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Opera Supports Google Decision To Drop H.264 336

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the rally-behind-the-big-dog dept.
An anonymous reader follows up to yesterday's Google announcement that they would drop H.264 support from Chrome. "Thomas Ford, Senior Communications Manager, Opera, told Muktware, 'Actually, Opera has never supported H.264. We have always chosen to support open formats like Ogg Theora and WebM. In fact, Opera was the first company to propose the tag, and when we did, we did it with Ogg. Simply put, we welcome Google's decision to rely on open codecs for HTML5 video.'"
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Opera Supports Google Decision To Drop H.264

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  • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:23AM (#34847700)
    It would be very strange indeed if, in year 2020, radio is using this codec and television is using this codec and cable is using this codec and DVRs are using this codec and Blurays are using this codec...... but the internet did not. The web would be the odd man out.
    • by Guspaz (556486)

      By 2020, it's likely that we'll be using h.264's successor rather than h.264 itself.

      • by tixxit (1107127) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:51AM (#34848014)
        Really? I'd think a good codec would have a longer useful life. I mean, mp3 is going on 17 years at this point. JPEG is around 20 years old. MPEG-2 is still being used in DVDs and BDs today and is 15 years old (BD requires h.264 support as well, though). I think you have the law of diminishing returns. How much better can we really do than h.264? It took a while to get audio right, but once it got 'good enough' (mp3), any minor improvements weren't enough to overcome the inertia mp3s had already gained. Same with JPEGs and PNGs. After a certain point, the minor improvements just aren't enough to win over the inertia gained by the previous codec. In order to beat h.264, you have to be significantly better, and h.264 is pretty darn good.
        • by beelsebob (529313)

          I mean, mp3 is going on 17 years at this point. JPEG is around 20 years old. MPEG-2 is still being used in DVDs

          Well done for defeating your own point – DVDs use AC3 (MPEG 2 audio) as opposed to mp3 (MPEG 1 audio)
          Similarly, Blurry disks use AAC (MPEG 4 audio) as opposed to either of the above.

          MP3 is only about still because alpha geeks can get their finger out their ass and use a modern codec, the rest of us have been encoding in AAC for god knows how long.

          • by tixxit (1107127)
            MPEG-2 video, not audio. Sorry for the confusion.
          • by nabsltd (1313397)

            Similarly, Blurry disks use AAC (MPEG 4 audio) as opposed to either of the above.

            Assuming you are snidely referring to Blu-Ray, you're wrong.

            Blu-Ray players must support AC-3, DTS, and linear PCM, with the more advanced Dolby Digital and DTS codecs as options. MPEG-4 audio isn't mentioned as even being optional.

        • by alvinrod (889928) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @10:46AM (#34848828)
          HEVC [wikipedia.org] is aiming for a 50% reduction in bit rate for the same subjective quality, while increasing the complexity no more than 200%. A few candidate solutions have been able to get similar quality, at lower bit rates, all while decreasing the complexity. It's likely that by the time the standard is completed, it will be a lot better than h.264.

          This doesn't matter as much for disc-based media, but a 50% reduction in bit rate means its cheaper to push it over the web, even if decoding it on the other end takes more time. If it takes off like AVC, then a lot of devices will include dedicated hardware to decode it. A big part of the reason phones, iPods, etc. are able to get such good life on video playback is that they have dedicated hardware to deal with certain codecs.

          The reason that good codecs stick around is that there's a lot of hardware that will play/display them. A lot of people still have DVD-players so MPEG-2 still gets used because that's what the player expects, even though MPEG-2 isn't all that good compared to h.264. MP3 is still around because there are still tons of MP3 players and almost any device that can output audio continues to include MP3 support because it's cheap to do so.

          h.264 is good, but h.265 of whatever they decide to call it will be even better, especially if it significantly reduces bandwidth consumption.
        • by shentino (1139071)

          The question is, is h.264 good enough to fork over a shitload of royalties for?

          • by dave420 (699308)
            You only have to pay if you are charging for your h.264 content.
            • by N Monkey (313423)

              The question is, is h.264 good enough to fork over a shitload of royalties for?

              You only have to pay if you are charging for your h.264 content.

