H.264, MPEG DASH, Media Extensions and Life After Flash

Anyone who has been following me for some time will know that I have a history of commenting on Internet media technologies.

More than 3 1/2 years ago I wrote about the epic battle that was brewing between browser manufactures and video formats.

At the time two key things happened:

“Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.”

At the time I concluded that H.264 was and is the “industry standard” for video.

Two years ago I wrote a post - How to Navigate the HTML5 Video Maze

I bought up the challenge of Live Adaptive streaming and referenced the three proprietary solutions:

I introduced Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) which was in Draft International Standard at the time.

I gave a couple of presentations on the topic:

This got interesting a few months ago when IE11 on Windows 8.1 was announced as supporting DASH (IE11 shipped as part of Windows 8.1 in a free update to Windows 8 users worldwide last week - this feature is not supported in IE11 on Windows 7).

Anthony Park VP Engineering at Netflix delivered a session Building Media Streaming Apps and Sites Without Plug-Ins Using MPEG-DASH and announced that Netflix.com would start delivering protected adaptive streaming to Netflix.com for IE11 on Windows 8.1 users leveraging PlayReady (for content protection via W3C Encrypted Media Extensions) and MPEG-DASH for streaming. Netflix and Google also support this method for ARM-based chromebooks.

At the same conference Mingfei talked about Windows Azure Media Services – DASH preview through Dynamic Packaging more here.

Ok to summarise

  • IE11 on Windows 8.1 released worldwide last week with MPEG-DASH support
  • Windows Azure Media Services is adding support for creating MPEG-DASH media content (currently in preview)

Along comes Google:

I suspect Google is no longer planning to remove the H.264 codec from Chrome and appears to be fully supporting MPEG DASH on YouTube moving forward.

Why do I say this?

YouTube has added Media Source Extensions to their checks at https://www.youtube.com/html5

If you join the trial and play a video, right click and there is a new “stats for nerds” option that shows the video is playing back using MPEG-DASH (see below)


The twist in the tail of all of this is that Google has also appeared to have removed the 480p and 1080p streams for non-DASH browsers when they choose not to use the Flash player.

I guess the next question will be if Apple will choose to move away from HLS to MPEG DASH in future iOS updates, the ball is now firmly in their court.

Update: It appears that once again there is a twist in the tail, Web RTC has emerged as the next battleground and Google is holding fast on VP8 while Mozilla reluctantly goes H.264 through a partnership with Cisco.

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