HTML5 video playback: Ogg/Theora or MPEG4/H264 (and a GIF story)

Do you remember GIF? You see some pictures on the web from time to time, rarely. The GIF format was pretty good for its time – it had lossless image compression (pretty good I might say), it had animations, transparency – pretty much anything you might want from an image on the web. And it was widely used in the ’90s websites. And then, came Unisys, who remembered that, well, it had patents on the GIF compression method, and they wanted some money from those who used it. Just remember this campaign: Burn all gifs.

Their patent expired in 2003/2004, but some threats still linger. And nobody will use GIFs now, because, well, they were bested by the PNG format (and the lesser used MNG format). And even if I am old enough to remember the story, and yet I’m only 30, nobody seems to remember this story.

And the story happens again.This time it’s not images, it’s videos. And it’s not like we have to make up an alternative FAST, like we did with the PNG format. The alternative is here, it’s called Theora. Yes. I’m talking about the H264 standard used nowadays by Google or Vimeo to stream video over the internet, and that is now being pushed as ‘HTML5’ (although the HTML5 didn’t specify the precise codec for the video playback). Ok, so what’s the problem (aside from the fact that Mozilla won’t support HTML5 H264 rendering?) Well, the problem is that soon enough, if you’ll have a site and you want show some videos on it, you might be forced to pay for the use of the codec. Probably not what you have in mind.

A clearer article about this issue you can read from (used to be , now dead link); please also sign the petition addressed to Google to support in Ogg/Theora in youtube.

2 Replies to “HTML5 video playback: Ogg/Theora or MPEG4/H264 (and a GIF story)”

  1. ppetru

    So then, where's the petition about convincing Apple to ship Theora support? 🙂

    (yes, the situation is unfortunate; however Google using a crappy codec isn't going to make anything better – other than the warm feeling that it's all open)

  2. dorinlazar

    Well, I don't think that Apple, now a MS happy camper, will do that. 🙂 Google could. Question is: is Theora that crappy?

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