Google Chrome Dropping H.264 — a Vote of Confidence for WebM and Open Web Technologies
Google's decision to drop native support for H.264 video in Chrome clearly signals their confidence in the quality and viability of WebM/VP8 as a way to deliver video content online, and their focus on the continued development of open formats.
Opera has always championed the Open Web – a platform that is accessible to all, without the restrictions of patents and royalties. We started the work that eventually became HTML5. When Opera first proposed the creation of a native video element, we called for a free and open video codec.
Our first implementations relied on Ogg Theora - the most realistic alternative to other royalty-encumbered codecs at the time. We welcomed the introduction of WebM as a better-performing and open alternative – Håkon Wium Lie (CTO at Opera) was on stage at the Google I/O conference in May 2010, where WebM was first unveiled and released – royalty free – to the open web community, demonstrating a beta version of our desktop browser with WebM support. And with Opera 10.60 (released in July 2010), we were the first browser to include support for native WebM video in a stable (non-beta) release.
On platforms where hardware-decoding of H.264 is already present – such as certain internet-connected TV sets, set-top boxes and mobile devices – Opera will continue to support playback of H.264 content. As devices with hardware-accelerated VP8 decoding become available, Opera will of course use these architectures in delivering WebM video to its customers – after all, Opera loves speed.
Support for Adobe Flash is a completely separate matter. There is a large amount of content currently available on the web that happens to be in the Flash format, and it's a strategic decision for each individual browser manufacturer whether or not they want to allow their users access to this content.
Analysts may argue whether or not Adobe Flash, as a format driven by a single company, can be classified as an "open" web technology, but it is a format that does not subject content producers to the potential of royalty payments for its commercial use. Opera supports Flash because it is a part of the web today, while we are also working actively to develop and support what we more strictly define as Open Web technologies.
HTML5, and in particular the discussion about which codecs browsers should or could support, is still in its infancy. The decisions that we take today with regards to supported features and formats will play an active role in how the future of the web will be shaped. As long-standing supporters of the Open Web, we at Opera are excited to see Google's clear push in the same direction.