Google releases open-source WebM codec

May 20, 2010 // 12:30 p.m.

Tags: #browser #google #google-webm #html-5 #html5 #html-5-video #on2 #open-source #video-codec #vp8 #webm

Google has figured out how to make the most of its $134 million deal to acquire video compression specialist On2 - by giving away the crown jewels.

According to an announcement by Sundar Pichai, the company's vice president of product marketing, at the Google I/O conference - and reported over on V3.co.uk - the company has decided to weigh in on the HTML 5 video format debate by releasing an open-source codec, WebM.

WebM is simply an open-source version of On2's well-regarded VP8 video compression codec along with Ogg Vorbis audio - and already has a wealth of support in the industry. Now the codec is available under an open-source licence, that's likely to increase - and the Mozilla Foundation and Opera have both committed to including support for WebM into their respective browsers, along with Google's own Chrome browser.

Interestingly, Microsoft has also stated that it is to include WebM video support in Internet Explorer 9 - with one interesting caveat: according to Neowin.net the support will rely on the codec being installed into Windows, rather than being built directly into the browser.

The move to WebM is already being hailed as the solution to the HTML 5 video format issue and a way for smaller companies to avoid the exorbitant licensing fees that come from using the popular H.264 video codec - but there is a note of warning being raised: Electronista points out that the WebM codec may be similar enough to rival H.264 to violate closely-guarded patents and open itself up to future lawsuits from the patent holders.

Despite this, Google is forging ahead - and promises to have all 720p and higher resolution video formats on its own sites encoded in WebM by the end of the month.

Are you pleased to see a royalty-free open-source web video format from Google, or is H.264 too entrenched - and too heavily defended by software patents - to be displaced at this late hour? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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