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Google to Open Source the VP8 Codec

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the floor-wax-and-dessert-topping dept.

Google 501

Several readers noted Google's reported intention to open source the VP8 codec it acquired with On2 last February — as the FSF had urged. "HTML5 has the potential to capture the online video market from Flash by providing an open standard for web video — but only if everyone can agree on a codec. So far Adobe and Microsoft support H.264 because of the video quality, while Mozilla has been backing Ogg Theora because it's open source. Now it looks like Google might be able to end the squabble by making the VP8 codec it bought from On2 Technologies open source and giving everyone what they want: high-quality encoding that also happens to be open. Sure, Chrome and Firefox will support it. But can Google get Safari and IE on board?"

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501 comments

Hurrah! (5, Insightful)

XanC (644172) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826180)

We're all very quick to hit Google when they do something wrong. This one pretty clearly is "do no evil". Thanks Google!

Re:Hurrah! (1)

spikeb (966663) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826196)

i second your thanks.

I don't like it (1, Interesting)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826380)

There are two types of Free Software, and it has a direct analog in government vs private sector.

The first type is infrastructure. This is operating systems, compilers, networking protocol stacks, and other things that should be standardized. Sure, you could implement your own, but only at the risk of losing interoperability and compatibility with most other systems.

The second type of Free Software is everything else. Apps, tools, graphics subsystems, and the types of things that people should and do constantly dream up and implement. These things require competition to grow and innovate.

However the problem I see is that a video codec is not an infrastructure type of software. It is one among many competing software tools. By entering this On2 codec into the open like this, Google has essentially locked out any other competing codec since content creators will mostly only support the most widely available codec.

By introducing a codec as an infrastructure type software, we lose the crucial competition that improves the ecosystem for everyone.

Re:I don't like it (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826546)

I would disagree. The competition locks themselves out by keeping the best quality codecs closed source. If Google can equal the quality of an expensive codec, and make if open source with no royalties paid by anyone to anyone, that's great. But, don't blame Google for locking anyone out! It's still a "free market". Anyone can make an even better codec, and sell it for less!

Re:I don't like it (3, Interesting)

mR.bRiGhTsId3 (1196765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826728)

Consider the flipside, designing a codec is Really Hard Work. Google also has Really Deep Pockets. By doing this they have effectively dumped a codec that is good enough onto the market. While part of me is cheering that Google is taking one of the team in terms of opening their codec up they have basically ensured that only someone else with equally deep pockets has the time and money to engineer something so clearly better that they can recoup the time investment by surpassing VP8.

Re:I don't like it (3, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826846)

"only someone else with equally deep pockets", or a group of someone's who has the time, expertise, and coordination to do it for free. Like, maybe, Open Source?

Re:I don't like it (4, Insightful)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826932)

The whole discussion is moot in my opinion. Hear me out.

What do we need of online video?

Well, it should be ubiquitous. Everyone should have it available, or else web developers will be chasing their tales. FLV was a nice improvement over years gone by where a web developer couldn't predict with any accuracy what video playback facilities would be available to any particular user.

Sites like Youtube, break.com, theonion.com, are almost entirely based on online video and are only possible if most viewers can view the content with minimal fuss.

A codec doesn't need to be perfect. It just needs to be free as in beer, and everywhere. Flash did it, but it was proprietary and people didn't like it. Ogg Theora is free(in all the ways that matter, shut up Theo), but you'll never get native support for it from Microsoft.

To meet the needs of everyone, Google is giving us all VP8. It may not be the best, but if it's freely available to all browsers(native ideally, or by plugin), then it meets the needs of the web developer community to avoid recreating the wheel for every browser.

Re:I don't like it (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826574)

oh please. there are plenty of open kernels and open graphics systems available.
this VP8 thing prevents the internet from having to deal with yet another proprietary roadblock.
it was going to happen anyway with h264 in another 10 years. Now we have a technologically advanced codec and don't have to screw around with parasites wanting to milk the internet.

way to go google.

besides, If you really do want to keep the ecosystem going, then start contributing to dirac, and figure out some way to make it work faster on slower hardware.

Re:I don't like it (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826604)

Bingo. 100% dead on.

I humorously wonder if H264 will suddenly announce being 100% royalty free for lifetime now, or will fade into obscurity.

Given that MPEG-LA is involved, I'd bet on the latter.

