Microsoft’s Dean Hachamovitch, has lobbed a 3,000 word grenade at Google. The grenade is a lengthy description of why Microsoft will now support H.264 for web video in their Internet Explorer web browser and allow users to load a third-party codec for WebM. The one thing they forget to mention, was that they stand to gain on any royalties that MPEGLA gets from all of those non-free H.264 uses, because they’re a member of the group. Convenient no? They say that they pay 2X what they get back, so maybe they want to see more of a return on that investment?

Apple is also in the group and also a staunch supporter of the codec, no big surprise there. The 3,000 word letter from Dean Hachamovitch, Corporate Vice President, Internet Explorer, seems like a direct attack on Google who recently announced that it would not support the codec in their Chrome web browser. In today’s blog post:

  1. IE9 will support H.264. Microsoft has released an add-on for Firefox on Windows to support H.264 and today we are releasing a plug-in for Google Chrome on Windows to provide support for H.264.
  2. We will provide support for IE9 users who install third-party WebM video support on Windows and they will be able to play WebM video in IE9.
  3. Many parties have raised legitimate questions about liability, risks, and support for WebM and the proponents of WebM should answer them.

DH puts forth three questions in his blog post:

  1. Who bears the liability and risk for consumers, businesses, and developers until the legal system resolves the intellectual property issues;
  2. When and how does Google make room for the Open Web Standards community to engage genuinely;
  3. What isthe plan for restoring consistency across devices, Web services, and the PC.

Internet Explorer Pro H.264, Tolerant of WebM

Meanwhile, he stated that IE9 will play video in H.264, and that any IE9 user who installs third-party WebM codeces will be able to see that video in the browser (duh…)

We chose this path (supporting one additional video format that the user has installed on her machine) because we recognize that other video formats exist and we wanted to give customers a convenient way to view video in those other formats without specifying a particular one. With this approach, we provide a more stable platform overall given the many documented risks with arbitrarily downloaded video codecs including their use as vectors for malware and phishing.

Umm, no you actually did specify one, H.264, and then said “oh well, if you must…you can install something extra and I suppose we’ll allow it.” My question is, why can’t we watch any video when we have any codec installed? For example, I use the CCCP, that should give me all manner of video playback in my browsers…right?

Free from Legal Attacks vs. No Known Royalty Requirements

Our point of view is totally clear. Our support for H.264 results from our views about a robust Web and video ecosystem that provides a rich level of functionality, is the product of an open standards process like the W3C’s HTML5 specification, and has been free from legal attacks. Microsoft is agnostic and impartial about the actual underlying video format for HTML5 video as long as this freedom continues.

“Has been free from legal attacks,” however, the W3C specification is that it “will be free from legal attacks,” and even from the wording of his blog post, he expects there to be some problems. They’re certainly agnostic, except that they’re only going to support H.264 inherently and you need to install an add-on for WebM. Granted, if you are a Chrome user then you too will need to install an add-on to get H.264 support.

Twisting it to your needs

Looking at video format support as a vote on who is for or against an open and free Internet is tempting but also naïve.

Not when the video codec debate is integral to the W3C HTML5 specification, which it is. The whole point of the W3C is to make sure that it’s open. Your taking the video codec decision out of that framework seems naive to me. Then you go on to bash Google about not indemnifying users and base on their statement that there are “No known royalty requirements.” Well, didn’t you just say the same thing about H.264?

Additionally, via a blog post by Claudio Caldato, Principal Program Manager, Interoperability Strategy Team, agreed that they would be offering up a patch for Windows 7 users to integrate H.264 support in Chrome. The support will come from the Windows Media Player HTML5 Extension for Chrome.

We believe that Windows customers should be able to play mainstream HTML5 video and, as we’ve described in previous posts, Internet Explorer 9 will support playback of H.264 video as well as VP8 video when the user has installed a VP8 codec.

When the user has installed the VP8 codec… They also recently released an add-on for Firefox as well, for the same reason.

The Take-Away

Here’s the take away, in one brief sentence, which I know is not my forte, but which I believe is required here.mmm... Chinese food

Shut up.

Alright, that’s not really all I’ve got to say (haha, fooled you!). I believe that it’s more likely that WebM is a better option from an open source viewpoint and that it’s a worse choice from a technical one (on the grounds of its immaturity, lack of hardware acceleration, etc), but the faster you all get your crap sorted out, the faster we can move forward with a single open source video codec for HTML5 and the sooner the W3C can move on with getting round to working out the rest of HTML5’s specification. Plus, you can all start working on actually giving users a better web-based video experience and when you’ve done with that, then you can go back to your bickering and squabbling, preferably in web-based video so that we can all enjoy it, regardless of the codec that it’s encoded with.

Kung Pao! I’m out! (I know, you missed that…)