              Irrespective of that, if h.264 is, say, X% dearer than another codec, but uses Y% less bandwidth, there will be a point where it will be cheaper simply because content suppliers and/or customers will be saving money.

        • by Guspaz (556486) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @12:21PM (#34850272)

          MP3 is popular for home use, but is virtually unused in terms of commercial use relative to AAC and other proprietary formats. JPEG remains popular because it reached the point where it was "good enough", with later competing codecs not offering a sufficient advantage to justify the pain of trying to move everybody to a new format. MPEG-2's video codec is still used in DVDs, and is *supported* by bluray, but BluRays encoded with MPEG-2 is extremely rare (pretty much everything is h.264 or VC1, mostly h.264).

          Audio and still-image compression is not a field where large gains can be had so easily. If I produce a still-image codec that is 25% more efficient, then maybe I can save 5300 images on my SD card instead of 4000... but that's not going to make much difference. Same in terms of audio; I don't really care if my MP3 player can store 388 hours of audio or 517 hours. Audio has reached the point where we tend to encode everything at the same bitrate regardless of compression efficiency. In fact, uncompressed digital audio isn't exactly rare. CDs aren't compressed, and increasingly movies ship with lossless audio. We've reached a cap in terms of audio quality (more data doesn't help), but storage capacities keep going up.

          Video, on the other hand, is a big deal. In terms of streaming, the amount of bandwidth required to compress good quality 1080p video still exceeds the connection speed of most broadband connections in north America (let alone disc-quality). On top of that, there's an increasing trend towards bandwidth caps.

          Bell Canada in Ontario has a 25GB cap on usage. If we assume 5Mbps video (enough for 720p, at least), a consumer can only afford to watch about 23 minutes of video per day. If you double the compression efficiency (as the successor to h.264 aims to do), that becomes a *very* big deal. You can afford to stream much higher quality video to those with limited connection speeds, or stream a lot more video to those with limited transfer caps, or store more content on a disc. The impact would be felt enormously almost anywhere video is used.

          Getting back to replacing h.264, let's examine a bit about how long it took h.264 to become ubiquitous. It's mostly replaced previous codecs, as it's now the dominant codec for consumer consumption. Your cellphone and video camera record to it, your disc-based movies use it, increasingly your television service uses it, your streaming video uses it, etc. h.264 was standardized in 2003. 7 years later, it's unquestionably the dominant standard. This was even true a year or two ago, so we might stretch this a bit and say that 5 years was enough for h.264 to go mainstream.

          h.264's sucessor, HVEC, is scheduled to be finalized in 2012, with a targeted improvement over h.264 of 100% (same quality at 50% bitrate) By 2020, 8 years will have passed since "h.265" was standardized. At that point, I would fully expect it to be the dominant codec in use.

          • by sadtrev (61519) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @05:32PM (#34855066) Homepage

            still-image compression is not a field where large gains can be had so easily.

            JPEG has two significant practical deficiencies which are not inherent in its lossy nature

            • firstly it's 8-bit channel depth is not enough to allow any editing without noticeable degradation,
            • and secondly, its compression characteristics tend to enhance photo grain and silicon array noise.

            I guess that the reason that something better hasn't emerged is the combination of the patent thicket around wavelets, and all the shenanegans the digital camera manufacturers have been playing with raw formats.

        • by Draek (916851) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @02:25PM (#34852312)

          So is WebM, with the advantage that we wouldn't have to deal with shady licensing issues for the next 20 years.

          H.264's only advantage is that it's the current state-of-the-art, and only a fool would believe that'd still be the case five years from now, let alone twenty.

    • by Halborr (1373599)

      All of those things are consumer electronics. Personal Computers sometimes have non-commercial software on them by the operator's choice.

      You don't change the OS on your TV or radio for a reason.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        You don't change the OS on your TV or radio for a reason.

        If I could change the OS on my TV, I would. It has a USB port that I'd like to be able to use for other things. Of course I'd have to have most of the base functionality. I'd sure like to add wake-on-signal...

        • by spxero (782496)

          I'd sure like to add wake-on-signal...

          Yes! This would be great to have. I have media centers attached to all my TV's, but still need the TV remotes just to turn them on and off. A wake-on-lan for my TV would keep it down to one remote (or phone, web interface, etc.).

