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Microsoft Tips the Scale In Favor of HTML 5 325

aabelro writes "Dean Hachamovitch, General Manager for Internet Explorer at Microsoft, has announced that IE9 will use only the H.264 standard to play HTML 5 video. Microsoft seems to have become very committed to HTML 5, while Flash loses even more ground. The announcement came the same day Steve Jobs detailed why Apple does not accept Flash on iPhone and iPad."
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Microsoft Tips the Scale In Favor of HTML 5

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  • wow (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @08:58AM (#32043078)

    for once microsoft do something that makes sense. Though it would be nice to have support for an open video standard...

    • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by delinear ( 991444 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:08AM (#32043178)

      for once microsoft do something that makes sense. Though it would be nice to have support for an open video standard...

      Or, to look at it another way, Microsoft stay true to form and support proprietary standards which put open source competition at a disadvantage...

      • Re:wow (Score:5, Informative)

        by slimjim8094 ( 941042 ) <> on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:38AM (#32044086)

        H.264 is perfectly open-source, but patent encumbered. There's a tremendous difference. You do yourself a disservice to confuse the two.

        What you're describing would be true if they supported only WMV, but absolutely false for h264.

        • Re:wow (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @11:16AM (#32044602)

          I don't think "you can look at the source but you need to pay us to use it" is any kind of open-source license since it restricts end-use even though it doesn't hinder distribution. OSI licenses typically include "you grant a worldwide royalty-free non-exclusive license" clause for that reason.

          If you meant an open standard with open documentation, and open working group, you shouldn't do us a disservice and confuse the two. They can openly write as many patents, licence fees and international trade restrictions as they want, they do that to avoid members backstabbing each other through selective communication, and to stand together to strengthen the patent position.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Open-source doesn't mean what you think it means.
          Specifically, it doesn't really apply to a video compression standard. If nobody could read the H.264 documentation, well then it wouldn't even be a standard.
          H.264 is a standard.
          It would be "open" if others were allowed to use and expand upon it without having to pay fees.

      • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:51AM (#32044238) Journal
        I suspect a different motivation: Silverlight.

        Using Flash as a video player is, by a fair margin, the most trivially replaced function that isn't addressed by pre-HTML5 web standards(stupid shit like Flash based menus and random site chrome is, of course, even easier to replace; because it could have been done in standard HTML+javascript ages ago; but that is largely a lost cause). However, that (quite simple) function is also a huge driver of Flash installation. Basically, if you want to watch video on the web, you need to install Flash. Once you have flash, you bolster Adobe's install base stats, serve as a target for much more sophisticated Flash-based applications, and bolster Adobe's efforts(through AIR) and similar to have a quasi-unified webapp/desktop-app runtime based on Flash and their various content creation tools.

        Microsoft has its own, competing quasi-unifed webapp/desktop-app runtime, based on .net, winforms, and the like. Unlike AIR, it much more closely ties the user to Microsoft, and Microsoft platforms and technologies. Therefore, they want to destroy AIR and Flash.

        By indicating support for HTML5, which will support the relatively trivial video use cases(youtube style stuff, without Serious DRM mandated by paranoid content providers), they substantially reduce the motivation of users to download Flash and corporate IT departments to install and support it. Since Silverlight comes by default in newer MS OSes, they get increased marketshare vs. Flash/AIR.

        Since HTML5 makes possible advanced web applications, but still lags in easy tools vs. Flash or Silverlight(which won't stop Google and their ilk; but will stop Joe Flash Monkey, or Bob corporate intranet developer), HTML5 can be safely supported without destroying Silverlight.

        That is my theory. Yeah, h.246 as the html5 video codec of choice puts mozilla in a tough spot; but it isn't as though there won't be some workaround(patent violating 3rd party builds, plugin that exposes system codecs, whatever.) in short order. It isn't good; but it isn't a huge threat. I'd say that this is about kicking Adobe while Apple is already holding them down...
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          It makes sense, but there's one other elephant in the room.

          IE market share has been slowly but steadily declining. This comes both from it being deficient to other browsers from users' perspective (UI, and especially performance), but it also comes from it lagging behind on standards support.

