Google has announced that they are preparing to drop support for the H.264 video codec from their Chrome browser. This is the codec which allows playback of YouTube videos, and videos from countless other video sites across the web, and it’s also the primary codec supported the iPhone and iPad. Presumably Google will transcode their YouTube videos to their recently acquired (and open-sourced) WebM video codec.
The tech pundits are up in arms and snarkily ask simple questions. And sure enough, this kinda sucks, there’s no denying that. On the surface of this, dropping H.264 support (which currently works just fine in Google Chrome) is a desperate attempt from Google to get the web as a whole to flock to WebM, the open alternative to H.264. Presuming Google goes through with this, I have a few questions of my own as to what and why:
- What will happen if Google Chrome surfs on to a website that has an H.264 video? Will the file download, or open in a media player installed on the computer? Or will it simply show a “missing plugin” icon? Or will the playback be handled by the Flash Player?
- If this is indeed a codec-war standoff, does Chrome have a large enough user base to make a difference? And wouldn’t it then be a better play to simply transcode all YouTube videos and have them play back best in Chrome?
I’m not ready to drop Chrome as my browser — it’s still the best one out there. Are you dropping Chrome?
[Update]: Playing devils avocado, here’s food for thought: