Originally Posted by poke
I think there's a lot of confusion on this matter. Google simply doesn't have the power to force people to adopt WebM. Dropping H.264 in Chrome is, to my mind, an entirely cynical move aimed at propping up Flash with the intention of damaging Apple. Consider the following:
1. Google has said they will remove H.264 support in HTML5 from the Chrome browser. It has also said it will supply WebM plugins for other browsers.
2. Google's Chrome browser will still ship with Flash which supports H.264 so Chrome will still support H.264 video.
3. Google has not
said it will remove H.264 from Android. Since Android phones have hardware support for H.264 this is unlikely.
4. Even if Google removed H.264 support from Android the handset manufacturers could just add it back themselves. This is a likely scenario since they all support H.264 in hardware and are all H.264 licensees regardless. Most of the Android handset manufacturers support other platforms, like Windows Phone 7, that support H.264 and will never have support for WebM. They have nothing to gain from dropping H.264 support. Google has no means of forcing the handset manufacturers to drop H.264 or use WebM. The best they could do would be to provide incentives. Also note that many carriers have video services that supply video in H.264 format. H.264 support could easily be continued simply by branching that module from the existing Android codebase and continuing development outside Google.
5. Google has not
said it will stop encoding videos in H.264 on YouTube. To do so would require WebM support in other browsers. This won't be possible until Google has a WebM plugin available for Internet Explorer and Safari or Flash supports WebM. Android would also need to support WebM. Google does not have the ability to update the vast majority of existing Android phones without the approval of the handset manufacturers and carriers. If you've seen how fragmented Android is on different phones then you know that dropping support for H.264 on YouTube would mean dropping support for the huge number of existing Android phones that run older versions of the software and do not receive updates. Obviously it would also mean no longer supporting iOS devices and Windows Phone 7 devices. This would be far more damaging to Google than to anyone else. If anything Google's "monopoly" on web video makes it more difficult
for them to take a stance on web video standards; if they start excluding existing devices they will quickly lose users. Google makes its money from advertising. If you were a company advertising on YouTube and Google started systematically excluding people from viewing video there in an attempt to make a point about open standards, you would not continue to advertise with Google
. People talk as if Google answers to no one; in fact, they answer to the companies that advertise with them. Those are their customers, not you and not the open source community. They have to be always expanding their audience, not contracting it to make minor points in an ideological battle their customers do not understand or care about.
6. Internet Explorer still has the most market share and Microsoft has pledged support for H.264 and not WebM. They have also supplied a H.264 plugin for Firefox. It's likely that we'll see an H.264 plugin for Chrome. Apple could easily supply an H.264 plugin for Firefox and Chrome on the Mac. The result will be that almost any browser running on these two platforms (Windows and OS X) will support H.264. If such plugins become ubiquitous then Flash won't be necessary to watch video anywhere and nobody will need to re-encode their video in WebM.
7. A large and significant number of web users are running old versions of browsers and out of date Flash plugins. The only way to serve video content to them is via Flash. When choosing which format to encode video in it only makes sense to use H.264 since it can be served directly or in a Flash wrapper. Nobody is going to take the time to encode in WebM as well when they can reach everyone through H.264 either directly using the <video> tag (native support or a plugin) or via Flash.
8. It's worth noting that any browser could easily support H.264 without paying royalties by simply using the native support in modern operating systems to render video just like apps in the App Store can play H.264 video without having to implement their own decoder or pay royalties.
In short, Google just doesn't have the power to change video on the web.