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Google drops H.264 support from Chrome: Who’s interest does this serve?

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Earlier this month, Google announced that it will drop support for the popular H.264 video codec from it’s Chrome browser. Being the web geek that I am, I’ve researched and thought about and wrestled with this issue to the detriment of my productivity.

And after all that I have come to the following conclusion: Google is at it again. And by ‘it’ I mean being two-faced liars who have lost my trust.

For background on this issue, see these 2 excellent articles:

I want to believe that Google’s decision was motivated by the desire to help advance adoption of HTML5 video, which would make publishing video on the web so much easier. I really wish that Google is sincere in it’s claim of wanting to build an open web by promoting WebM, their open source video codec.

However, as the Ars Technica article points out, WebM is not as open as Google may want you to believe. They still control the project and different parts of the WebM source code are licensed differently. WebM is royalty-free, but not free of control from a single entity.

On top of this, here are a few more reasons why my evil-o-meter is screaming warnings that Google are two-faced liars:

1. Google includes an embedded Flash player in Google Chrome and in the Android OS. Flash is far more proprietary than H.264 and it’s practically a part of the Chrome browser since it’s embedded and not a plugin. This seems to be counter to the spirit of their decision to drop H.264.

2. Google continues to support GIF, JPG, MP3 and AAC in the Chrome browser. These are also patent-encumbered technologies and some even require royalties. If these are allowed, why not H.264? Again, this is inconsistent with their decision to drop H.264.

3. Google loves to play the ‘open’ card and portray themselves as a champion of open systems. But looking beneath the surface, Google is only open when it is convenient for them. They’ve shown this in their search and AdWords algorithms, in their open Android mobile OS and how Google allied themselves with Verizon to advocate recommendations that would damage net neutrality.

So really, who’s interest does the decision to drop H.264 support from Google Chrome serve? Not web developers and publishers who are now more inconvenienced. Not the web standards proponents who have a harder job selling HTML5’s <video> support. Not web users who are forced to rely on resource intensive, buggy Flash to play their web videos. Google’s decision benefits themselves, and to a smaller extent Adobe.

Come on Google, your two-faced inconsistencies suck. Instead of dropping support for H.264, how about dropping your motto? Remember? The one that says “Don’t be evil”.

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