Re:I don't like it (3, Insightful)

Lotunggim Ginsawat (689998) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826704)

Considering that H.264 is used in Blu-rays, ATSC, DVB-T/DVB-S2, video streaming services like Netflix and of course, sites like YouTube, I don't think H.264 will go away anytime soon.

Re:I don't like it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826598)

Ok, as opposed to what, exactly? Just letting Adobe and Apple (and the rest) get their way and have h.264 become that standard you're so afraid of? Wouldn't that lead to the exact same situation? Worse, actually, because then pretty much everyone would depend on the "benevolence" of the MPEG LA [wikipedia.org] and hope that they keep extending the zero royalties policy until all relevant patents have expired -- which, for some reason, I highly doubt they would, especially if it became a de facto standard.

If the issue is quality, or lack thereof, and particularly if VP8 is too far behind h.264, I don't think even Google can force the codec down everyone's throat. But if it's of comparable quality, then having it open-sourced so anyone can do what they please with it, and proceeding to push for it until it's widely accepted would be, on all accounts, A Good Thing(TM).

Re:I don't like it (3, Insightful)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826602)

The problem is, video codecs *ARE* a case of interoperability.

Video codecs end up in *HARDWARE* on mobile devices. Once you put them there, you're kinda stuck with that, and need to buy a new device to change codecs. Picking a good codec at first is generally a good idea there. ;)

Also, let's say people can freely install codecs as they choose. You'll get websites saying you need to download this codec to watch this video, and people will do it. With a standard codec, if a site does that, users can be educated that they shouldn't download ANY codecs.

Re:I don't like it (5, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826706)

I think that your position is flawed in two major respects:

One, codecs are, largely, infrastructure type software. They exist to do the unsexy-but-necessary job of getting content from point A to devices B, C, and D as effficiently and quietly as possible. Like networking protocols, interoperability and standardization are key, you want to be able to release a video and have it Just Work, no matter the end software or device, the same way that you can pretty much assume that any modestly sophisticated computer will speak TCP/IP correctly enough. Performance counts, since bandwidth and disk space, and battery life are all not free; but, as with operating systems, "compatible" generally beats "superior". Also of note, competition and growth do occur among infrastructure software, they just tend to be strongly shaped by the value of compatibility, and so growth and change tend to come about either through backwards-compatible evolutionary shifts, or through sudden, swift changes.

Two, there isn't much evidence supporting the thesis that FOSS destroys competition. It does tend to drive down prices(and, to be fair, it is quite possible that it destroys the role of the "proprietary-but-cheap 2nd or 3rd string player", either replacing it with free software, or with the services of "free as in freedom but not as in beer" software integrators and consultants); but, even in markets where the price is basically zero, you can usually find, at the very least, several FOSS projects duelling for users. Quite a few markets don't even go that far. If anything, by providing a solid baseline, they force proprietary vendors to compete harder.

In the specific case of video codecs, the proprietary market was already largely uncompetitive before Google showed up. Everything was either h.264(or very close variants, like VC-1), at the mercy of the giant-pool-o'-MPEG-LA-patents, or various more or less obscure legacy crap.

Wrong (1)

Singularity42 (1658297) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826860)

Let's take broadband. It happens to be finite. Comcast does whine about government there. Apps are infinite, and this is something fundamental.

You are stupid.

Re:Hurrah! (-1, Troll)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826228)

Now when Google is indexing every video you ever visit, you can rest assured it's in a non-patent-encumbered format!

Re:Hurrah! (0, Troll)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826254)

We're all very quick to hit Google when they do something wrong. This one pretty clearly is "do no evil". Thanks Google!

While true, they ain't done it yet. Right now this is just a "future product announcement" and that can be evil. Call me when you have the code...

Re:Hurrah! (1)

jgreco (1542031) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826298)

The devil is in the details; open source is nice, but unencumbered is also extremely important. I'm cautiously optimistic that Google will take this and do something really positive, but we'll have to wait and see. If they are willing to provide royalty-free patent licensing for the technology, then that really would be fantastic.

Re:Hurrah! (3, Funny)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826334)

We're all very quick to hit Google when they do something wrong.

We appear smarter when we find ways for good news to not be good news.

"Neat! The product I have in my hands right now has a cool new feature!" "Yeah, but that other product you didn't buy because you didn't know about it or it didn't suit your needs had that feature months ago. (Score:5, Insightful)"

Re:Hurrah! (2, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826404)

Actually, this could have some bad effects -- it has the potential to fragment the online video market even further.

