How Microsoft and Google can solve video on the web

As always, there is so much discussion going on about HTML5 and video on the web, and I thought I’d suggest a solution to it all.

Common assumptions and thoughts

Let’s go through the most common comments about video first:

  • Google claim they want to be open, but all it is about is just making Microsoft look bad/get companies to invest in the format they offer (WebM).
  • Microsoft only care about H.264 since they are a part of MPEG-LA and make money from it.
  • WebM isn’t really open, there could potentially be liability issues.
  • The H.264 codec has the best hardware and software support.

While all of above might be true, or not, to me it really doesn’t matter. We can discuss politics and motives to no end, but at the end of the day, I don’t find it likely that Microsoft and Google will sing join hands, sing Kumbaya and agree about everything.

That doesn’t rule out cooperation, though. But before I touch on that, let me just talk about where we are today and why I think it doesn’t matter that much.

H.264 is the de-facto standard, and everyone should use it

Microsoft recently wrote the blog post HTML5 and Web Video: Questions for the Industry from the Community where they discuss their views on H.264 and potential problems with WebM – it’s a necessary read to get their perspective.

However, for me, the argument that we should go for a format with obvious worries about patents and ownership just because it currently has the most widespread support is really not right. If we had gone with the “build for what we have” stance we would still be developing for IE6, instead of looking forward to what we actually want and need to make the web better.

What we need to establish, right now, is a video format that is just as open as every other aspects of HTML, CSS and JavaScript and get that supported in every web browser. This is not an option – it is what we have to do.

My suggestion

I understand Microsoft’s fear when it comes to liability and risk for intellectual property, and given their history they are afraid of getting burned. Fair enough. But both Google and Microsoft, listen to me now:

Feel free to blog about your thoughts, get community feedback and see it from different perspectives. Do what you need to communicate your company’s thoughts on these matter.

But also, please, talk to each other. If you are worried about the legal aspects, just sit down with your entourage of lawyers, look at the options, and just make sure WebM is water-proof. If it’s about quality, without a doubt you have the engineering skills to make it as good as it needs to be.

If either of those fails, look at another format. But you need to solve this. You are the major players, you have both the money and competence to make sure open video on the web is something that will be a viable option for all kinds of consumers and producers.

Please, take care of this.

Posted in Developing,Google,HTML5/HTML/XHTML,Technology,Web browsers |

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