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Microsoft endorses a Flash video replacement

The issue of what Web video format might replace Adobe's Flash got a little clearer -- but not clear enough -- with a brief post on Microsoft's Internet Explorer blog.

Under the headline, "HTML5 Video," IE general manager Dean Hachamovitch wrote that the next version of this browser "will support playback of H.264 video only." H.264 is a patented video format, used by some sites and in many video downloads, that such competing browsers as Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari already support. (Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, as you may have heard, isn't too fond of Flash.) Hachamovitch cited its industry-standard status and high performance as reasons to bake it into Internet Explorer 9, which the company expects to ship ... well, when it's ready.

Problem is, the most popular alternative to IE, Mozilla Firefox, doesn't support H.264, instead using an open, royalty-free format called Ogg Theora. And Firefox's developers don't seem interested in reconsidering that decision.

Microsoft, in turn, will have to coax users of older Internet Explorer releases to upgrade, which has historically involved a fair amount of teeth-pulling agony. (If you're reading this in the grotesquely obsolete Internet Explorer 6, please don't tell me; you'll only make me mad.)

To complicate things just a little further, there's the possibility that Google will open-source a third possible Flash successor, a high-performance format called VP8 that it picked up when it bought video developer On2 technologies.

So this story isn't nearly over yet. What's your guess as to how it ends?

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 30, 2010; 11:37 AM ET
Categories:  The Web , Video , Windows  
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Comments

Sounds like a format war! Woo-hoo! Let's get ready to RUMBLE!!!!!

Posted by: slar | April 30, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

I guess that Apple and Microsoft (who both make money off of H.264 licenses) will sue Firefox or someone using Ogg Theora for patent infringement. Steve Jobs basically said that as recently as, well, today. As long as the governments of the world let software companies 'patent' the digital equivalent of sticking their thumbs in their (pick your choice of orifice) Jobs is probably right that it would be impossible to program a computer without violating a patent. That is the real issue.

Posted by: ogview | April 30, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

H.264 arrives faster than people expect it to, along with progress in HTML5. But, Adobe remains stubborn about Flash, perhaps making it difficult to block, as more users adopt that option on computers. For several years, many sites will port both. But, eventually, Flash becomes a laughingstock.

Posted by: query0 | May 1, 2010 4:53 AM | Report abuse

I thought Silverlight was Microsoft's answer to Adobe Flash. I never saw it used except on microsoft.com (granted, I don't surf widely). Are they giving up in favor of H.264?

BTW, H.264 does not run on Windows 98. People still use it. I know of a refurbisher in Virginia who installs 98. The intention is to make it hard for children to surf the 'Net.

Posted by: SoloOwl | May 6, 2010 7:36 AM | Report abuse

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