There's now no way in hell that Mozilla will ever support h.264. Previously, h264 support for Firefox was basically inevitable because there was no way in hell that Theora was going to overtake h264 as the dominant format.

That said, it's nice that we've got an open codec that's (supposedly) actually decent.

Re:Hurrah! (3, Informative)

prockcore (543967) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826486)

Previously, h264 support for Firefox was basically inevitable because there was no way in hell that Theora was going to overtake h264 as the dominant format.

It certainly wasn't inevitable.. Mozilla has said again and again, there is absolutely no legal way to include h264 support in Firefox.

Re:Hurrah! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826654)

They are full of shit. They can just use various media frameworks like GStreamer and leave it up to the end user/distro/whatever to provide codecs for it. They have however stated they are unwilling to do this because H.264 is Evil and Proprietary and they want everyone to use Theora, because it gives you Freedom, even if you have to put up with a vastly outdated codec with a horrible implementation and no hardware support (of course, users can't be allowed to make any such choices on their own; you're gonna get your Freedom whether you like it or not). That they think they have nearly enough influence to get everyone to switch from H.264 to Theora is absolutely insane, and their delusions will ultimately amount to nothing and harm them and their users in the process.

Re:Hurrah! (2, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826718)

Sure there is.

Firefox is licensed under GPL2, not GPL3, among its various licenses. So, they could put H.264 in Firefox.

Those redistributing Firefox would need a license from MPEG LA, though, and that's why they don't want to do it.

Re:Hurrah! (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826662)

not really. if they open source VP8, it'll be the default for everyone basically. That'd be cross platform, which is important.

There was no way in hell that h264 was ever going to go into firefox. They said flat out it wasn't going to happen. I don't know where you even come up with such an idea?

Re:Hurrah! (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826796)

I doubt that it changes the situation much(other than possibly increasing the number of systems not using h.264, if VP8 is superior to Theora and less obscure than Dirac).

Mozilla doesn't really have a choice about not supporting h.264(directly at least). The legalities just won't work out. However, substantial uptake of h.264 is largely inevitable, which makes indirect support of h.264 in FF largely a foregone conclusion. Somebody, whether Mozilla or third party, was just going to hack out a mechanism that exposed external codecs available on the system that Mozilla couldn't ship themselves(whether it be by platform specific mechanisms, quicktime, directshow, gstreamer, or just by wget-ing and using libraries from VLC).

The existence of VP8 will likely make Mozilla's official stance a bit more comfortable; but there is basically no way that it will make enough headway to forestall some workaround that gets h.264 working in Firefox. After all, there is no legal way that Mozilla could include Flash support in Firefox(unless you count Gnash), and virtually all FF instances in the field have that, if their users care about playing video on the web, just from a third party.

Re:Hurrah! (1)

White Flame (1074973) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826428)

While this is a good act, Do good != do no evil. The former is existential while the latter is universal.

Re:Hurrah! (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826682)

so what? They're doing something really good here. Simple as that. That's a whole lot more than we can say for a lot of companies right now. Many don't even care about "doing good". Why argue semantics?

Re:Hurrah! (1)

vxice (1690200) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826496)

I agree but they set the bar pretty high for themselves. As big of a company as they are they have the chance to do a lot of good or evil and they asked to be held to higher standards and we held them to higher standards.

Re:Hurrah! (0, Troll)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826606)

I mostly hold them to the same standards that I hold Microsoft, or any other huge corporation. Google looks good in comparison to almost all of the "competition". So far, at least. They could go and do something downright evil, like helping the next Nazi regime to catalog all the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, etc, like Big Blue did about 70 years ago.

Dammit, have I godwined this thread? That sucks . . . .

Re:Hurrah! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826666)

They want this to be a global standard? Luckily Google owns YouTube... if this codec was default on YouTube it would be THE standard in about 15 seconds flat.

Re:Hurrah! (0, Flamebait)

PenguSven (988769) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826930)

if this codec was default on YouTube it would be THE standard in about 15 seconds flat.

I doubt it. I'd imagine sites like Vimo would instead become more popular. You sweaty linux nerds need to realise that end users don't give a flying fuck about what codec the video uses, they care about being able to watch something. Until this codec has even close to the same kind of hardware support as H.264 it's going to be a second choice, especially for embedded/mobile platforms.

Really good news (3, Interesting)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826214)

Setting aside the fact that it's just rumors so far... if true, this is really great.

I was generally more supportive of H.264 in this debate for purely pragmatical purposes, but if we can have a codec that is both free, and technically capable, it's a win-win all the way.

