Should Google embrace Ogg for HTML5 and YouTube?

From the ‘free video‘ files:

HTML 5 is coming and it could change the face of video enabling browser to directly include video with the new <video> tag. Apple’s Safari 4, Opera 10, Google Chrome and Firefox 3.5 all have some form of HTML5 video support but what about the big video sites? What about Google’s YouTube?

It turns out that Google is testing HTML 5 video now on YouTube — if you’ve got an HTML 5 ready browser you can check out their demo at: The issue with HTML 5 video though is which codec will be used for the video. This is a topic, I’ve blogged on before — just last week I had a post where Mozilla’s Director of Firefox Mike Beltzner called on all browser vendors to embrace the open Ogg video format.

Another Mozilla staffer – this time VP of Engineering, Mike Shaver is now turning up the heat on Google is a public mailing list tirade against Google and their use on YouTube of the H.274 codec (which is patent encumbered) instead of using Ogg.

“I do not like the situation on the web today, where to use all the content you need to have a license to Flash,” Shaver wroter. “And I’m saddened that Google is choosing to use its considerable leverage — especially in the web video space, where they could be a king-maker if ever there was one — to create a _future_ in which one needs an H.264 patent license to view much of the video content on the web. Firefox won’t likely have native H.264 support, since we simply can’t operate under those patent restrictions.”

This is a serious debate and one that could ultimately mean that the <video> tag in HTML5 does – or doesn’t get widely used. In my opinion – it’s great to have the tag, but if there is no general agreement on underlying video codec – at least as a choice – then <video>  just won’t not a viable option for the majority of web developers.

That’s where Flash video – with all of its associated patent and licensing issues – has worked well and will continue to work well for years to come. Flash is pervasive and it has completely abstracted the underlying video codec agrument. If you have Flash then YouTube or any other site delivering video by way of Flash simply works. The added compexity that HTML5 (at this early point) brings to the discussion with codec issues is one that no doubt will scare away a few (non-early adopter) web developers.

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