          Consequently, it's not currently in a position where it can be used to push "de-facto standards" (like ActiveX). And, while it definitely can block adoption of new, standardized tech, such a block would only last for li

      • Re:wow (Score:4, Insightful)

        by somersault ( 912633 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @01:55PM (#32046994) Homepage Journal

        I kinda see this as an advantage - Google could simply serve up Youtube videos in OGG Theora format only, and if you try to visit it in IE9 it could say "we're sorry, your browser doesn't seem to properly support web standards, try one of these instead.."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Apple and MS both recall the Adobe font lock in.
      They escaped lock in mess that and want out of flash too.
      Apple wants free html5 to lock you in at other levels.
      MS wants to replace flash developers needs with in expensive back end lock in.
      IE is just the media player and html5 the push, if you want to create, MS has a sliding scale of costly closed solutions for you.
      Want to sell online, I am sure MS can bait you with quick low cost start up flash like code and then milk you dry.
      The web page is the new de
      • MS wants to replace flash developers needs with in expensive back end lock in.

        Please explain. I'm curious about this. I've heard other people mention it, but I'm not sure to what they are referring.

        Thank you.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Raffaello ( 230287 )

      Makes sense for their bottom line you mean. Hasn't it occurred to anyone that you now have both dominant OS vendors supporting HTML5? Do they both want their proprietary platforms replaced by HTML5 and the net? Are they really that stupid?

      Or maybe, just maybe, they know something that naive Web platform advocates don't:

      HTML5 will always lag behind native applications in performance and features, and MS and Apple will be sure this is the case in their implementations, so the web platform will be no real thre

      • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cowscows ( 103644 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:49AM (#32043562) Journal

        Performance aside, why would anyone want there to be a dominate web platform that's controlled by a single company, unless you happen to work for that single company?

        Flash has basically been, for the past 5+ years at least, the Windows of interactive/animated/etc. web content. It's a platform that was in the right place at the right time, and was just barely good enough to become a major standard. All this despite the fact that everyone is constantly complaining about how much it sucks, and nobody likes it. And there's not much anybody can do to truly fix it, except for Adobe, and it's taken them years to get it to work decently on any mobile device.

        Seriously, does anybody besides Adobe want Flash to become the dominate platform for anything other than little browser games? Sure, Apple and MS are fighting against it for self-interested reasons, but those reasons seem to align rather nicely with what is good for the internet as a whole, which is to have as much be open standards as is possible.

        • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

          > Performance aside, why would anyone want there to be a dominate web platform that's controlled by a single company, unless you happen to work for that single company?

          The potential for Apple or Microsoft to abuse the market becomes greatly diminished.

          This is why Apple is trying to hide from Flash. Microsoft simply would like to do the same.

          An open hardware-neutral standard would be preferable for sure. However, this is not one of the immediately available options.

          Of course Microsoft wants to go back to

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Raffaello ( 230287 )

          Because the real power behind a web platform is Google, not Adobe. If necessary, Google will provide an open source implementation of the Flash spec, and everyone will write to that, not to any Adobe-only version.

          Apple is betting on its hardware/software integration platforms. It is paid for by consumer dollars - i.e., your money, and wants hardware and software vendor lock in.

          Microsoft is betting on its software paltforms. It is paid for by your money. It wants software vendor lock in.

          Adobe is betting on a

        • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ink ( 4325 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:43AM (#32044160) Homepage

          All this despite the fact that everyone is constantly complaining about how much it sucks, and nobody likes it.

          That's not entirely true. Graphic designers generally LOVE Flash because of the Flash builder, Illustrator, Photoshop and the rest of Adobe's creative suite. There aren't any tools that I know of that put that kind of artistic power in hands of non-techies. CS5 does target HTML5, but it does so by using the canvas tag and a lot of JavaScript -- not by outputting "native" HTML5.

          This is also what puzzled me about Jobs' claims yesterday that the iAds were all done only in HTML5. I know many advertising content creators; not many could pound out raw HTML5 that would be as impressive as the demos for iPhone OS4's ads.

