In the few weeks since Google announced that it was dropping H.264 support in Chrome, there has been a wave of posts weighing in how this move would impact the future of web video. I been trying to keep up to the debate and have come to the following conclusion: for the foreseeable future, it will have no impact whatsoever. Why? Simple: Flash.
Flash is currently the de-facto standard for web video, and Google’s move ensures that this will continue to be the case. They said as much themselves on their blog:
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.
So although you won’t be able play H.264 video on Chrome in the <video> tag, you can still play it on Chrome in a Flash player. All that Google has done by dropping H.264 support is ensure that Flash will continue to reign supreme. Unless you start hearing that companies like Netflix, Amazon, Vimeo, or (Google’s own) YouTube are starting to drop H.264 in favor of WebM, then colossal change is not on the horizon. But then again, what are the chances of that, considering Safari and IE don’t support WebM?
Then there is the matter of mobile devices, which almost universally support H.264 and thus provide yet another roadblock for WebM.
To my mind, in order for WebM to gain any traction, there are too many puzzle pieces that need to fall into place. So for now, as far as the state of web video is concerned, its business as usual.