Of course, there's still the battle to get it supported on hardware side. But then if Google truly backs it (rather than just dumping a tarball of source on the FOSS crowd), it might be dealt with much faster than how it goes for Theora now. Especially if, say, Google will push to make it supported on Android - the volume of devices is large enough that some established company can come up with a hardware decoding chip and make it profitable.

As a side note - in retrospect, sounds like it's a good thing they didn't prematurely standardize on Theora...

Re:Really good news (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826252)

I was generally more supportive of H.264 in this debate for purely pragmatical purposes, but if we can have a codec that is both free, and technically capable, it's a win-win all the way.

Oh how quickly perspectives change. But that's okay. The open web welcomes you.

Re:Really good news (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826362)

Oh how quickly perspectives change.

It's not a change of perspective. What I want from the codec is that:

1. It's good enough.
2. It's open.

The ordering is intentional. Theora didn't cut it, because their priorities were reversed. H.264 satisfied #1, which was more important to me than #2. But if Google can provide a codec which is the best of both worlds - why, of course I'm happy about it.

Re:Really good news (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826376)

You were part of the problem, not part of the solution. But hey, feel free to justify it any way you want.

Re:Really good news (1)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826274)

They can back it by requiring hardware running Android and Chrome OS to support the codec in an adequate way that doesn't kill battery life.

Re:Really good news (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826280)

Since they just started sponsoring some mobile Theora work, I would think they will do at least as much for VP8

Re:Really good news (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826700)

H.264 has very heavy processing requirements - it barely works on netbooks and most handheld devices can't manage it.

As a "web standard" it isn't going to work.

That's not at all true (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826912)

Most mobile devices have support for hardware h264 decoding these days. The iPhone and Nexus One, for example, both have hardware h.264 decoding support, and many netbooks have video hardware that accelerates the decoding.

I'm not defending the codec here, just pointing out that you're wrong.

Yeah, but... (1)

bonch (38532) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826216)

How does it actually compare to H.264, and is there any hardware decoding support? H.264 already has momentum, and big sites are already switching to it.

Re:Yeah, but... (5, Interesting)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826286)

According to some things i read the other day, the hardware support for h.264 is really just a programmable DSP in most cases, so they could program support for VP8 if it were being seriously considered, and that appears to be the direction of things.

Re:Yeah, but... (4, Informative)

RalphBNumbers (655475) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826536)

I expect there are some programable components, but adding whole a new codec to existing hardware decoders may be asking a bit much.

However, On2 already offered VP6 video decoder hardware designs like this one: http://www.on2.com/index.php?549 [on2.com]
And, as I understand it, one of the big factors in the VP8 codec design was correcting issues with VP7 that made it hard to implement efficiently in hardware (or parallel software for that matter). So, I would expect them to be working on VP8 hardware decoders.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

joe_bruin (266648) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826826)

According to some things i read the other day, the hardware support for h.264 is really just a programmable DSP in most cases, so they could program support for VP8 if it were being seriously considered, and that appears to be the direction of things.

This was the case several years ago, when it was the wild west of MPEG4. Things were changing too rapidly to make concrete hardware. Today, everyone in the hardware world has pretty much settled on h.264 and the target profiles are well known. Hardware can be made to decode it at much lower power consumption than a DSP (and at much smaller die sizes, making for cheaper chips). People that need a wide variety of codecs or those that have a vested interest in DSPs (such as Texas Instruments) still use them over dedicated IP blocks.

Re:Yeah, but... (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826832)

I read a comment to the same effect, but I'm left wondering how true it is. Are all the devices (phones, computers, set-top boxes) using reprogrammable DSPs, or just some? If just some, then what percentage?

Also, does it matter that these DSPs weren't designed with VP8 in mind, or are these DSPs just completely reprogrammable, or...? Or to ask it another way, would one of these DSPs that was intended to decode H264 be designed exactly the same if it were intended to decode VP8?

Re:Yeah, but... (2, Insightful)

sadler121 (735320) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826292)

Unless Google starts using VP8 exclusively for Youtube. How long would it take for VP8 to gain hardware decoding? Hint: Not long.

Re:Yeah, but... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826460)

Yeah right, people aren't going to accept that their one year old phone can't play Youtube anymore. Nor that they can't buy a new phone anywhere that will [until said support materialises several months later] for no particular reason beyond "the new video is open and looks better". Accessibility is more important than quality in this arena, if Youtube erected a wall like that then they would tank pretty quickly. There are plenty of wannabes that will eat Google's lunch here, it'd be an incredibly stupid business decision.

