It might seem like a ballsy move but I don’t think so.
According to Statcounter - in 1st December 2010 - the global market share for all browsers is as followed: (Jan 8th - IE is at 44% btw FYI)
IE - 46.94%
Firefox - 30.76%
Chrome - 14.85%
Safari - 4.79%
Opera - 2.07%
Others - 0.58%
Let’s split those up into h.264 camp and WebM camp:
Browsers that can run WebM videos right now - (Chrome and Opera) - 16.92%
(When Firefox 4 is released this will potentially go up to - 47.68%)
Browsers that can run h.264 videos right now - (Safari) - 2.07%
(When IE9 is released this will potentially go up to - 51.73%)
However the above numbers does not take in account browser upgrades - for example if a user is on Opera 9 then it doesn’t do <video> tags.
So let’s look at browser upgrades here:
As that show, Chrome is at top with 90.6% on the latest version, followed by Firefox with 80.5% and Opera at 77.2%.
The top 3 browsers that are the most likely to be upgraded to the latest version are all WebM-capable browsers (except for Firefox4 which isn’t released but with 80.5% upgrading, it would not take long for the bulk of Firefox installation to be on latest) and are the most likely to be on the latest version that support WebM video
Safari is at 71.1% and IE is at a low 60.2% so there won’t be as rapid uptake of IE9 when it come out. IE6 is STILL in use for one (I know I know…company policy and all that!)
The upgrade for IE9 would be much lower since it’s not supported for Windows XP (which does command quite a large market share still, bigger than Windows Vista and 7)
So it would suggest that in the near future, the majority of browers that support the <video> tag will be a WebM majority, not h.264 and the market share of ALL browsers that support H.264 will not even be anywhere near even 40%.
Remember this is about browsers. Embedded hardware etc doesn’t matter here - they don’t dictate the web video market - they don’t do a thing when browsers can’t play h.264.
Right now, the browsers that can play <video> in WebM format outnumber the browsers that can play <video> in h.264.
Furthermore - IE9 can support WebM in a <video> tag BUT the user must install the codec themselves before this happens (MS won’t ship this themselves) - so if IE9 users head to YouTube, Google can automatically provide them with the WebM codec as a installable codec and then IE9 will support WebM so it would actually push the use of WebM codec even more and Safari would actually be the one standing alone here with no WebM support.
I’m aware of Microsoft providing a h264 plugin for Firefox - but it’s more likely that people going to YouTube will get the WebM codec pushed onto them than the h264 plugin getting installed.
But as stated above - right now, browser support for WebM video vastly outnumber support for H.264. And this gap will just increase. WebM is already ahead of H.264.
And people claim that doing this will prevent innovation - I would like to remind you all of a small simple product that have done much to shake up the browsers and give us the Internet today - Firefox.
Firefox will not support h264 - it is a free product, with open source code available to all. They will not pay for h264 licences. Innovation cannot happen if you have to pay vast amount of money for it.
This is why WebM is a good thing. People can innovate new ideas, products and not worry about the cost.
Film makers can create movies and MAKE money from it and not worry about licensing costs from h264 - thus allowing any home-brew projects to experiment and hope for success without worries of cost.
(In case you’re not aware, if you purchase a digital camcorder or camera that does video, for example I own a Canon 500D which can do HD video. The licence for the camera state clearly that the h.264 codec is for personal use only, I cannot stream it etc. This applies even to the high end professional HD camera including RED, Sony, JVC, Panasonic etc. You MUST purchase a licence for H.264 if you wish to stream the movie (on a page with ads to make money for example) or sell it. - that stifle innovation, not encourage it.)
Hardware support for WebM? It’ll come. There are already hardware starting to appear (PowerVR for one) and graphics card (AMD and NVIDIA and Intel for example) will add support soon enough.