Home > Chromium, Ubuntu > H.264 codec to be dropped from Chrome/Chromium HTML5 video tag

H.264 codec to be dropped from Chrome/Chromium HTML5 video tag

oh, my! If we are to believe the recent announcement from the Google Chrome Product Manager, and why shouldn’t we, support for the H.264 codec will be dropped from Chromium’s HTML5 <video> tag (and its branded brother Google Chrome), to favor open innovation.

That will happen in the coming months, so most probably post Chromium 10 for us (v10 enters beta in a month from now).

I have to admit this announcement caught me by surprise as it’s a bold move from Google, but I loudly applaud the decision. It makes sense, even if it’s a risk of splitting the world apart… again. Something tells me that while pleasing the community, it’s a way for Google to spare time and money on encoding and storing yet another copy of those 35+ hours of video uploaded every minute, and even better, they can now do it with yet-another technology they control.


So some would say, it’s a move to favor Google’s VP8 codec, WebM. I tend to see the situation as positive. There are alternatives to the Google implementation, like the one from FFmpeg, ffvp8, claiming to be superior, but the WebM community is also very actively working on improving the reference implementation. Both implementations are open and it’s clear the competition is already driving the innovation, and that’s what we should all be happy about. I also remember some Chromium developers saying that if another implementation proves to be superior, a switch in not excluded.

Anyway, most users won’t and shouldn’t care about which codec a video is in, even less which implementation, so if the emerging HTML5 video codec is fast and open, we all win. Chrome already gained enough market share to take such decision and be taken seriously by (active) content providers, especially when grouped with Firefox. Let’s hope content quickly follows.

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  1. Peter
    January 11, 2011 at 23:32

    “applaud” instead of “applause”

  2. January 11, 2011 at 23:58

    BTW, we have real life advertisement for Chrome in Berlin since about a week.

    • fta
      January 12, 2011 at 06:53

      I saw some in Paris too.

  3. verb3k
    January 12, 2011 at 02:10

    Great decision by Google. VP8 compares very favorably with H.264 given a good encoder.

  4. January 12, 2011 at 05:43

    Give WebM/ffvp8 support to both iPhone and Android, and we’ll be all happy. ^^

  5. January 12, 2011 at 07:37

    @animaster:

    AFAIK Android 2.3 already has WebM support.

  6. Vincent
    January 12, 2011 at 13:38

    As soon as they get webm support in YouTube sorted out, it will be so much more attractive to use a browser like Chrome, Firefox or Opera that can use that, over a browser that still gets served the much slower and less integrated Flash, that other browser makers almost will have to support webm. The world wins!

  7. January 12, 2011 at 14:01

    (I said this on the whatwg mailing list before)
    Just because the browser itself by default doesnt support a particular codec doesnt mean a 3rd party couldnt make an extension to make that codec work with the video tag. So them dropping it only says they aren’t supporting H.264 as the defacto video codec for the web. Since IE and Safari will only support H.264 it will still be used although personally id much prefer webm to be the standard.

  8. Dao
    January 12, 2011 at 15:14

    AFAIK, Chromium didn’t have H.264 support in the first place…

    • fta
      January 12, 2011 at 15:45

      in Ubuntu, it’s in chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-extra

      • Tobias
        January 13, 2011 at 16:20

        Fabien, the announcement was about Chrome, right? We in Ubuntu still have the freedom to choose our configure flags how we want them. So I hope chromium-codecs-ffmpeg-extra will stay where it is and continues to be made available.

        • fta
          January 13, 2011 at 16:32

          My policy for Chromium is to follow Chrome when it makes sense for us. The -extra package does more than just H.264, so it may stay. But on the other hand, it’s a source of confusion for many users (as it’s not the default).

          To clarify, I made this -extra package to provide the exact same set of codecs as Google Chrome does (to have the same user experience), i.e. it’s not a collection of codecs that I (as the packager) personally find useful. So, as I use the same build flags, if it disappears from Chrome, it will also disappear from Chromium, unless I do something about it.

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