Google is killing HTML5 to harm Apple iOS
One of my explanations for Google’s decision to drop native HTML5 support for H.264 is that it is a masterful bluff to secure more favorable licensing terms for H.264, but it just occurred to me that Google’s decision effectively kills HTML5 video adoption and forces video content providers to continue using Flash as the delivery mechanism for H.264 compressed streaming video. But why would Google which purports to be in favor of open web standards want to kill HTML5? Simple, it kills the only means of delivering video to Apple’s iOS devices which include iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch devices which greatly helps Google’s Android smartphone Operating System.
Apple made the decision to not allow Adobe Flash on iOS devices because they want to retain sole control over application distribution and design with their App Store. And since the world was starting to move to the HTML5 standard for online video delivery, Apple would be going with the flow by encouraging mass adoption of HTML5. HTML5 would have become the universal delivery platform for video streaming with H.264 content on both Apple iOS devices, personal computers running Windows or Mac, Linux with the appropriate plugins, Android OS, and just about any other device capable of video streaming. The current near-universal delivery platform was Adobe Flash but that was losing steam because of its inability to reach Apple iOS.
By crippling HTML5 H.264 under the guise of supporting Google’s VP8 codec (which is a nonstarter because VP8 is inferior to H.264, carries potential patent infringement liabilities, and H.264 is entrenched in billions of hardware devices while VP8 has no current support), the only remaining viable option for most content producers is to continue delivering H.264 via the Adobe Flash platform or via Microsoft Silverlight like Netflix. Larger content providers will be able to deliver H.264 compressed video on both Flash or Silverlight for most of the world and HTML5 just for Apple iOS devices, but smaller sites won’t and Apple iOS devices will have limited access. Google Android devices will be able to reach Flash websites like Windows or Mac Personal Computers which gives them a leg up on Apple.
Had the web been permitted to migrate to HTML5 video delivery, Apple would benefit from the increased content availability which makes them more competitive, but HTML5 as a universal video delivery platform has now effectively been derailed by Google. Google, Adobe, and Microsoft all stand to benefit at the expense of Apple iOS.
UPDATE January 14 2011
The analysis in this blog post has been confirmed. Google will only kill H.264 in HTML5, but continue to support H.264 in Chrome through Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight. Can we end all the foolish speculation that Google wants to kill H.264 (even on YouTube) and replace it with WebM yet? The following was posted on the Google Chromium blog.
“Does this mean I will no longer be able to play H.264 videos in Chrome?
H.264 plays an important role in video and the vast majority of the H.264 videos on the web today are viewed in plug-ins such as Flash and Silverlight. These plug-ins are and will continue to be supported in Chrome. Our announcement was only related to the <video> tag, which is part of the emerging HTML platform. While the HTML video platform offers great promise, few sites use it today and therefore few users will be immediately impacted by this change.“
Make no mistake, that last reference to “few users” is a slap across the face of Apple and their iOS users. For Thom Holwerda at OSNews who believed that Google is going to kill off H.264 in YouTube and Chrome, this clarification from Google confirms how wrong he was. This response to Holwerda from Eugenia Loli-Queru, a video content professional had some wonderful insights on why WebM will not succeed. Loli-Queru explained that without any editing tools and the inferior quality and playback performance of WebM, it is a nonstarter for content producers and will continue to be that way for the foreseeable future.
MG Siegler at TechCrunch is still dreaming that Google might yank H.264 from YouTube. Now why would they do that and give up all the iOS users, the Safari, and the Internet Explorer users? WebM playback is inferior in quality and the video encoding/decoding performance is terrible. No, Google will continue to support iOS on YouTube, but they know that much of the world won’t support both HTML5 and Flash and that limits the functionality of Apple iOS devices.
Make no mistake, Google is killing off the HTML5 <video> star. Anyone doubting that Google can be this calculating and cold should ask Syabas about their experience with Google. This whole thing has been a masterful underhanded triple play for Google.
- The WebM strategy ensured free use of H.264 video streaming for YouTube beyond 2015, forever.
- It saves Google $6.5 million per year by not having native H.264 support in Chrome.
- It derails HTML5 video and slaps Apple iOS in the face which can only benefit Google Android.