Microsoft has finally jumped into the HTML5 video codec war by announcing that its next browser, Internet Explorer 9, will go with H.264 support not the open-source Theora.
H.264 and Theora are video codecs which are competing with one another to be the standard codec used in HTML5. While Theora is an open-source format; H.264 is a proprietary format. Currently, Google's Chrome support both the codecs, Firefox and Opera supports only Theora and Safari supports only H.264.
Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager, Internet Explorer came out with support for H.264 in a blog post earlier. This is what he has to say:
The HTML5 specification describes video support without specifying a particular video format. We think H.264 is an excellent format. In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video only.
He believes that technically H.264 is a better choice than Theora with better standarization and hardware support.
H.264 is an industry standard, with broad and strong hardware support. Because of this standardization, you can easily take what you record on a typical consumer video camera, put it on the web, and have it play in a web browser on any operating system or device with H.264 support (e.g. a PC with Windows 7).
Dean also said that with H.264, issues regarding availability of the source-codes and ownership of the intellectual property are more clearly defined with H.264 than with other codecs.
The distinction between the availability of source code and the ownership of the intellectual property in that available source code is critical. Today, intellectual property rights for H.264 are broadly available through a well-defined program managed by MPEG LA. The rights to other codecs are often less clear, as has been described in the press.
With this decision from Microsoft, the line is clearly drawn between those who are pushing for the open-source Theora (Mozilla and Opera) and those who prefer the proprietary H.264 (Apple and Microsoft). While Google seems neutral with this issue (Chrome supports both codecs), it may ultimately come down to them to decide which side wins afterall, they own YouTube, the largest video sharing website.