YouTube, Mozilla in Video Codec Battle

By HTMLGoodies Staff

Last week YouTube announced that they were supporting HTML5 video, using the H.264 video codec. Mozilla hasn't settled on which codec they will support, but many Mozilla supporters have been pushing for the browser to use the royalty-free alternative called Ogg Theora.

YouTube's announcement was quickly followed by an announcement by Vimeo, another video site, that they will also support HTML5's H.264 video codec. The problem is that the HTML5 specification is still under development, even after 6 years, and thus far it doesn't specify which video "codec" should be used, hence the problem--different browsers and Web sites are left to choose which video standards they will support.

So far, Google hasn't announced if it plans to add Ogg Theora support, but the decision has yet to be made. A Mozilla mailing list has many requests for Ogg Theora support, and both Mozilla and YouTube are taking note.

Google's statement on the topic was that "Support for HTML5 is just a TestTube experiment at this time and a starting point. We can't comment specifically on what codecs we intend to support, but we're open to supporting more of them over time. At the very least we hope to help further this active and ongoing discussion."

Money, as usual, is an important influence in this decision. Mozilla would end up spending $5 million to license the H.264 codec from the industry group that owns the MPEG-LA codec, and that wouldn't affect the rights of companies who develop products that use Mozilla's browser.

Google's Mike Shaver stated that his concern was for developers, saying that "These license fees affect not only browser developers and distributors, but also represent a toll booth on anyone who wishes to produce video content. And if H.264 becomes an accepted part of the standardized Web, those fees are a barrier to entry for developers of new browsers, those bringing the Web to new devices or platforms, and those who would build tools to help content and application development."

HTML5 video support still new for videoo providers as well as web browsers. Firefox is going with Ogg Theora, and with Opera it's still an ongoing effort. Apple's Safari also supports H.264, while Google's Chrome supports both codecs. YouTube and Vimeo support H.264, while Dailymotion and Wikipedia also have gone with support for Ogg Theora.

One potential break in the battle could be in Google's court--they are trying to acquire On2 Technologies, whose pioneer codec development is part of the Ogg formats, but that is going to be a hard sell to the only browser without HTML5 video support, Microsoft's IE, and Apple, both who hold patents covered by the H.264 video codec. Whether the video sites and browser companies can come to some sort of agreement has yet to be seen, but video on the web is here to stay, one way or another.

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