          In order to kill Flash, someone will need to come out with a vector-timeline-tweening GUI builder that doesn't require the developer to touch JavaScript. Perhaps Adobe will do this with Dreamweaver, or maybe Apple will release an "XCode for artists" at some point. Until then, however, don't expect Flash to disappear.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by mario_grgic ( 515333 )

        Except performance problem can be worked around as easily as installing a better browser. Firefox for example. Google who has vested interest in anything web has their own browser as well based on same technology as Apple's Safari. So, this argument doesn't stand to scrutiny too well.

        • Re:wow (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Raffaello ( 230287 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @10:53AM (#32044256)

          1. This places an additional burden on open source browsers to keep pace with the underlying platform WRT performance. History shows they will likely lag significantly.

          2. This doesn't address features at all. Both Apple and MS will make sure that the HTML5 spec is always significantly less featureful than the native application platforms.

          The result will be that the highest quality applications will need to be written to native platforms, not an OS neutral web platform. This means hardware and/or software vendor lock in, which is just what Apple and MS want.

          This is Java all over again. MS embraced and extended it. They paid a billion in damages for doing so, but it was money well spent to cripple a potentially game changing, OS neutral platform.

          Apple claimed to be the best Java platform bar none. You could even write native cocoa apps in java. Then, when Apple had leveraged their "open standards" act to attract enough developer mind share, they began systematically treating Java as a second class citizen. Launch a java app and get a frightening warning:

            "! The application SuchAndSuch is requesting access to your computer"

          You don't get this kind of warning running a native app of course.

          And now you can't write cocoa apps using java anymore either. What a surprise.

          MS Does embrace and extend. Apple does embrace and marginalize. Same end result.

          Apple and MS are not your friend - they want your money. Google is not your friend either, but at least they don't want your money - they want advertisers' money. The lesser of two evils.

  • It's a Trap! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by amiga3D ( 567632 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:00AM (#32043104)
    I can't help myself. I had to do it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 6031769 ( 829845 )

      Past performance would suggest so. However, it's enlightening to note that yet again Microsoft (and Apple for that matter) really hate other people's proprietary monopolies. I'm only really worried about how they're going to ruin HTML5 as a result of this (whether deliberately or accidentally).

      • re:I'm only really worried about how they're going to ruin HTML5 as a result of this (whether deliberately or accidentally).

        Just like MS and Netscape did with HTML-extension in the old days. It's the EEE method.

    • Re:It's a Trap! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by camperdave ( 969942 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:11AM (#32043194) Journal
      It's a Trap!

      Yes! It's step one in Microsoft's basic business plan:
      1. Embrace
      2. Extend
      3. Extinguish
      4. Profit!

      So, the key is to anticipate how Microsoft might extend the protocol, and "head them off at the pass" by releasing Open Source variations as soon as possible.

      Although, I suppose it's possible that Microsoft has learned the danger of becoming the defacto standard with shoddy products through its attempts to kill off XP and IE6... but I doubt it.

  • Remember (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *

    Step 1 is embrace. Look for extend real soon.

    • by lwsimon ( 724555 )
      I don't think that strategy will work real well these days - it depends on people being willing to adopt your proprietary extensions, and with all the focus on standards compliance in today's world, there will be few who do.
  • Unsurprising (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whisking ( 1181729 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:04AM (#32043146)
    It is quite unsurprising they will support only h.264. They are a licensor in the h.264 patent pool (just like Apple) so it does not cost them anything and they actually get money when somebody licenses it, so it makes sense to endorse its use. If something else (theora, vp8,...) will actually win the html5 video format war, they can always add the support later. Obviously I am joking about this part :)
  • by bbqsrc ( 1441981 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:06AM (#32043166) Homepage
    Google only allows H.264 video to be played in its browser. It also supports Flash. I understand that supporting <video> is killing Flash, but seriously, they're not mandating the use of HTML5 only like Apple. "Comparing apples and oranges" as they say.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 )

      Google only allows it in its own browser because it's the only one that supports it so far. When others support it, they'll open it up for them, too.