On the other hand, exclusive specially selected content that is only available as VP8 might work but it has to be played carefully to avoid poking the bee's nest to strongly.

"Do No Evil" (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826222)

is actually from Google's POV, "Make others think we believe "Do No Evil" ". The main motivation, as with all other commercial endeavours, is to gain advantage for one's self (profit). "Do No Evil" is a handy PR side effect.

Google saw commercial benefit (or penalties for others) down the line by open sourcing VP8.

Amazingly non-evil. (0)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826226)

If IE doesn't support it, that might just be the nail in the coffin. So I'm sure MS would follow suit.

MOAR FREE! :-)

Re:Amazingly non-evil. (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826266)

An example was SVG. At first IE did not support it. So a plugin was made. Now they will support it. Funny that...

Re:Amazingly non-evil. (1)

sadler121 (735320) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826308)

Re:Amazingly non-evil. (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826406)

Chrome Frame FTW!

Seriously, we "frame" all our intranet IE users. The site works in IE, but CF gives us a way to do CSS3/JS features that gracefully fail on IE. If the user wants the good experience they run FF, Safari, Chrome, or Opera... or simply follow the prompt to install ChromeFrame.

Google makes our lives easier.

coffin? (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826502)

You see what it took to kill IE6. MS hasn't supported it for what, 2 years and it's finally now about to die?

Not supporting this video codec is unlikely to kill IE.

Re:coffin? (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826540)

Yeah, I suppose it might be a bit of a stretch. But things have changed quite a bit from IE5/6's total domination to how things are now, and not supporting... say youtube, would knock IE down another peg.

Re:coffin? (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826672)

You seem to be conveniently forgetting the reasons behind IE6's - uhhh - "extended" life. Those silly programming tricks that enabled crazily hacked "applications" to run only in that version of IE. Without all that nonsense, IE would have died long ago.

IE7, 8, and the upcoming version 9 don't have that legacy baggage.

Failure to support something as potentially popular as this new codec *could* spell IE's demise. I'm not predicting anything, but the possibility is there.

Re:Amazingly non-evil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826564)

Not a big deal. Google can just install the codec as part of their toolbar/adware bundle.

Does this help? (5, Insightful)

_merlin (160982) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826234)

Open-sourcing it alone means next to nothing: there are open-source h.264 codecs. The community still can't use it without a thorough patent examination, a universal royalty-free patent license, and an indemnity guarantee.

Re:Does this help? (1)

Randle_Revar (229304) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826296)

True, but I doubt Google would do something as pointless as releasing the code, but not making it completely Free.

Re:Does this help? (2, Informative)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826306)

They also own the company that created it, and i presume that includes the patents they held, if any. If there are patents that Google now owns on VP8, it's possible those patents could be used defensively against other companies, but trolls are always a wild card.

Re:Does this help? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826516)

Codec patents are notoriously complex and interrelated.
It is not at all unlikely that *someone* has a claim
on some part of the VP8 codec. The usual result (aka
MPEG-LA) is that everyone puts their patents into the
pool, and gets a percentage of the license fees based
on their contribution value. For VP8 to be free any
and all patent holders will have to agree to be paid
nothing, or Google (or some other deep pockets) will
need to purchase the patents.

Re:Does this help? (5, Informative)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826588)

Well it's bad word choice in the article (and summary) to talk about "open source" when, you're right, the real issue is patents. However, every indication is that Google intends to release the codec under a royalty-free patent. From the Google press release [google.com] regarding the acquisition of On2:

"Today video is an essential part of the web experience, and we believe high-quality video compression technology should be a part of the web platform," said Sundar Pichai, Vice President, Product Management, Google. "We are committed to innovation in video quality on the web, and we believe that On2's team and technology will help us further that goal."

Now that's certainly not definitive, but this happened right after browsers started implementing the video tag, with everyone arguing about H264 vs. Theora. I think the subtext was pretty clear: Google intended to resolve the situation.

What's more, the article says:

...with that release, Mozilla — maker of the Firefox browser — and Google Chrome are expected to also announce support for HTML5 video playback using the new open codec.

Now Mozilla was the holdout with H264, so I can't imagine that they're on board if there will still be patent problems. I expect that when this is made official, you'll find that the patents have been licensed in a way that is irrevocably royalty-free. After all, Google doesn't need codec license money. The whole project might be worth it to them if it just makes it cheaper to run YouTube.

