Over the past two years we have seen a different Google emerge on to the internet. They’re not just a search company anymore, but one of the most integral software companies in the history of the internet. Building operating systems, web services, sponsoring custom hardware, and powerful browsers. But as Google’s ambitions have grown, the company’s greed and cliché corporate malice has become more visible. First they spar with Apple, then they attack net neutrality, and now they threaten to undo all the progress of HTML5 in the past year. This newest development has arisen from the news earlier this week that Google will drop support for H.264 in HTML5 from the Chrome browser and most likely all their web services. Focusing completely on their own “open” video codec: WebM, and Ogg Theora instead of the “insufficiently open” standard of MPEG-4/H.264.
Ed Note: Some of this editorial may reference the recent ArsTechnica article “Google’s dropping H.264 from Chrome a step backward for openness” by Peter Bright. Bright gives an excellent overview of the situation surrounding Google’s decision. The editorial will use Bright’s remarks and thoughts as support or possibly refute a few of his points. I recommend you read that article as well at some point for a more complete understanding.
Let’s start at the beginning and weigh how Google considers the term “open”. To paraphrase Bright’s position, which I agree with: they don’t know shit! H.264 is the definition of open. The video codec was designed and standardized by ISO and ITU-T, the authorities on standardization on this planet. The technology was compiled and developed by a team of engineers stemming from across the industry, voted on and ratified by an international standards organization. Now, compare that with Google’s WebM. That was originally called VP8, built by the private firm On2 (in secret) before being acquired by Google. They released it as a free and open standard, but they have yet to submit it to a standards organization and Google controls the codec by itself. So you tell me, what is more open here? Continue Reading