WebM and WebP for the masses

WebM, the super small opensource video format released by Google, is struggling to gain critical mass in its quest to be chosen as the default HTML5 video standard. In a move to support the format, Google is encoding all new videos uploaded to Youtube in the WebM format and has already done so for the most popular 30% of its catalog. The license-free WebM format is currently supported by Chrome, Opera and Firefox. It is not supported by Safari and Internet Explorer, for obvious strategic reasons. Apple and Microsoft are the co-owners and exploiters of the competing H.264 technology and they require license fees for commercial use. It is uncertain who will be the winner in this titan battle. As long as the market remains fragmented as it is, the end user is certainly not the winner because he needs to install a myriad of codecs to view all the content on the web.

In other news, the related WebP format for still images is now officially supported by Google’s Chrome browser. In astatistical study (admittedly, by Google itself), the size gains of WebP are about 40% compared to conventional image formats. The market share of Chrome is 15% as of March 2011, so that savvy website owners could achieve a considerable performance gain for many visitors by selectively serving WebP. If you are uncertain about the quality, take a look at this study.

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