HTML5 video: 25% H.264 reach vs. 95% Ogg Theora reach

Vimeo started last week with a HTML5 beta test. They use the H.264 codec, probably because much of their content is already in this format through the Flash player.

But what really surprised me was their claim that roughly 25% of their users will be able to make use of their HTML5 beta test. The statement is that 25% of their users use Safari, Chrome, or IE with Chrome Frame. I wondered how they got to that number and what that generally means to the amount of support of H.264 vs Ogg Theora on the HTML5-based Web.

According to Statcounter’s browser market share statistics, the percentage of browsers that support HTML5 video is roughly: 31.1%, as summed up from Firefox 3.5+ (22.57%), Chrome 3.0+ (5.21%), and Safari 4.0+ (3.32%) (Opera’s recent release is not represented yet).

Out of those 31.1%,

8.53% browsers support H.264


27.78% browsers support Ogg Theora.

Given these numbers, Vimeo must assume that roughly 16% of their users have Chrome Frame in IE installed. That would be quite a number, but it may well be that their audience is special.

So, how is Ogg Theora support doing in comparison, if we allow such browser plugins to be counted?

With an installation of XiphQT, Safari can be turned into a browser that supports Ogg Theora. The Chome Frame installation will also turn IE into a Ogg Theora supporting browser. These could get the browser support for Ogg Theora up to 45%. Compare this to a claimed 48% of MS Silverlight support.

But we can do even better for Ogg Theora. If we use the Java Cortado player as a fallback inside the video element, we can capture all those users that have Java installed, which could be as high as 90%, taking Ogg Theora support potentially up to 95%, almost up to the claimed 99% of Adobe Flash.

I’m sure all these numbers are disputable, but it’s an interesting experiment with statistics and tells us that right now, Ogg Theora has better browser support than H.264.

UPDATE: I was told this article sounds aggressive. By no means am I trying to be aggressive – I am stating the numbers as they are right now, because there is a lot of confusion in the market. People believe they reach less audience if they publish in Ogg Theora compared to H.264. I am trying to straighten this view.

28 thoughts on “HTML5 video: 25% H.264 reach vs. 95% Ogg Theora reach

  1. What I don’t like about the Firefox support is that it apparently renders all videos using the canvas. Sorry, not everybody has a super-duper fast CPU. Using a Java player for H.264 seems equally bad to me ,,,

  2. What I’ve long thought would be neat would be to take the global, country by country market share stats and then combine browsers that support Theora to map percentage support of Theora. (And I suppose the same could be done for HTML5 + H.264 or any other multi-browser technology).

    I’ve seen similar maps done for e.g. Firefox or Opera usage but the key point about Theora is that it’s supported across 3 browsers each with large userbases. While some might predict Chrome usage to rise astronomically, even if, in a worst case scenario, it only replaces Firefox usage, this still doesn’t decrease Theora support. If on the other hand, it eats into Safari or IE share, then this is good for Theora. The only other H.264 supporting browser is Safari which seems to have peaked since it is effectively limited to Macs and it’s recent growth has been tied to Mac growth.

    The global numbers get distorted by backwards countries like UK, US and China were IE6 is still going strong but I think many would be surprised by the amount of Theora support in Europe an ohter nations more vigorous in their uptake of new technology.

  3. @John I’ve specifically only looked at the HTML5 video element and I have tried to deal with the actual installed bases of the browser extensions, though finding something about java was rather difficult. All such statistics are indeed dubious and different Websites will see different numbers in their particular user base.

    1. @Ducky Flash can of course be used as a fallback, which is why the Flash install base number is mentioned. I thought about stopping before the Java fallback and leaving it at that number, but at the same time I am trying to educate people on how to get good reach with Ogg Theora and that it can be almost as good as Flash – something most people are not aware of.

  4. @Jens the browser stats of Statcounter are for desktop only, so that is what I referred to. On desktop, computing efficiency is comparable between H.264 and Theora. On mobile, Theora has proven to be decodable on mobile devices even without HW support, which cannot be said easily for H.264. But indeed, there is a market for HW vendors to go into for providing HW-based Theora encoding and decoding support.

  5. Well the ogg Theora may be all nice…but did you guys/gals consider that the video being put up on Vimeo is mostly HD video which is being edited by mostly experienced video editors that use video editing software which most likely will not export directly to the ogg codec. Until then the percentage will not significantly change on a site like Vimeo.
    Read this too:

    1. @norbert Some of the high-end tools will actually support export of Ogg Theora, if you install e.g. XiphQT on the Mac and your editor makes use of the QuickTime framework, or if you install oggcodecs on Windows and your editor runs on DirectShow. The other fact is that Vimeo, YouTube and other sites actually have a transcoding pipeline that most often uses ffmpeg to transcode to H.264 and publish in a common format. This pipeline could just as well use ffmpeg2theora and transcode to theora. It’s not a matter that the tools aren’t available – it’s mostly a matter that another format will take up even further disk space for content that already requires a lot of storage space.

      Also on the article that you pointed out – it is written on the basis of a Theora encoder that is more than a year old. The current Xiph Theora encoder already has most of the issues that Monty pointed out addressed or they are in the process of being addressed (including the encoding speed). Mozilla is working with Xiph on addressing these issues in the near future. These are software issues rather than fundamental issues about Theora – anyone is able to implement an optimised encoder if they so choose – just like Xvid is an optimised encoder of the MPEG-4 standard. BTW: you have to understand that Michael Militzer from Xvid is running a business, so of course he has to state that he is not infringing patents. Doesn’t mean that MPEG-LA can’t turn around tomorrow and sue him – or sue Xiph on Theora. They will pick their fights of course for the ones that will be lucrative.