    • Neither is Apple, on the Mac. I'd be curious to see what position Microsoft will take for IE on the latest version of WinMo. Jobs made some valid points. It's still arguable that he and Apple should step back and let people hang themselves with mobile Flash if they want to, but he made good points.

    • by 0racle ( 667029 )
      Sites like YouTube use Flash for one reason - to display video. The surge in the last couple of years of video on sites streaming only flv has massively increased the amount of flash on the internet. The HTML5 video tag is a direct competitor to this use of flash - if everyone can agree on a single codec.

      Flash for creating highly interactive sites and online games isn't really threatened here, but if there is a cross web platform way to distribute video, especially since it works better, then Adobe can say
  • Wait, also (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bbqsrc ( 1441981 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:12AM (#32043208) Homepage
    Why the fuck is this categorised as Apple? It can't have less to do with Apple. Seriously.
    • Check the author.

    • I think it's kdawson's subtle dig at all those people who bitched and moaned about how hypocritical Apple is for embracing an open standard (HTML5) over a closed one (flash) when their platforms are sometimes closed as well as the software they themselves produce. Somehow I guess we won't see much outrage about MS endorsing html5. They were a little more tactful than Apple was though: they hedged their bets by saying that flash is still useful. But then again, MS actually has a good working relationship
  • so happy (Score:2, Troll)

    by roman_mir ( 125474 )

    I just had a tear I think, well somewhere on the inside of my mind... :)

    finally, finally, man I hate Flash, I want everyone who used flash on their sites to suffer from this decision :) Sorry, just can't control my feelings of happiness right now :)

    HTML5, here we go.

    • I might share your enthusiasm about the iminent explosion of HTML5 development if I wasn't still supporting MS' decade old IE6. Flash isn't going anywhere until the vast, vast majority of users are using HTML5 capable browsers (and even then it'll still have a place for other uses - a lot of which could be done via HTML5, but when a company already has a bunch of Flash developers and HTML5 still supports the object element, why would they switch at great expense).
      • by Nadaka ( 224565 )

        Why do you need flash developers to stream bog standard video? It really isn't like you need to rewrite the player for every new stream.

      • I wasn't still supporting MS' decade old IE6

        The good news is that there is sure to be some worms that will exploit IE6 and maybe after that the corporations will finally move off it it.

  • ... Microsoft are ditching Silverlight?

    Of course not. I expect it suits them to promote HTML 5 with one hand while still trying to snare people with Silverlight on the other.

    I just hope that when they talk HTML5 they actually mean it this time rather than supplying some half arsed implementation which deviates from the spec in significant ways.

    • by dingen ( 958134 )

      I don't get what they want to achieve with Silverlight. If they truly make IE9 compatible with HTML5 and offer a decent Javascript engine, what will the benefits of Silverlight be? Isn't Microsoft shooting itself in the foot with this?

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        MS makes a shit ton of cash from developers, and they would rather get the money over Adobe.

  • by lfp98 ( 740073 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:21AM (#32043276)
    The major advantage of Flash is that you can choose NOT to install it. With HTML5 decoding built into the browsers, are we all doomed to watch whirlygigs everywhere, all day long?
  • by bcmm ( 768152 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:21AM (#32043280)
    The bright side is that this codec idiocy might actually get people interested in fixing software patents.
  • With all this html5 love, where is the webcam broadcasting support?
    What will all the live streaming sites do allow you to send your HD or almost HD UVC webcam out to the world? []
  • I understand the submitter added a tidbit about Apple to increase the likelihood of the story making it to the front page but why does a story about Microsoft have an "Apple:" tag? This is a story about Microsoft and HTML5 - take your pick but neither of those is Apple.

    And here I thought I was an Apple fanboi...
  • by c0d3g33k ( 102699 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:36AM (#32043434)
    This move is as self-serving as ever, so be careful what you wish for as the Flash hate clouds your mind.

