Online Video Standards War Heating Up

A browser war is breaking out with Microsoft and Apple (certainly strange bedfellows) on one side and Google and Mozilla on the other.

In the past, in order to stream online video the visitor’s browser had to have an appropriate plug-in. The new HTML5 standard was supposed to stream video natively within the browser, removing the need for plug-ins.

However, no one can agree on which video format will be built into the browsers.

Apple and Microsoft have chosen the H.264 codec. The supposed problem here is that it’s not “open source”, meaning there is a patent on the technology. The patent holders have said it’s free to consumers but are charging the browser companies a (relatively) small fee.

When they tried to charge Mozilla $5 million to integrate it into Firefox, Mozilla balked.

Google has just landed on Mozilla’s side. They say the Google Chrome browser will not support H.264. Instead they, along with the Firefox browser will support Ogg Theora video plus, their own dog in the hunt, WebM (VP8).

What’s all this mean?

For video publishers and webmasters, it’s the same story as Betamax vs. VHS and Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD vs. DVD. It means you have to create and post your video content in multiple formats. It means more work for you because the powers that be can’t agree on a standard. Again.