The Death of H.264 In HTML5? Google Opens WebM and VP8

The Death of H.264 In HTML5? Google Opens WebM and VP8

Google met our expectations today and announced that it's On2 Technologies VP8 video codec is now open source. It's supposed to outperform Ogg Theora and will be completely patent-free. If you remember, I wrote that this was expected. Google, who bought On2 Technologies for about $125M, announced today at Google IO  that they have open sourced On2's VP8 codec under a royalty-free license.

WebM also includes the Ogg Vorbis audio codec. Oh, and like I said they would, Google has already started encoding videos with the codec on YouTube. (Rock on Chris!)

According to the announcement, all 720p or higher videos uploaded to YouTube will automatically be encoded using WebM and they've put out a WebM software developer kit, as well as the source code.

Both Opera and Firefox were on hand to state that the browsers will both package the codec in upcoming versions.

WebM is a cross-industry initiative with hardware support from AMD, ARM and NVidia so they can work on hardware acceleration as well as making it a viable alternative to H.264.

Sure, Apple and Microsoft are using H.264 and I'm sure they're going to resist any kind of move to WebM. However, they don't control HTML5 so if they want their respective browsers to be compatible, which they generally don't care about, they'll have to adopt it sooner or later if it becomes the HTML5 standard codec.

The problem is the patents. Steve Jobs recently sent an email to a member of the Free Software Foundation that talked about a patent pool being assembled to attack Ogg Theora over some patent-infringing inclusions. Oddly, he left out whether or not they were involved or indeed masterminding it to keep H.264 as the forerunner. He claimed that

"All video codecs are covered by patents," read the reply. "A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other 'open source' codecs now. Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn't mean or guarantee that it doesn't infringe on others patents. An open standard is different from being royalty free or open source."

Gee, you're right Steve, I wonder if there's a patent pool being put together to go after some patent infringing material in your beloved H.264 codec. After all, you just said they're all covered by patents and so it's entirely possible that it infringes on other patents (as you claim Ogg Theora does).

What to make out of it all? Well, if Google is going to offer WebM as open source, and there's a large association of companies including some of the largest in computing, behind the codec, it certainly seems like it's got a good amount of momentum.

Really, if Intel were to back WebM as well, I think it would be done once and for all. Think about it AMD (who owns ATi) and NVidia have both already voiced support. What does that leave left in the graphics chip industry? Intel. But even without them, the two largest makers of 3rd-party graphics cards are already there.

Game on!

About the Author -
Christophor Rick is a freelance writer specializing in technology, new media, video games, IPTV, online video advertising and consumer electronics. His past work has included press releases, copy-writing, travel writing and journalism. He also writes novel-length and short fiction as part of Three-Faced Media . View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.realestateappraisertips.info/ Real Estate Appraiser Tips

    Thank you for this update. What does this mean for me and those using the Kodak Zi8, which I think relies on the H.264 format? Thanks Again, Bill Cobb

    • http://www.VideoLeadsOnline.com/ Ronnie Bincer

      I'm guessing it won't matter for us uploaders that much... They (YouTube) will take our video we upload, and then change it to be what they want (like they turn it into Flash now) so they can show it on their site.

      It may matter for those that "take" video from the site as the YouTube grabber utilites will have to adjust their software... I'm just guessing at this, though my Video "Nose" tells me I'm probably right!

      • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

        Video SEO Hound - I would agree completely. Thanks for responding.. I
        wouldnt worry about it for now Bill.

  • askmrvideo

    Nnnooooooooooo don't tell me that!!!!! Just when I've standardized on MP4 (h.264)??? One file format, one conversion and it runs on everything. Swf players, iTunes, iPhone, etc etc. Oh well - keeps me in business ;-). Seriously, my thoughts are that fall back players like the JW player, and smart players like Shawn Pringle's easy web video (which plays on iPhone much like YouTube's player) will be in demand. Hmmm but then again, HTML5 doesn't need a player per se. What to do...? CSS?

    • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

      you mean to code a page to show html5 player or to do a skin for the HTML5
      controls?

      • askmrvideo

        Code an HTML5 page to allow fallback to a format that Apple devices can use.

        • http://www.reelseo.com/ Mark Robertson

          ahhh... that post will come shortly

        • askmrvideo

          Heehee you ROCK!

        • Christophor Rick

          And it's a brilliant post I might add :D I know, I've seen it ;)