        • You don't change the OS on your TV or radio for a reason.

          If I could change the OS on my TV, I would. It has a USB port that I'd like to be able to use for other things. Of course I'd have to have most of the base functionality. I'd sure like to add wake-on-signal...

          My TV is running Linux, how about yours? I found out about this because LG thoughtfully included a copy of the GPL at the end of their user manual. (I would definitely buy LG again.) It's very likely this Linux is upgradeable, i.e., hackable, which might be fun.

    • Since when has the web been anything like TV, Radio, or physical media, and why should it be? Much better to use a free codec than have to have your browser developer or whoever waste money on licensing.

      • All those devices use hardware decoding, which has also made it into modern GPU's. What it comes down to is that either we go back to offloading decoding onto the CPU, forget about this for mobile and its going backwards even on the desktop, or separate hardware will need to be developed which will be more expensive than the h264 hardware because that will have a scale advantage since everybody else is using it. In short if Google gets its way we're in for a real "win" for consumers: either we get choppy pl

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by lingon (559576)
          If Google wins this, we will have choppy playback because of software decoding or we get more expensive hardware but at least the videos can be played anywhere, on any system and you're free to implement it in any product you choose to develop. If H.264 wins this, we will only have video playback on Windows and MacOS X, but at least you'll have your smooth playback. That's not enough for me, though.
          • If they (Google) were really concerned about openness they'd spend the money fighting software patents instead which is the real underlying issue here. But there's not much chance of that [google.com].

        • Well, I haven't looked into it, but it may still be able to offload the decoding to the GPU, just not to hardware designed specifically for that actual codec. That shouldn't be any more expensive, but it would probably use a lot more power.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Exactly. On internet people download and upload. They "consume" media but produce it as well. A codec that is free only for reading has no place on internet.
      • by squallbsr (826163) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @11:30AM (#34849534) Homepage
        I would rather have an open codec used for the open web. I did find this move by Google to be a little odd, I am wondering if MPEG-LA called Google up and asked for money.
    • by silanea (1241518)

      Absolutely. Which is why no DVD player can handle DivX, and why MP3 never made the jump to mobile phones and even dedicated devices. And, regarding your choice of time span, which is why we all still use VHS. Right. You do not honestly believe H.264 in its current form will be around in 10 years in any other use than to convert legacy media to its successor's successor?

    • by MtHuurne (602934) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @10:09AM (#34848258) Homepage

      How relevant will TV, radio, Blu-ray etc be in 2020? CD sales are already being replaced by digital downloads and while a lot of people continue to listen to the radio, they often do so by streaming it over the net. I see no reason why the future would be different for video.

      • How relevant will TV, radio, Blu-ray etc be in 2020? CD sales are already being replaced by digital downloads and while a lot of people continue to listen to the radio, they often do so by streaming it over the net. I see no reason why the future would be different for video.

        Yes, all of those are already being streamed over the net or downloaded ... using MPEG-4 standards.
        Maybe Google should be promoting VP8 by bribing release groups to use it :-)

      • by Kjella (173770)

        With everybody clamping down on limits and "excessive" usage, most of North America will need BluRay. Most other places too 50 GB is much cheaper to deliver by disc, not online. Sure, for the urban population in high tech countries moving to an all online solution will work but BluRay isn't going anywhere. That and torrents, until they get their head out of their ass and realize things are on torrents hours after broadcast and anything I like I will watch as soon as it is available, the only question is if

    • by Steauengeglase (512315) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @10:18AM (#34848394)

      It isn't the odd man out, it is simply ahead of the curve.

      This is why almost every net appliance failed and cellphones have the lifespan of butterflies. They can exist in that curve or slightly behind it, but they can't keep up.

    • by beelsebob (529313)

      If you think in 2020 any of TV, radio, DVRs, blurays etc are going to be delivered by something other than the internet, you're deluding yourself.

    • by cHiphead (17854)

      Radio, television, cable, dvrs, and bluray ARE the odd men out when put up against the internet.

    • It would be very strange indeed if, in year 2020, radio is using this codec

      It would be indeed very strange if in 2020 audio is encoded with a video codec :-)

    • by lennier (44736)

      It would be very strange indeed if, in year 2020, radio is using this codec and television is using this codec and cable is using this codec and DVRs are using this codec and Blurays are using this codec...... but the internet did not. The web would be the odd man out.

