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Google teaches Microsoft's IE9 to love open video codec

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Updated: This story has been updated to show that the software offered by Google is not a browser plugin per se – though Google originally called it a plugin on its download page. It's software that installs on Windows and it can be used by other Windows applications. You can find an update here.

Google has released software for adding the open source and royalty-free VP8 video codec to Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 browser. IE9 – which made its official debut on Monday – uses the royalty-encumbered H.264 codec, and Microsoft has made it clear that it has no intention of including VP8 on its own.

In a blog post in January, Google indicated that such software was on the way.

Google open sourced the VP8 codec last May under a royalty-free license, rolling it into a large media format known as WebM. The format was promptly adopted by Mozilla's Firefox and Opera as well as Google's Chrome browser, but Apple and Microsoft have stuck with H.264. Both Apple and Microsoft are part of the MPEG-LA patent pool that licenses H.264.

With WebM, Mountain View hopes to create a royalty-free video codec standard for use with the HTML5 video tag. The web giant continues to use the H.264-equipped Adobe Flash on YouTube, saying that HTML5 doesn't yet provide everything the video-sharing site requires. But part of the problem, Google says, is that the major browser makers have yet to agree on a common codec.

Even after Google released WebM, the company's Chrome browser continued to offer H.264 as well. But in mid-January, the company announced that it would finally drop the royalty-encumbered codec from its browser. This has yet to actually happen, though the world assumes that it has. Chrome 11 debuted this month, and it includes H.264.

Google tells us, however, that it still intends to remove H.264. And to further nudge the industry towards WebM, it's giving IE9 users the option of installing a plug-in that adds WebM to Microsoft new browser. Google has a habit of doing such things. The company already offers a plug-in – Google Chrome Frame – that adds Chrome rendering and JavaScript engines to older versions of Internet Explorer, essentially turning Microsoft browsers into Google browsers.

You can download Google's WebM IE9 software here. Google calls it a technology preview, and it works with IE9 on both Windows 7 and Windows Vista. ®

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