updated 07:10 pm EST, Fri January 14, 2011
Google WebM plugin for IE9, Safari due soon
Google in a defense of its decision to pull H.264 from Chrome's HTML5 revealed that it will put out WebM plugins for Internet Explorer 9 and Safari. Expecting no official support from Apple or Microsoft, Google plans to develop extensions that would load its self-owned video codec. No timetable was given.
The search firm still insisted that it wouldn't add H.264 back to Chrome and fell back on sheer platform support to make its case. WebM supporters Chrome, Firefox and Opera make up significant portions of the browser landscape, Google said, and so would require that anyone hoping to support HTML5 on those browsers to encode in WebM or at least Ogg Theora.
Staffers may have undermined the argument, however, by justifying how Chrome would support those instances where H.264 was necessary. Google saw plugins like Flash and Silverlight as catch-alls that would play the majority of video. It unusually tried to downplay the format it was trying to support as it noted that "few sites use [HTML5] today" and wouldn't be hurt as a result.
The plugin strategy still doesn't address much of the policy and non-desktop concerns surrounding the decision. Google officially made the move to insist on support for strictly open formats but hasn't explained why it continues to support Flash or even MP3, neither of which can be freely added to or modified. Concerns have existed that Google is primarily trying to avoid the licensing fees that come from commercial use of H.264, but it hasn't explained why it still supports MP3 in this regard or challenged claims that it might still owe patent royalties for the similarities to H.264.
The decision also conveniently helps drive traffic back to Adobe. As both Apple and Microsoft have actively opposed WebM and actively depend on H.264 for virtually all of their non-computer devices, many developers aren't expected to encode videos twice and may just use Flash to supply H.264 to Chrome users. It may inadvertently hurt HTML5 adoption as well by encouraging developers to either use Flash alone or to enable it only for part of the web. [via TechCrunch]