      Will the H.264 patents have expired in nine years?

      If not, then it's a non-starter for the Web. Patented algorithms are illegal to distribute in GPLed implementations like Firefox or Chromium.

      Adopt H.264 as a universal standard, and you can kiss the GPL goodbye. If that's your preferred end-game for the Web, you might as well just say so up-front.

  • Bad research.... (Score:5, Informative)

    by gQuigs (913879) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:32AM (#34847788) Homepage

    The article ends with, "It will be interesting to see if major browsers like Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari will follow the suit and drop support for H.264."

    • by Haedrian (1676506) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:38AM (#34847866)

      "It will be interesting to see if major browsers like Firefox, Internet Explorer and Safari will follow the suit and drop support for H.264."

      Fixed that up for you

      • by guruevi (827432)

        Both Firefox and Safari have taken a huge chunk of the market. IE is down to 44% market share, Firefox now takes up nearly 30% and Safari takes up 5% + 20% of the mobile share.

        • by silanea (1241518)

          Both Firefox and Safari have taken a huge chunk of the market. [...] Safari takes up 5% [...].

          For a very kind definition of "huge". With Apple's market share in the desktop and laptop world somewhere between 4 and 10%, depending on who you ask, those 5% look rather bleak to me. Either they barely manage to keep their few hardware customers from jumping ship or they lose about half of the many Mac users to competing browsers. Neither option sounds much like a success.

          • by Kjella (173770)

            Well, you would expect the OS and browser stats of the same company to be consistent since they come from the same http headers. On NetApplications it says 5.02% Macs and 5.89% Safari. I've never heard of anyone using Safari on anything but Mac, so I guess this means most Mac users use it as well as 1-2% that are probably Mac users forced to work on Windows. Not, surprising, since Apple has very little reason to push their web browser on the Windows platform, they're interested in selling Macs.

    • Re:Bad research.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by EdZ (755139) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:46AM (#34847956)
      Firefox does not support h.264.
      • I think that was his point. Not sure why he was modded troll.

        He highlighted the only browser that does not support h.264

        • by gQuigs (913879)

          You are correct... Apparently I should be more verbose next time...

          They can't drop something they've never had.

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      There's something fundamentally perverse about developers making efforts to remove features from their products, and/or issue press releases bragging about features they will not offer. It's almost as if they had some agenda other than making their software more useful to end-users and content publishers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @09:35AM (#34847834)
    She should stick to getting her TV channel up and running, and not meddle in the technical details of how the video is encoded and viewed.
  • by jpea (879421)
    everyone, get your zencoder [zencoder.com] instances fired up
  • I don't care about the backing of one over the other. When it comes down to it, what browser will support both?
  • ...companies brag about dropping features or touting ones they never had.

  • The problem here is that multiple parties all have valid conflicts of interest, but lack of standardization hurts us all. Here's how:

    • Fragmentation promotes Flash which leaves us all stuck with a single vendor proprietary solution that will have poor security and performance.
    • Browser promoting WebM means everyone with an existing mobile device and many people with mobile devices being made for some number of years going forward will lack hardware support for that format, resulting in crappy battery life.
    • Comp
  • Maybe the Linux community will see this as a more important change than most people, due to their software options. (Obviously, Linux users aren't huge Internet Explorer users, nor do they use Safari browser as a rule. They're also more likely than others to use a version of the Opera browser.) But all in all? Apple was just recently pushing H.264 as one of their preferred codecs, so it'd be crazy for them to go along with pulling it from Safari. (Didn't they just recently convince YouTube to convert a

    • by Merk42 (1906718)

      This would have MUCH more impact if FireFox was going to pull support for it, instead of Chrome doing so.

      Firefox doesn't support it in the first place.

  • I remember the days when computers had these things called codecs, and you could simply add support for just about any format. No one ever removed functionality, it was all about adding support for more and more formats.

  • by wazzzup (172351) <.astromac. .at. .fastmail.fm.> on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @11:09AM (#34849186)

    JPEG, GIF and MP3 all have/had encumbered with licenses yet they are still to this day, web standards. I never hear anyone complain about seeing JPEG's on their web page be it web developer or end user. It's only an issue to people who place ideals over practicality. People are listening to billions of AAC and MP3 files on a daily basis without complaint (and with hardware support).

