Microsoft bets on HTML5 video, too


— 6:00 AM on May 3, 2010

Apple's eagerness to render Adobe Flash obsolete wouldn't count for much if other browser vendors failed to join in. Although it doesn't mention the Mac maker by name, the latest post on the official Internet Explorer blog suggests Microsoft is siding with Apple on the Flash vs. HTML5 issue.

In the blog post, IE General Manager Dean Hachamovitch opens with a vague acknowledgment of the debate. He quickly goes on to sum up Microsoft's position:

The future of the web is HTML5. Microsoft is deeply engaged in the HTML5 process with the W3C. HTML5 will be very important in advancing rich, interactive web applications and site design. The HTML5 specification describes video support without specifying a particular video format. We think H.264 is an excellent format. In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video only.

The rest of the posting explains Microsoft's reasons for siding with H.264 instead of Ogg Theora—namely that H.264 is an industry standard, and that while Ogg Theora's source is open, the intellectual property rights surrounding it are "less clear." (Here again, though, Microsoft doesn't name any names, simply mentioning "other codecs.")

Apple and Google are backing H.264 for HTML5 video, too, while only Mozilla and Opera are in the Ogg Theora camp. Considering an HTML5/H.264 version of YouTube has already gone up, the debate seems likely to end quicker than the bitter Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD skirmish.

In any case, all major browser vendors now look to be embracing HTML5 as the future of online video. Google seems like a bit of a special case, because it recently revealed plans to integrate the Flash plugin in future releases of its Chrome web browser. Admittedly, though, Flash probably has a few good years ahead of it, even if HTML5 does emerge as the new online video standard.

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