When I last talked about the Battle of the Video Format Titans -- the epic struggle between H.264 and WebM formats, particularly as they'll appear in conjunction with HTML5 -- I offered this scorecard:
- Apple loves HTML5 and H.264, but hates Flash.
- Microsoft loves HTML5 and H.264 -- even declaring H.264 the default codec in Internet Explorer 9 -- and tolerates Flash.
- Apple and Microsoft belong to a patent pool known as MPEG-LA that licenses the code for H.264. Google would have to pay to support H.264.
- Firefox loves HTML5, tolerates Flash, supports WebM, but can't afford to pay the royalties for H.264.
- Google loves HTML5 and WebM, builds Flash into its browser, but hates H.264. Google owns YouTube, which has about 40 percent of all the videos on the Web.
Of course, it's all about money. Microsoft and Apple joined forces with a motley collection of patent holders to form the MPEG-LA consortium, a patent pool charged with licensing H.264 for the benefit of pool members. Florian Mueller has an excellent (if lengthy) recap of the licensing requirements on his blog.
Google's competing Betamax, er, WebM, has its open source roots in a video format called VP8 (from On2, which Google bought last year), and Vorbis audio (from Xiph.org), wrapped in a container based on Matroska. There's a swarm of conflicting claims and counterclaims, but suffice it to say that Google has formally released all of its patents on VP8; Xiph and Matroska have supported royalty-free WebM for more than a year; and Chrome, Firefox, and Opera all run WebM.
MPEG-LA claims that additional patents apply to WebM -- patents that don't belong to Google, Xiph, or Matroska. Of course, the MPEG-LA consortium has a vested financial interest in supplanting open source WebM. Let the FUD begin.