A few weeks ago, Google announced that it would be dropping H.264 video support for HTML5 in its Chrome browser. This decision triggered plenty of debate across the web over open-source versus patent-encumbered codecs, and - perhaps unsurprisingly - Microsoft backed the widely used H.264 codec by taking a largely format-agnostic approach.
Now, to make its stance really clear the Windows-maker has released a Chrome extension that restores the ability to play back H.264 video. The plug-in will make use of Windows 7's native APIs for video playback in the same way that Internet Explorer and the recently released Firefox add-on do.
The release of this plug-in is a part of Microsoft's ongoing 'interoperability' efforts to "[ensure] that Windows customers have the best Web experience".
The software-giant also took the opportunity to reiterate its stance on the whole issue.
"Our support for H.264 results from our views about a robust Web and video ecosystem that provides a rich level of functionality, is the product of an open standards process like the W3C's HTML5 specification, and has been free from legal attacks. Microsoft is agnostic and impartial about the actual underlying video format for HTML5 video as long as this freedom continues".
The statement also highlighted the fact that IE9 - which is expected to hit RC status in the next few weeks - will natively support the VP8 codec and WebM as long as users have the codec installed on their system. This was justified as an acknowledgement that "other video formats exist and we wanted to give customers a convenient way to view video in those other formats without specifying a particular one. With this approach, we provide a more stable platform overall".
The H.264 extension for Chrome is available to download now for anyone running Windows 7. Remember, though, that Chrome still supports H.264 in Flash, and given the relative infancy of HTML5 video, most users probably won't find much need for the plug-in.