Re:Does this help? (2, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826626)

The community still can't use it without a thorough patent examination, a universal royalty-free patent license, and an indemnity guarantee.

I suspect this is why Google has been so slow to announce their intentions: they have probably had lawyers combing through the IP, making sure that they didn't overlook anything.

I don't know if they can do an indemnity guarantee. You don't even get an indemnity guarantee when you license H.264!

But Google has deep pockets and would be the first target of any lawsuits over this. If they think VP8 is safe to release, they are probably right.

steveha

Re:Does this help? (1)

Gaygirlie (1657131) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826688)

H.264 is not open-source. Those decoding/encoding utilities are legal only in countries which do not support software patents. So no, there are no open-source H.264 codecs. You are mixing the concept of a codec and encoding/decoding facilities of it.

VP8 is already patented and they're all owned by Google, so if Google opens it up then there is nothing for the community to fear and can freely implement VP8.

Re:Does this help? (3, Informative)

Lotunggim Ginsawat (689998) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826770)

What happened to Microsoft's VC-1 will happen to Google too. I'm sure of this.

Few years ago, Microsoft does the exact some thing with VC-1, telling the world and the dog that they will release VC-1 as a royalty-free video codec. Then the likes of Sony et. al. 'helpfully' tells Microsoft that VC-1 violates many of their patents. Knowing that they will lose heavily in court if sued, Microsoft back-tracks and now have to participate in MPEG-LA patent pool.

Re:Does this help? (2, Insightful)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826940)

H.264 is not open-source. Those decoding/encoding utilities are legal only in countries which do not support software patents. So no, there are no open-source H.264 codecs. You are mixing the concept of a codec and encoding/decoding facilities of it.

It's possible for a piece of software to be open source yet still patent-encumbered if a third party owns a patent on something used in it (like h.264 may be). Since open source licenses are applicable worldwide while patents have limited jurisdiction, use of such software in some countries without a patent license may be illegal, thus negating the applicability of the open source license there. However it has no effect on the entities that released software under an open source license, or users unless jurisdiction of the patent applies directly to them.

It's not fundamentally different from the status of open source encryption software in places where encryption use is restricted -- it's not any less open source, just third party actions' can block its use or distribution.

Of course, it's usually IMPRACTICAL to rely on software that can't be distributed in a large fraction of the world due to hostile patent owner unwilling to issue a blanket license for the patent that will be compatible with the license of that software, so an alternative is helpful.

Not an immediate cure (2, Insightful)

etymxris (121288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826272)

Firefox has already committed to supported theora natively. Are they going to dump that now that VP8 is open? Or are they going to support two codecs now? That would just recreate the problem an open source VP8 was meant to solve.

More problematically, patents. I doubt most people owning h264 patents want an open source competitor, and the media companies are probably more comfortable with an IP protected media format. Google has a lot of money, but patent battles could carry on for years and put the ubiquity of VP8 into doubt, much like the problems with BSD.

Re:Not an immediate cure (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826918)

Assuming that they are as satisfied with the patent situation on VP8 as they are on Theora, and an OSS implementation is available, I'd assume that they will support two codecs.

A given browser supporting more than one codec isn't "fragmentation" in any serious way(gosh, FF supports at least four image formats, and that doesn't seem to have killed anybody). The danger is when different browsers support only disjoint sets of codecs. VP8 seems likely neither to be of much danger nor of much help on that score. At present, Mozilla can't touch h.264 for legal reasons, and Apple and MS won't touch Theora. With VP8, it is likely that Mozilla will support both Theora and VP8, and Apple and MS will not support both, and Google will continue to support all; but use whichever one saves them the most bandwidth money for Youtube purposes.

An open VP8 would certainly be a good thing(a superior Free video codec is better than an inferior one, and it'll save the wikimedia guys some bandwidth money); but, unless Google has a cunning plan to really turn the screws on this, VP8 seems unlikely to solve the basic problem of disjoint codec support.

Codecs (3, Interesting)

AndrewStephens (815287) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826276)

So now instead of two incompatible codecs for HTML5 video, we will have three? Great!

The only way this will really take off is if Google starts serving up youtube in VP8 to clients that request it. I am not saying that options are bad, and its nice the Google has released this code, but HTML5 video is already hampered by competing standards and this doesn't help.

