YouTube Will Start to Show Videos in WebM Format

Posted by at 3:59 pm on April 19, 2011

YouTube in an update Tuesday afternoon said it was now encoding all new videos in its in-house WebM standard. The format would let viewers using new versions of Chrome as well as Firefox and Opera see video in HTML5 using the open format. Videos would still be playable in the H.264 format and the original Flash containers.

The company singled out H.264 staying onboard as it wanted to make its videos “universally accessible.”

Back-porting the format to older videos was underway, though YouTube warned it would take time. About 30 percent of videos, or 99 percent of those regularly seen, were already using WebM. Processing has been working in the background as servers transcode in quiet periods.

The adoption could be a significant help to WebM but also underscores the lack of support from the industry. No other major site is known to be using WebM. Most if they use more than Flash often use H.264, in part because of its built-in support in newer versions of Internet Explorer and Safari but also in mobile. iOS devices use H.264 as the main HTML5 format, and Google itself still supports H.264 in Android.

Microsoft has criticized Google for H.264 the popular codec in Chrome in hopes of steering users to a minority format. Both have cast doubt on Google’s repeated insistence that WebM was patent free and may have been instrumental to MPEG-LA hunting down patent violations for what may be an impending lawsuit.

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