Google to drop H.264 support in Chrome

12 Jan 2011

Google has revealed it plans to drop support for the HTML (video) based H.264 codec in Chrome.It said it plans to instead support WebM and Theora codecs to be more consistent with open Chromium codecs. The WebM Project was launched last year to bring an open, world-class video codec to the web.

The move to drop support for H.264 will mean Google will have to transcode the billions of videos on YouTube to the newer codecs.

Some commentators think Google is crazy to be making this change but it seems the internet giant is confident the speed of change is sufficient to warrant the change.

Rapid innovation

“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,” product manager Mike Jazayeri explained.

“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.

“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.

“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,” Jazayeri said.

“These changes will occur in the next couple months but we are announcing them now to give content publishers and developers using HTML <video> an opportunity to make any necessary changes to their sites.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years