Google defends its dropping of H.264, announces WebM plug-ins for IE and Safari
Anyway, that aside, if you were worried about not being able to watch YouTube in your IE or Safari browsers, don't worry: Google will release WebM plug-ins for browsers that don't natively support it. The same blog post goes into more detail about why Google decided to drop H.264 support, and how this isn't a power-grabbing move by the big G.
The truth is Google is only ever going to look out for Google; it's utter lunacy that Google would ever do something that scuppered its own chances of survival. Google needs an open Web to thrive, and that's exactly what WebM provides over H.264. Imagine standing in Google's shoes for a moment: you run YouTube, the third biggest site on the Internet. One day, out of the blue, the H.264 consortium decides to increase its licensing fees, instantly making the operation of YouTube untenable. What do you do now? Switching to an open and free codec simply makes sense.
Google's entire lifeblood is indexing content created by you and me -- and while open standards empower the end-user to produce almost limitless amounts of delicious content, closed, proprietary standards put power in the hands of publishers. Don't ever forget that the democratization of information brought to us by the Web has only been possible due to the open standards like TCP/IP and HTML.
At the end of the day, you have to choose whether you want Google to index your entire life story, or whether you want to be spoon fed vertically-integrated media from just a handful of multinational mega publishers. On the one hand, you retain a few important freedoms -- like the ability to speak your mind on an open forum -- and on the other, corporations decide everything for you. It's not a tough choice.