Safari for Mac to Support WebM Video Playback 11 Years After Its Launch
Safari features support for WebM video playback in the second beta of macOS Big Sur 11.3 Beta, indicating that Apple's browser will finally support the format after failing to do so for almost 11 years.
The added functionality, first spotted by The 8-Bit, allows users to play WebM videos in Safari for the first time.
WebM is a video format designed to be a royalty-free alternative to the H.264 codec used in the MP4 format. WebM allows video files to remain small without sacrificing quality excessively, and can be played with little processing power, making it ideal for webpages and browsers.
WebM was launched by Google in 2010, but has never been supported in Safari. This meant that Safari users have been forced to download WebM content and play it in a compatible media player, or simply use another browser such as Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
Today, WebM is among the more niche video formats, primarily being used on sites such as imageboards and forums. It is also often chosen for its support for transparent video playback.
In 2010, Steve Jobs implied that WebM was "a mess" and "not ready for primetime." It is unclear why Apple has finally deemed WebM a format worth supporting 11 years after its launch, but it may be partially due to the fact that Apple officially backs the H.264 codec.
WebM also has a sister project called WebP for images. Last year, Apple added support for WebP in Safari 14, so the company's approach to more niche media formats appears to be softening. WebM support still appears to be unavailable on iOS, but in light of these developments it would be unsurprising if Apple's WebKit engine added support for it too in due course.