While the HTML 5 video wars, which have been rolling in earnest since the middle of last year, may not be over, it appears some kind of stalemate may now have arrived.
Microsoft have made their play, with IE 9 arriving early this morning and including native support for the H.264 codec. Google made their play back in mid-January when H.264 native support was removed from its Chrome browser.
It was always going to be a struggle for Google to overthrow H.264 as the de-facto “standard” for online video encoding, and with the W3C unable to get all parties (don’t forget Apple are a major player here with Safari on Macs, iPhones and iPads) to agree on a common solution, the door was open for multiple options.
Despite H.264’s so far almost complete dominance of the mobile space (it is hard to see Apple adding support to iOS – but Android support is coming and will be available on an ever-increasing number of devices as sales continue to ramp up), Google may have swung the balance in its favour on the desktop by introducing an IE 9 plugin for WebM support.
The WebM for IE 9 project is a simple way for users to enable WebM support in IE 9’s video playback functionality. This became possible in the RC release of IE 9 in mid-February, which enabled plugins of this type. As of the moment, the plugin is an early iteration and may not be that stable or reliable; at least Google are still pushing WebM and can look forward to converting more sites, in addition to what it has already done with YouTube, to use WebM native video as the default option.