    1. Microsoft doesn't control Adobe and I'm sure that bothers them. It sure as hell bothers Steve Jobs. So why not take them out while they are vulnerable?
    2. Microsoft is part of the H.264 patent pool, so they will make money when the licensing bombs go off. Killing off a competitor (flash) so users and content providers have few alternatives and must pay up puts them right where Microsoft wants them.
    3. Once flash is gone (or has greatly diminished influence/relevance), Microsoft is free to tweak things in a way that suits them better. Embrace, extend, extinguish.
    4. HTML5 video has no established standard DRM solution which content owners crave. Flash does, so it's hard to get content owners on board with Microsoft's agenda at present. I suspect that Microsoft has something in the works to offer them, which will conveniently be exclusive to Microsoft controlled platforms, or licensable to those who play nice (Apple). Sorry Android (and Linux).

    This makes me very nervous.

  • by Paul Jakma ( 2677 ) on Friday April 30, 2010 @09:42AM (#32043500) Homepage Journal
    • HTML5 != video codec

      That is to say, HTML5 is a way to embed video into web pages, along with controls. HTML5 doesn't say anything about the video codec that should be used, similar to how the IMG tag doesn't say what kinds of image formats are supported. Further, the videos that are loaded will almost certainly be in some container format, like Ogg, MP4, AVI, etc.. - not in raw codec data form.

      If the underlying system has a general media decoding system, and if the browser uses that, then the browser will support any kind of media supported by that underlying system.

    • HTML5 is open

      It's an openly specified W3 standard. As a means to embed video into webpages, HTML5 video is much better than using the object tag to suck in a proprietary blob to then suck in the video.

    • The H.264 codec is openly specified.

      H.264 is openly specified in standards drawn up by the MPEG and published by ISO. There are free software implementations of H.264. H.264 rather is encumbered by patents, the licensing for many of which is administered by the MPEG-LA. The patent situation is what things difficult for distributors/users, there is no lack of standards.

      Note that flash players often use H.263 and H.264 codec videos, and so have all the same patent issues for free software implementations (in addition to the problem of Flash not being fully documented, and not having any complete free implementations).

    • If the underlying system has a general media decoding system, and if the browser uses that, then the browser will support any kind of media supported by that underlying system.

      Oh, my understanding is the Mozilla chose not to use any such system. They directly implement Ogg/Theora support (via libtheora) - and so they support nothing else. Chromium uses FFMpeg, which has a wide range of support for video formats.

      The Mozilla move to me does not make sense. I gather they're doing it because they want to promot

  • Something I do not understand with HTML 5:

    1) Why is the video codec type hardcoded in HTML5? Tight coupling has been known to be bad practice in many engineering problems, especially in programming. Avoiding such pitfalls is the base of object oriented programming, isn't it ? Wouldn't it be more logical to let HTML5 use media codecs availabl from the underlying OS?

    2) Even if HTML5 has to define a video codec in their specifications, why Firefox cannot instead create a plugin that would take advantage of cod

    • I'll answer to myself: regarding point 2, we have the opinon of a Mozilla dev against this idea: []

    • As I understand it, the codec type isn't hardcoded in the HTML, but it's still up to the browser to implement decoding and playback. This is where the Firefox/h.264 problem comes in - Mozilla has said that they won't implement h.264 decoding in FF because of patent issues. HTML5's video tag acts pretty much like an img tag - it points to the source file for the video but doesn't say a whole lot about what kind of video it is. More information here: []
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Abcd1234 ( 188840 )

      Why is the video codec type hardcoded in HTML5

      It's not. It's no different than the IMG tag. ie, it's just a generic video container element with a well-defined DOM API.

      Even if HTML5 has to define a video codec in their specifications, why Firefox cannot instead create a plugin that would take advantage of codecs installed on the system?

      Because they're being stubborn and sticking to their lofty ideals, instead of trying to do what's actually best for their userbase (they've attempted to claim technical dif

  • Adobe should just teach them all a lesson and take their apps off Microsoft and Apple's platforms! That will teach em.


  • P* on Apple (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bynick ( 1038382 )
    Don't you mean, "Why Apple does not allow you to install Flash on your device."? It's not like Apple has to pay to put Flash on the device.. they're prohibiting you from installing it from any provider. It's your device... you should be allowed to do whatever you want to with it. P* on Apple.

God made the integers; all else is the work of Man. -- Kronecker