Mar 3 2010

HTML 5’s Champion: Ogg Theora vs. H.264

Adobe Flash has lead the internet in terms of content delivery.  We have enjoyed streaming our videos and  little games to play during class when we should be paying attention to a lecture.  But sometime around the release of Firefox 3.5, we all remembered another up and coming technology, HTML 5. HTML 5 was supposed to provide native video support into the browser, resolving the need for a proprietary plug-in to watch your favorite Rick Astley song.

Sadly, this has taken longer than we hoped and doesn’t look like it will be on the fast track anytime soon. The issue keeping us back with FLV is we haven’t determined what codec should become the web’s standard.  It boils down to a debate between the open source community’s Ogg Theora versus the industry standard of H.264.  The argument is one between the importance of a true open internet and the practicality of refusing a perfectly capable and widely used codec.

H.264 gained public acceptance, because it’s shown to be very effective in preserving most quality while being in compressed forms and decompression preserves this.  In fact, Vimeo and YouTube both accepted H.264 as their format of choice for the HTML 5 versions of their sites.  However, H.264 is not an open codec, and is subject to royalty pricing.

While both Safari and Chrome have accepted this and intend to use it for HTML 5 video, Firefox and Opera have raised concerns regarding this issue.  The fact of the matter is, both Firefox and Opera are essentially free browsers, not backed by major  companies.  Companies that tend to use those browsers would likely not be able to afford the royalties for H.264 codec support.  Instead, they have chosen the less efficient (but 100% open) Ogg Theora format over the alternative.  While Ogg does result in a decrease of quality, many GPLers are arguing that having H.264 as the norm, doesn’t change the internet at all from using Flash video instead.  Both are proprietary formats and allow for certain components of the Internet to be controlled by a single company.

Still, this is a major issue for multiple parties.  What route will deliver videos in place of Flash? For manufacturers and users of operating systems, not having Flash may have already taken a hit to their reputation. We will see who is crowned victor in this battle.

Via Ars Technica

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