  6. Ogg is fighting a losing war. Little if any hardware supports it. H.264, by contrast, is rather ubiquitous.

    Supporting H.264 rather than Ogg allows to increase the battery life on mobile devices. Google, Apple and Microsoft are all in the cell phone business. Need I say more? 😉

    1. @Denis That’s a bit of FUD you’re spreading there. Theora doesn’t need as much hardware to run as H.264 and some initial implementations of Theora on small devices have already been developed (even with initial hardware support). However, the key is that when H.264 started, the same message was spread about it in comparison to MPEG-2: no hardware support, no tool support. And then the market developed and switched such that it is now the best supported codec. Hardware support will come with increasing market need.

  7. The OGG-audio/video format, is in the “drivers-seat” right now, so a extra solution for IE9, later in 2010, will have to be considered.

    With Chrome Frame allowing VLC to play embed video in IE, for the first time, and VLC in other browsers. has a good reach.

    Everyone can start a positive media service using OGG now, without costing a arm, and a leg.

  8. @Silvia: it seems to me that Webmasters will need to adapt to their new audience, as in delivering H.264 videos for Android and iPhoneOS users, a lot faster than it’ll take for a new generation of phone chips to replace an old one.

    Also, your argument on MPEG-2 is completely missing the point: back then, one couldn’t care less about spending more CPU cycle, from lack of a better option. Now, by contrast, saving those extra CPU to expand a mobile device’s battery life makes every difference in the world.

    As I see things, it’ll be too late by the time it’s a problem.

    Between now and in 5 years, we’ll have, what… 100M+ phones per year, 15%+ of which are smart phones, with the two figures increasing each year… Counting existing smart phones on top, let’s say 250-300M devices.

    With these figures in mind, my own take on the outcome looks like this:

    – Apple stands firm and Flash doesn’t make it into the iPhoneOS in the next two years.

    – Things turn mobile in a major way in the next two years, with iPhones, possibly iPads, and Android-based phones getting the lion’s share.

    – Site owners rush to deliver videos on their sites for iPhone (and iPad) users; HTML5/H.264 goes mainstream, since it’s the only option to do so.

    – Batteries last longer when using Chrome or Safari in mobile phones. Both gain traction in the mobile browser war; this exacerbates the problem.

    – On a separate front, patent problems force small webmasters onto large CDNs, with a positive (albeit too late) side effect: ogg becomes more widely available.

    How the patent mess gets resolved in the end is anyone’s guess. I’ll merely guess this much: unless Apple does a U-Turn and allows iPhone browser plugins, the cost and battery considerations that go into iPhoneOS/Safari and Android/Chrome be blocking on the hardware front.

    I might be spreading a bit of FUD indeed. Part of me hopes so.

    FWIW as a business owner, though, I don’t see much of a future in Theora unless Apple and Google bend over.

  9. @Denis That’s a fair enough view of what might happen. There are alternatives, too.

    Mobile phones get replaced every 2 years, so the next generation of mobile phones could already have some in-built Theora support – always assuming that general-purpose Theora support is indeed as battery-draining as you’re saying, which is not proven yet.

    Opera is one of the most widely spread mobile browsers and they only support Theora out of the box. Chrome supports Theora out of the box.

    So, a lot of phones apart from the iPhone – and this includes Android – may in future support Ogg Theora and for some site owners this will be much better to publish video than in a format where they have to pay a large royalty.

    Further, it is possible to develop a iPhone app that is an Ogg Theora player – similar to how there is an iPhone app for YouTube and one for Dailymotion etc. In this way, the iPhone may yet bet some Ogg Theora support.

    I don’t think foretelling the future is easy here. I firmly believe we are looking into a mixed future right now.

    We will have the large content owners – in particular those that are keen on DRM – continue to support H.264, cause they pay already and don’t really care about those royalties, which are just peanuts to them.

    We will also have the smaller sites – those that the Web was originally made for – those that make up the diversity and the long tail of the Web – use Ogg Theora, because all the tools are free and it is easy to publish Ogg Theora video.

    Unfortunately, we may see a world where we need to open – at least for a while – two browsers to perceive the world – or we all move to Chrome.

    BTW: when you say “Google bend over” – do you mean YouTube? Since Chrome already supports Theora out of the box…

  10. As a linux user, I just wanted to add this fact: Chromium on Linux displays Theora videos but not h264. So Dailymotion works but not YouTube.

  11. I knew somebody would find the numbers disputable. 🙂 A shame I cannot comment on Rakaz, blog! Rakaz is of course right in saying that you should count silverlight and flash as fallbacks for H.264, if you could java as fallback for Theora. This does not devalue the main number of the article, though, which is 27% vs 8% for Theora wrt native support without any plugin help.

  12. How is Theora video hooked up into IE9 there? Through a plugin?

    Counting plugins is pointless; or rather, if you do, H.264 reach becomes 99.99999% because Flash plays it…

  13. safari already supports theora !

    the problem is people do not know it, Videolan’s web plugin already supports theora video, I have already created a plugin installation for current modern browsers, visit my website and check it out.

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