As far as HTML5 video goes, it doesn't matter so much if the technically "best" codec gets used, so long as a single format is standardised to a large degree. There are better ways of storing photos than JPG, but that's what browsers use and nobody complains. There are better ways of storing video than Theora and everybody bitches about it. I hope it gets sorted out soon one way or another - HTML5 audio is in the same boat.

Re:Codecs (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826560)

Theora has very little penetration, VP8 will likely replace it entirely* (Firefox and Opera will likely have to retain "deprecated" support for at least one or two major version releases to avoid a marketing hype backlash though). Ideally we'll end up with H.264 for hardware decoding in portable devices like phones (legacy support) and VP8 for everything else (netbooks and upwards).

It remains to be seen though, VP8 will have to be competitive with H.264 or the quality complainers aren't going to go away.

* VP8 is supposed to be many times better than VP3 from which Theora is derived so it seems fitting to replace it with the newer version of itself.

Re:Codecs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826620)

We get along fine with: .gif files .png files .jpg files

Although they cover different areas they can all be used to do the same thing (mostly).

Re:Codecs (1)

dns_server (696283) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826638)

One interesting thing about html5 video is you can have fall backs, ie the video in ogg, the video in mp4 and the video in another codec in the same tag.
So if you want to do it right you re-encode in all formats and everyone gets to use the codec they want.

The disadvantage is you need more disk space, but really how expensive is that?

Re:Codecs (1)

AndrewStephens (815287) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826736)

Yes, you can re-encode the files you want to serve multiple times (I do this for the audio files on my site) but this is a real pain in the neck. It's bad enough doing it twice - are we going to have to re-encode everything three times now? Even worse is if you do not have access to the original raw file - if you only have an h264 encoded file, re-encoding it to theora or VP8 is going to look terrible.

Put it this way: back in the day before Flash video became popular some sites used Quicktime for video, some used Real, and some used WMV. Only a few sites bothered to encode multiple versions, even though it would be possible to have automatic fallback using scripting (I never saw a site that would do this, they all made the user chose manually). Once Flash came along with its single condec, it only took months for the major sites to switch even though the quality of FLV at the time was not as good as Quicktime (for instance). It was better to have a single universal codec even if it was not quite head of the pack - the advantage of ubiquity outweighed the technical limitations.

If you were creating a site today, what would you do? Encode multiple versions of your videos or just use Flash? The iPad (and similar devices) may change the game but it is not certain how much impact they will have.

Re:Codecs (2, Interesting)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826684)

So now instead of two incompatible codecs for HTML5 video, we will have three? Great!

The only way this will really take off is if Google starts serving up youtube in VP8 to clients that request it. I am not saying that options are bad, and its nice the Google has released this code, but HTML5 video is already hampered by competing standards and this doesn't help.

Well since Google does own Youtube.com which was the most used online video site that I'm aware of, and if they make all videos re-coded on site or equivalent to VP8, then this could get real interesting. A lot of weight there to throw around in the online video field.

Re:Codecs (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826876)

This could be almost as bad as when there were three different incompatible ways of transmitting images on the web, JPEG, GIF and PNG. Man, I remember spending years not being able to see a single picture because of that...

Re:Codecs (2, Insightful)

AndrewStephens (815287) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826926)

Do you also remember what a pain it was when some browsers (IE) didn't support PNG while others (Firefox, etc) had good support. That made no-one happy.

Now imagine if IE only supported GIF and Firefox only support PNG, with no universal fallback that they both could view. That is the situation with audio and video in HTML5.

Wow... (1)

MojoRilla (591502) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826284)

This is just what I asked for [slashdot.org] the other day when there was news that Google was supporting optimizing Theora, which is based on VP3. Way to go Google!

Re:Wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826900)

Sure enough you called it. Good job on that.

More like a battle between IE and Firefox (1)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826316)

According to 3 [w3schools.com] different [netmarketshare.com] browser [statcounter.com] stat usage, Safari and Chrome are too tiny a market to consider. Which means its more likely to be a battle between Google/Firefox and Microsoft more then anything.

Re:More like a battle between IE and Firefox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826438)

Just a quick look at the last:

Firefox sits at ~32% and fairly flat year-over-year.
Chrome has been growing very rapidly (>300% year-over-year) to 8%
Safari is reasonably flat year-over year at about 4%

Combined, webkit (the shared core of Chrome and Safari) sits at around 12% share - a little more than 1/3 of the Firefox share.

