On the H.264/WebM Conflict.

Pitched conversation and speculation on Twitter ensued in the wake of Google announcing its plan to discard H.264 from Chrome, but few in the web design and development field have taken to their blogs to state an opinion. In fact, I can’t find one post from a leading web designer or developer on the subject. Maybe everyone simply agrees with John Gruber and Marco Arment: this is a terrible idea.

I won’t pretend to understand the legal arguments for or against using H.264, but someone tell me why Mozilla and Google can’t simply support multiple video codecs including H.264, WebM, and Ogg Theora just like they support PNG, GIF, and JPG. Allow the market to decide which is best not only at a technical level but, if this truly is relevant, from a philosophical one as well. A robust alternative to the primary option is surely a more useful deterrent than levying an all-out war guaranteed only to waste a lot of people’s time and money.1 Speak softly and carry a big stick, as it were.

  1. This perspective of course is based on the assumption that Google only wants what’s best for “the Internet.” If Google is simply looking out for Google — a not unlikely possibility — well, the whole discussion is academic. []