    Which leads me to the next point. What practical reason do I have for wanting h.264 support in a browser? Because I get hardware-based decoding with h.264. It saves my battery time and leaves my CPU free to do other more important tasks. With WebM or Theora I get software decoding and thus a less responsive machine with a shorter battery life.

    Perhaps most importantly, the MPEG group have time and time again have brought us the best codecs for digital media. Given Theora's performance compared to WebM and h.264, I certainly hope Ogg isn't responsible for pushing r&d into codecs for the future. Open source is great. I use it every day and can't imagine how much more difficult computing would be without it but the great bulk of its work has been with reproducing free/open versions of existing products and paradigms, not at pushing the boundaries of research and development.

    You know, we complained endlessly when Microsoft fragmented the web user experience for years...why are some of us giving Mozilla and Google a free pass when, however noble the motivation, they are trying to do the same thing?

    • png: Created because of licenses/patents on Jpeg and GIF

      Ogg: Created because of licenses/patents on MP3

      The only reason you have hardware-based decoding with h.264 is because Intel/AMD/Nvidia were ask/told/paid to do so.
      If someone adds WebM hardware-based decoding, people will flock to it.

      • png: Created because of licenses/patents on Jpeg and GIF

        Ogg: Created because of licenses/patents on MP3

        Both wildly successfull, huh ? I guess you see PNG used these days but how long did it take to become moderately popular and today does your camera save PNG's or still those nasty encumbered JPG's ?

        The only reason you have hardware-based decoding with h.264 is because Intel/AMD/Nvidia were ask/told/paid to do so.
        If someone adds WebM hardware-based decoding, people will flock to it.

        Everyone is already buying h.264 hardware. It has been tested, it's cheaper 'cause everybody already buys it and it offers compatibility with already available content. Do you think they'll flock to hardware they'll have to support in addition to existing hardware (for backwards compatibility reasons) with all so

        • by Joehonkie (665142)
          Ogg Vorbis is pretty common standard for video game audio because you don't have to pay royalties for implementation. So in that way it's pretty damn successful. Speex (their voice chat codec) is also fairly commonly used for VoIP, presumably for the same reason.
    • by TheTurtlesMoves (1442727) on Wednesday January 12, 2011 @01:23PM (#34851232)
      JPEG has always had a royalty free version. Always. Pretty much the *only* version of the spec that is used.
    • by lennier (44736)

      the MPEG group have time and time again have brought us the best codecs for digital media

      Best but illegal. Illegal is not a starter for a universal standard. Why are we even having this conversation?

      When the MPEG-LA patents expire, then and not before will H.264 be in the running for a standard. Till then, there's "open" and there's "illegal", and MPEG-LA have decided to make implementing their algorithm in GPL code illegal. So sad, thank you for playing, next. End of line.

      You know, we complained endlessly when Microsoft fragmented the web user experience for years...why are some of us giving MPEG-LA a free pass when, however shiny their beads and blankets are, they are trying to do the same thing?

      Fixed that for you.

  • At least now we have some what of a chance to have an open web without any plugins. Gif, Jpget and Png are already free and now since over half the web browsers (Chrome have 10%, Firefox have 40%, Opera have 5% [or some what in that region]) won't support H264 the web sites have to use either Ogg or WebM at least as a second option. But since you have to convert your movies either to Ogg or WebM anyway and you don't need to pay license fees with the two, web sites are good to use just Ogg or WebM and just l
  • People are really glossing over the IMPORTANT side of this decision - YouTube.

    YouTube is by far the largest source of online video on the web, and it is owned by Google. Until now, YouTube's HTML5 version used H.264 encoding. By dropping H.264 from Chrome, Google would in effect be making YouTube incompatible with their own browser. They are not going to do that.

    What this points to, is YouTube is very likely to switch to WebM itself for HTML 5 video in the near future. This has HUGE ramifications since IE 9

    • by digsbo (1292334)

      Good point. Will the new tablet and phone OS flavors from Microsoft run non-IE browsers? If not, no one will buy them. Why have a tablet you can't watch YouTube with?

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