that even if they eventually have to pay extra for the privilege of encoding their video with H.264, it’s a way better deal than WebM. Where am I wrong here? Why are you so upset?

Ethan

“10 pounds saying that they are mostly repurposed to run Linux these days.” Please pay up now. OS X Snow Leopard on the ones I have. Again your arrogant, myopic attitude is amazing. I use Apple HW and SW and I can actually think that they are wrong. Yes it is possible.

The point was not if Flash is truely open or not. The point was that it was used as a reason to dismiss flash from iOS by Apple and now when a non-open standard is being deprecated by Google they are evil. The logic falls apart right there.If you supported the removal of Flash as proprietary but don’t support h.264 then it’s pretty obvious that open does not matter to you-just being Apple’s slave does.

HTML5/svg/canvas/js has been touted as a open replacement to flash’s ability-by Apple (it’s getting closer but the canvas cpu use is pathetic for any complex case right now). Google is just saying WebM is an open replacement for h.264. That was the reason to bring up Flash and not an attempt to blur. We are talking about the arguement that open should replace closed. You like it when it works for Apple but not when it hurts them (I don’t think it will as we know Apple Devs are not lazy and they can add WebM support easily).

I really don’t care-open, closed, whatever. My issue is the skewed logic applied to conveniently fit what you want.

Also just because no one has built a valid open source Flash Player does not mean that Adobe has not opened everything they are allowed to. That logic is broken.

mhikl

rattyuks’ a poet.

The Old One Eye to Bosco

Ten thousand words in explanation
Summed up by two
Rings round the world
Time to party.
Hats off,
Ten Thousand Hinds parted,
Point in glory.

truthbetold

I will transition our thousands of systems to firefox and safari.

Nathan

And in other news, I still have Safari and Firefox, both of which support h264.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nathan, Firefox supports h.264 via the Flash fallback. The browser only natively supports Theora video encoding.

Guys, I’m here to help. If you’re going to protest Google kicking Apple in the nuts, you need to protest correctly grin.

Mohamed Talaat

I think this is the right move and personaly totaly support it. 

All HTML5 related work and core goal is to layout a ‘Future’ totaly ‘Open’ platform based on open standards and free from loyalties to big wigs like Apple, Microsoft ..etc. 

Flash can be a good stop gap for H264 and other videos until HTML5 and Open standards pick up and gain momentum.  So on that count, Google is not hyporcritical, it is keeping the stop gap measure until the industry matures.  Supporting H264 is not really required immediately because between FireFox and Chrome dominance and rising market share, and availabiltiy of Flash to playback H264 the web won’t be a mess.  Unlike, Apple which are stubborn SOBs dropping Flash support although it is much needed ‘now’ with no viable alternatives!

The claim that Hardware Acceleration is totaly false, there are 10s of major manufacturers currently testing ICs, and that eventualy will be a given for consumer hardware considering we’re looking for the industry to align 3 - 5 years from now.

BluRay mastring is substantially different than Web Video, and goes through a completely different process compared to realtime and webbased feeds.  The encoding / decoding effort within the lifecycle of mastering a BluRay disk is negligible.  Also, although I’m a strong BluRay fan likely people will have TeraBytes based solid state video libraries / server 5 years from now.

jfbiii

You still need to square why Apple later relaxed the approval process to allow apps mades with Flash CS5?s iPhone Packager, and other third party tools.

Bosco, you’ve pointed out the reason enough times yourself: regulatory threats by the EU government.

If Google was concerned with “open” they wouldn’t include Flash. You continue to call Apple’s complaint a “lie” when it was not. They have legitimate reasons to not want developers stuck in environments that do not add support for OS features until well after the OS is in shipping products. The EU decided to threaten to misapply their own laws in order to punish Apple for an action that didn’t infringe any laws, so Apple caved.

As far as this move goes, were Apple constrained from providing HTML5 support for WebM then some of your argument might be valid.

mhikl

Have decided to go Bing instead of Google. Will miss Google home page for news and such, but not so much. Funny having to go toss one megalomaniac for another. That’s flexibility. Now, if only there was someone more vile than Bosco, I could dump the vilest and embrace the lesser vile. See, I’m not closed. I’m flexible.

Chris

I agree with google’s decision and apple should support WebM in iOS and other platforms. Anyone know when the h.264 patents expire?

ctopher

If WebM becomes the standard what’s stopping Apple from supporting it in iOS devices? It may be that the hardware is not currently up to it (Maybe they can re-purpose the silicon that does h.264 today?) but there’s always next years rev.

Apple doesn’t lead with many standards, open or defacto. (USB is NOT an open standard.) In fact, Apple is often late to the party. Shoot there were tablet and portable computers LONG before the iPad or iPhone came out. I can remember many a Linux based or Windows CE based hand-held that never quite made it to the mainstream (and a few that did, remember HP’s Jornado (SP?) or Dell Axiom (SP?)).

But no one made much money from these things until Apple showed folks how to do it. (From both a technical and business perspective.) Once Apple blesses a computing trend, then others can hop on and make money too.

And those others can now advance the state of the art! Perhaps WebM does that, and if it does, I’m hope Apple supports it. So what’s the big deal? If Apple wants to, it can support WebM and other open standards without the blessing of Google et. al.

I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

jfbiii

The real fuss is about making sure that people continue to be saddled with FLASH plug-ins and all the bugs, insecurities, and crappy design it inflicts on people.

Apple is as often not late to the party. Especially when it comes to killing tech that will soon be dead. Apple did lead with USB. It also lead with tablets (newton). It lead with FireWire. It just doesn’t lead with everything.

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