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…right now, not so much. It’s shaping up to be the choice I made between MP3 and Ogg Vorbis: MP3 makes the most sense to use for compressed storage and playback on devices, and Vorbis is preferred for streaming. In this case, H.264 is like MP3 and WebM is like Vorbis (appropriately, since WebM includes Vorbis audio). Right now it’s not as easy for me to create WebM videos as it was for me to create Vorbis files back in the day. I remember using the “spinning fish” applet that Xiph published before there was more embedded support for Vorbis. Miro Video Converter has a WebM output mode, but it doesn’t appear to be tunable. Spelunking with the ffmpeg or vpxenc parameters tp create WebM videos doesn’t appeal to me. It’s one thing to get into the LAME and OggEnc parameters when you’re dealing with a single audio stream. Add video with its more complex set of parameters to that and it’s scary.
I really like being able to crunch out H.264 videos of decent quality from Handbrake that I can use on my iDevices and computers. While I would like it if the Handbrake developers would provide similar support for WebM, I really don’t have a reason to use WebM videos right now other than for computer playback in certain scenarios.
Google’s decision to remove native H.264 support from Chrome (and hence, Chrome OS) is going to be great for the web because the trickle-down effect of this will be to:
- Force MPEG LA to choose whether or not to sue Google for patent infringement over the technologies in WebM and finally get some resolution to the same argument that has always prevented companies like Apple from supporting Ogg Vorbis: the lurking possibility that patented techniques are embedded in the open-source media solution. I don’t think this will happen since it appears that some of the On2 patents have been infringed by MPEG LA’s solutions.
- Incent hardware makers to add support for WebM because websites, led by Youtube, will make it their native format. There were (are?) several makers that supported Vorbis decoding in hardware, and I’m not aware any of them got sued.
- Make H.264 a completely free implementation for all uses because if it isn’t available for free, software and hardware makers will favor the lower-cost WebM technology.
As far as VP8 video not performing as well as H.264 at similar resolutions and bitrates: it took quite a while for MP3 encoding to catch up to, and in some cases surpass, Vorbis. There no reason to think that with more development, VP8 won’t catch up. I look forward to using WebM when I have an easy way to encode to the format and I can use it in as many places as I can H.264/MPEG-4.
I see this decision more like HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray; different logical formats that could be equally supported by hardware and software. In fact, until Toshiba killed HD-DVD I thought that (playback of both formats) was the solution that was going to win out. There’s no reason other than these licensing issues that support for H.264/MPEG-4 and WebM couldn’t co-exist.
How about this?: Google will continue to ship H.264 support in Chrome if Microsoft and Apple agree to support WebM in their browsers.