Wednesday, August 05, 2009

HTML5 and H.264 vs. Ogg. Can't we all just get along?

For those of you who aren't in the know, the next version of the HTML specification, HTML5, includes a couple of new and extremely useful tags -- video, and audio. These tags are intended to allow developers to directly insert video and audio content without having to use a plugin system. There's all sorts of reasons why this is useful, but I won't get into them.

The problem is, there's this big debate going on around which video codec to support. Mozilla and Opera sit firmly in the Ogg Theorea camp, while Apple only supports H.264. Google Chrome will support both, which is great, if you ask me. I'm not going to get into all the details over which codec is superior and why browser makers need to figure this out. If you want to know more about all that nitty gritty, read this article.

I just have one simple observation. This whole debate seems silly to me. Years ago, browsers only supported GIF files. Then, as the browser wars heated up, Netscape and IE and the others of the day started adding support for more and more image formats, including JPG, PNG, BMP, etc.. Nobody was really sure what format to use. Each one had its own advantages and disadvantages. But over time, all browsers eventually added support for virtually every image format out there, and as new image formats emerge, new versions of browsers add support for them. So what's the big brouhaha over support for different video codecs? Add support now for the most common ones, and as new and better formats emerge, add support for those. Yes, there may be licensing issues, but I seem to recall there were licensing issues with the GIF format all those many years ago, and yet all the major browsers still support them today.

It just seems simple to me. What about you?

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