Ina Fried

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The Empire Strikes Back: Microsoft Goes After Google on Web Video Formats

The war between Google and Microsoft is clearly heating up.

After being accused of copying Google’s search results on Tuesday, Microsoft is now going after Google, accusing it of injecting inconsistency and legal uncertainty into the Web video arena by natively supporting only the newly open-sourced WebM video format in its Chrome browser, rather than the H.264 format preferred by Microsoft and Apple.

In response, Microsoft said it will build a Chrome plug-in that will restore support for H.264, an older and more commonly used video format. Microsoft said it plans to support H.264 in the next version of Internet Explorer, although it will also allow plug-ins that enable WebM support.

“Our point of view is totally clear,” Internet Explorer head Dean Hachamovitch writes in a blog post being posted on Wednesday. “Our support for H.264 results from our views about a robust web and video ecosystem that provides a rich level of functionality, is the product of an open standards process like the W3C’s HTML5 specification, and has been free from legal attacks. Microsoft is agnostic and impartial about the actual underlying video format for HTML5 video as long as this freedom continues.”

For its part, Google has said its decision to base its HTML5 video support around WebM is due to the royalties associated with H.264.

“We acknowledge that H.264 has broader support in the publisher, developer, and hardware community today (though support across the ecosystem for WebM is growing rapidly),” Google said in a blog post in mid-January.

However, it said, “To use and distribute H.264, browser and OS vendors, hardware manufacturers, and publishers who charge for content must pay significant royalties–with no guarantee the fees won’t increase in the future.”

Google added that, to companies like itself “the license fees may not be material, but to the next great video startup and those in emerging markets these fees stifle innovation.”

Hachamovitch, meanwhile, encouraged more discussion on the topic.

“Web video is still, in many ways, in its infancy,” he said. “Working through these questions is part of moving the web forward. The web is a product of consensus and open dialog. This post is meant to be part of the dialog.”

Your move, Google.


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There’s a lot of attention and PR around Marissa, but their product lineup just kind of blows.

— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google