Thursday, February 3, 2011

Microsoft Adds H.264 Support for HTML5 Videos in Chrome

Last month Google made headlines across the web with the announcement that they will drop support for the popular video codec H.264 from Chrome in favor of open standards like WebM and Theora. The news caused an uproar as a significant percentage of videos on the web are h.264 encoded, which means that providers will either have to re-encode them again to WebM to support HTML5 or simply drop HTML5 video support. Many feel that this move is only going to push the web backward.

Microsoft has responded by releasing an extension for Chrome that enables Chrome users to play H.264-encoded videos (aka MP4) on HTML5 pages by using the built-in capabilities found in Windows 7.

This Extension is based on a Chrome Extension that parses HTML5 pages and replaces Video tags with a call to the Windows Media Player plug-in so that the content can be played in the browser. The Extension replaces video tags only if the video formats specified in the tag are among those supported by Windows Media Player. Tags that contain other video formats are not touched.

The Extension also checks if the browser version already supports MP4 (H.264) video codec, if so the extension is not used.

The current version of the Extension still uses the Windows Media Player Plug-in APIs to control video playback, so there are some differences between the methods/properties defined in the emerging HTML5 standard and those available in the Windows Media Player plug-in. We are working to fix this limitation in the next release.

After last month’s announcement, Microsoft accused Google of bringing inconsistency and legal uncertainty into the Web video arena by natively supporting only the newly open-sourced WebM video format in its Chrome browser that very few uses.

Interestingly, last year Google pissed off Microsoft by developing a plugin that changed Internet Explorer’s rendering engine to that of Chrome. Now Microsoft has struck back by undoing all changes Google had planned for the next version of Chrome. And if you are following the news, you must know by now that Microsoft and Google are currently engaged in an intense cat fight over accusation of copying search engine results that Google levied upon Microsoft.

The war is clearly heating up folks.


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