Friday, January 14, 2011

Criticism of WebM

Support

Apple and Microsoft are the two biggest opponents of WebM and have publicly declared that they won’t support it, going to far as to mock the format outright. Together Google, Firefox, Opera have a comparable marketshare worldwide as Microsoft and Apple with Desktop and Mobile shares together. It’s possible that either side could give in if a format becomes popular enough but H.264 has such a foothold in hardware that this looks like it’s too late to change now.

Quality of Encoding

The real test of a codec is the quality of the compression. It turns out that MPEG LA’s patents are really useful for compressing video and without them you put yourself at a severe disadvantage. WebM is good enough but at the same file size it isn’t quite as good as H.264.

Actual Openness

Google claims that WebM is an open standard but it was devised entirely by On2 before being released as completed by Google. H.264 however is the result of a years long open discussion by top experts. The end results reveal exactly that. H.264’s documentation is complete and verbose while Google’s documentation is spotty and incomplete.

Actual Patents

The state of H.264’s patent encumberment is well known That’s its thing. Google claims WebM is patent free, however experts have looked at the source code and have made claims that it’s awful close to being a derivative of H.264. If MPEG LA wanted to it could possibly sue Google or ask for licensing fees for use of WebM just like it does for H.264.

Conclusion

With so many weakness and cracks in its few advantages WebM doesn’t have much of a chance at becoming the official standard of web video. It seems like an eventuality that H.264 will win the war. How long will it take and if we’ll ever have a singular format that can reach all users are questions we’ll have to wait a long time to have answered.

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