Google has announced that all new videos uploaded to YouTube are now transcoded into the WebM codec, in addition to the H.264 codec. Google developed WebM, an open media file format for video and audio on the Web, and its goal is to push the world towards using it exclusively.
The search giant says it is also working to transcode YouTube's entire video catalog to WebM, focusing first on the most viewed videos on the site. So far, the company has transcoded videos that make up 99 percent of views on the site or nearly 30 percent of all videos. Using its cloud-based video processing infrastructure, Google is constantly transcoding: at busy upload times, processing power is mainly dedicated to new uploads, while at less busy times, it automatically switches some of the processing to encode older videos into WebM.
Google promises to continue to support H.264 as an important codec for video on YouTube, but we wouldn't be surprised if that changes one day. The company has been making moves to get more and more users to use WebM over H.264.
Three months ago, Google announced that it would be dropping support for H.264 in Chrome and only support WebM going forward. Days later, the search giant promised to offer WebM plug-ins for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 and Apple's Safari. The search giant has since released a WebM plug-in for IE9 but not yet for Safari.
Microsoft and Apple are betting on H.264 since it is much more widely adopted and because it has hardware decoders, which allows mobile devices to get long battery life and smooth performance for video playback. Google developed WebM as an alternative, and it has managed to get Mozilla and Opera on board because the platform is more open and is free. Microsoft has said that IE9 would only support H.264, but that it would make an exception for WebM, as long as the user installs the corresponding codec. Apple has so far stayed silent and is sticking solely with H.264.
"The world of online video is incredibly complex and dynamic," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "Yet, our goal is to ensure that nothing stands between you and the great content you’ve always enjoyed. We’ll continue to invest in new video technology that improves the experiences for all users, builds a better infrastructure for online video, leads to greater access of information and spurs continued innovation."