In a split decision by the judges, the winner of the W3C/WHATWG (World Wide Web Consortium/Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group) video codec consensus is H.264, taking home the future of video playback on the internet while loser Ogg goes home with nothing but thoughts of what might have been.
Until now, it was H.264 cheerleaders Apple and Google up against the Ogg pushers Mozilla and Opera, with Microsoft remaining uncommitted. Google was placed into the H.264 camp despite Chrome supporting both codecs since YouTube's HTML5 implementation uses H.264. Chris DiBona, Google's open source program manager, also criticised Ogg's bandwidth needs.
With an impasse reached, the casting vote in this decision was in Microsoft's hands.
And cast the Redmond giant has, stating its intention to support the H.264 codec in its upcoming IE9 release. Last night, Microsoft featured early builds of IE9 in a keynote at its Mix conference and in a supporting blog post said that "HTML5 video (specifically industry standard HD-encoded, H.264 720p) has much better performance when it uses the operating system to take advantage of PC hardware for video decoding".
Of course, Microsoft's move is hardly a major shock. As Windows 7 ships with a decoder, it makes sense for IE to use what Windows makes available to it — following the hardware-accelerated style of IE9. Besides, did anyone seriously expect Microsoft to support Ogg when they are already an MPEG-LA licensee?
With the majority of browser and OS support now behind H.264, the job of pushing the open format now looks insurmountable; and thoughts turn to what Mozilla and Opera will do from this point.
People involved in Mozilla have passionately put forward their arguments against H.264 despite user requests for support. And I do not expect Mozilla or Opera to deviate from their positions as both will be able to use Flash as a fallback playing route.
For content providers, which is where the battle will be won and lost, it means that encoding to H.264 will provide the higher per cent of browser support. Ogg simply cannot compete with that. Why support Ogg when you don't have to? The path of least resistance will dictate H.264's use.
Even if every browser maker except Microsoft went with Ogg, the size of Microsoft and the use of the Flash fallbacks means that H.264 would always be involved somewhere. It was always unlikely that Ogg would dominate online video playback and now it has been relegated to the sidelines.