The web has been abuzz today with the news that Google Chrome would be dropping native support for video encoded in H.264 in favor of focusing on open formats like Google’s WebM or Theora. So why the fuss? According to a TechCrunch story from May last year, H.264 is the most used video codec on the web. Many devices have built in hardware support for decoding, which means great quality video with very little impact on performance or battery (this helps everything from handsets to computers to set-top boxes). H.264 seems an obvious choice. According to Google, “our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.”
So this left us wondering, what about Google TV? So we reached out to Google and according to a representative from the company this announcement does not affect the version of Chrome on Google TV. So this left us wondering again, if you are going to maintain support in the Google TV version of Chrome, why remove it from the desktop version? And what about Mobile Chrome? We’re left with more questions that answers. For now it looks like H.264 is safe in Chrome versions on Google TV, but we suspect its days are numbered. Yesterday, on the WebM blog (remember WebM is a Google project), they announced that they had licensed hardware decoder implementations to over 20 companies and that the first first hardware decoder would be released in the first quarter of 2011 and would support 1080p video at up to 60 frames per second. Once these are out there will be nothing holding Google back from going fully WebM on desktop, mobile and set-top.
Update: Google also confirmed to us that this does not affect Android either, only desktop Chrome.
Hat tip: Daring Fireball