Google Considerations: OGG Theora or H.264?

Jun 16, 2009

An employee of Google has expressed himself regarding the disadvantages of OGG Theora in comparison with H.264 in a discussion on the mailing list of the web hypertext application technology working group.

Google supports many free software projects, including the Videocodec OGG Theora. The Google browser Chrome is intended to also play videos in free OGG Theora Codec (thanks to HTML 5), in addition to H.264 coded videos. Google would also like to use the capabilities of HTML 5 for its video portal Youtube. In this case, H.264 should also be put to use. According to Chris DiBona, OGG Theora would use too much bandwidth to achieve a quality level consistent with the current state.

"If [YouTube] were to switch to theora and maintain even a semblance of the current youtube quality it would take up most available bandwidth across the internet.”

Allies of the free Codec did not leave this provocative statement uncontested for long: Greg Maxwell from Xiph published a comparison between H.263/H.264 and the current Theora version on his homepage. He came to the conclusion that Theora’s smaller bitrate clearly cuts better than the currently used on Youtube H.263 Codec and the patent protected H.264 Codec.

Maxwell also received support from Mozilla developers and Wikimedia fans. David Gerard emphasized that the MPEG LA would begin to charge license fees for streaming with H.264. For this reason, many fear Codec will not indefinitely possess the capability of being used easily anymore. A crucial point on possible alternatives to Theora was brought up by free consultant Silvia Pfeiffer and explained that the danger of a submarine patent in Theora is very low.

Following Wikimedia and Archive, Daily Motion is the third biggest film site which uses OGG Theora as Codec. The thus coded videos can be viewed in Firefox 3.5, Opera, or Google Chrome without requiring additional plug-ins.

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