This week we had our first request from a client wishing to use only WebM. Our initial response was 'why ?'. The answer quickly became apparent.
It's claimed that 80% of all video served online now uses the H.264 (or rather the x264) codec in a MOV or MP4 wrapper. The reason it simple - it works on a wider range of devices and browsers than anything else.
But the IP in the H.264 standard is hugely complex, and is 'owned' by a consortium of technology companies. Most have been sensible in their implementation of the standard to date, charging a small fee to hardware vendors likely to use the codec.
For those of you whose eyes have glazed over, codecs are important since they underlie other services. Apple has a container format for video (.mov) but no codec of its own. Microsoft has quietly dropped its VC-1 codec, and both companies have put their weight behind H.264.
However, Google recently inherited part of the IP as a result of their acquisition of Motorola, and they have upped the ante by continuing in an attempt at claiming silly commission for their part of the IP. Ironically, Google's reasoning for developing WebM was that H.264 was not open source...
The objective is clear. The 'do no evil' company is trying to gradually force its WebM codec onto the world. Google claim that this is superior since it is ostensibly 'open source', but since it is a codec developed and totally controlled by Google, this argument is vacuous.
The results are unlikely to be felt immediately by anyone outside the hardware manufacturing industry, but its implications are considerable, and Google is yet again proving itself to be a force for evil.
I just hope that Microsoft and Apple's appeals against Motorola's behaviour to the EU and elsewhere succeed and that H.264 can return to its quasi-open status.