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Peace breaks out in web video war

Well, this is nice. In the ever-more competitive world of tech, company spats can all too often have negative impacts on consumers. But every now and then, a kind of peace breaks out.

A few weeks ago we told you that a nasty little fight was brewing over online video formats. Google had decided it would drop support for the popular video format H.264 in its Chrome browser, in favour of the more open Ogg Theora and WebM formats. That left a fragmented browser market, with Google and Firefox supporting WebM and Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Apple's Safari supporting H.264. That meant online video sites having to use the Flash plugin to show video, undoing some progress made in the last year in weaning the web off it.

Well, now things seem to have settled down a bit. Microsoft has just released plug-ins for both Firefox and Chrome to run H.264 video, so users don't need Flash to view video on sites that use it. And Google say they'll make a WebM add-on for Internet Explorer. And, Microsoft say they're happy to make sure Internet Explorer 9 works with WebM plug-ins.

So it looks like while this new format war means we'll be using add-in browser plugins to watch online video for a bit longer, we at least should be able to get the ones we need. Except! What about Apple? The iOS version of Safari doesn't even allow plugins, and doesn't run Flash. So sites encoded in WebM are unlikely to work on them any time soon. Darn it - we thought consumers were going to survive this particular war unscathed...

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