Apparently you think somewhere between 12% and 32% we can find some sort of "line of irrelevance" - where exactly does that fall? 20%? 31.1%?

It's also worth noting that one of the fastest growing segments of web usage can be found in mobile handsets and devices like the iPad or Zune. In this space webkit browsers have a dominant share while Mozilla and Microsoft barely have an entry. For this reason the choices of Google & Apple (and Opera) mater because accessing the web on mobile devices has become increasingly common.

Re:More like a battle between IE and Firefox (2, Insightful)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826580)

...mater because accessing the web on mobile devices has become increasingly common.

But trends are showing that more cellphone providers are putting limits on cellphone data plans [cnet.com] and the more limits pop up, the less likely people are going to be wanting to stream videos. This runs risks that mobiles will be less of a deciding factor for things like streaming video. Time will tell though.

Re:More like a battle between IE and Firefox (1)

LordThyGod (1465887) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826456)

The future is handheld and webkit rules there. That's iphone|ipad, Android and Blackberry (soon).

Re:More like a battle between IE and Firefox (1)

mirix (1649853) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826650)

How do you figure? Even if cellphone data rates were zero, handheld is always going to be gimmicky. It has it's use, sure, but it won't be replacing PCs any time soon.

Re:More like a battle between IE and Firefox (2, Interesting)

Kitkoan (1719118) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826714)

More people still use a computer to use the internet then a smartphone. Main reason my friends do is because smartphones are expensive to replace when broken from an angry call/breakup on the phone or lost in the bar. So they get the cheap cellphones since they are cheap to replace in those incidents. Don't break a laptop/desktop in those kinds of anger fits or lose them in the bar.

Re:More like a battle between IE and Firefox (0, Troll)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826520)

Firefox has everything to lose. IE9 is going to hit them hard when it comes out.

I wouldn't be surprised if Chrome in 2 years is where Firefox is now, and Firefox had half its current share.

Re:More like a battle between IE and Firefox (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826584)

Firefox has everything to lose. IE9 is going to hit them hard when it comes out.

Hit them hard how exactly? The Firefox nightly builds already match IE9's two biggest features - hardware acceleration and JavaScript performance. Firefox is likely to have a hardware accelerated release before IE9's release.

Re:More like a battle between IE and Firefox (2, Funny)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826892)

Yea, right. IE8 was a real killer too wasn't it. The best feature they put in IE8 was IE7 compatibility mode....

Announcing Ogg Goatseora (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826320)

A new codec 20% more effiecnt at encoding ass stretching videos has been launched. The Vorbis Foundation is proud to announce Ogg Goatseora

Download the source now, Optimized for Linux [goatse.fr]

IE and Safari on board w/ VP8? oh yeah... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826374)

It's very simple...

Just change YouTube to VP8 and HTML5.

Hell, you can probably just THREATEN it...

Replace OGG container with MKV (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826396)

Also, I hope Google (or another big mover) actively promotes a good media container format. Something better than OGG, perhaps MKV...

ENCODERS IDOTS ! (3, Insightful)

johnjones (14274) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826448)

its all about the encoders !

google can quite easily make reference but until there is High quality encoders then its pretty pointless

making decoder plugins for IE and mac is actually pretty easy in comparison

hardware reference designes need to be seeded also to the likes of TI and STMicroelectronics before it will even start to be useful after all where do all the camera's now do mp4 come from...

its all about the encoders !

regards

John Jones

Re:ENCODERS IDOTS ! (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826614)

umm... what's an iDot?

just keeps getting better and better! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826462)

first, kathleen fent opened her legs. Now, google is opening vp8. How many times can I blow my load in one day?!?!!?

Intends to release... (-1, Troll)

gzipped_tar (1151931) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826504)

So Google gets a /. story for its *intending* to do something? Call me not impressed. (And doubleplusunimpressed due to the kdawsonity.)

Wake me up when they actually *do* something.

And I await Google fanboys/modbots starting a modtroll orgy on this.

Not a surprise (4, Interesting)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826552)

The amount of money that Google paid for On2 was pocket change by Google standards. And the amount of money that On2 made every year was in the noise level by Google standards. So it never seemed likely to me that Google bought On2 with the intention of selling codecs for money.

If VP8 really is as good as On2 claimed, Google could save some pretty good money by serving up YouTube videos in VP8 format instead of H264. And even better, Google would not have to worry about the H.264 patent owners changing the rates or changing the rules. So it really would be in Google's best interest if all of the YouTube users were able to view content in VP8. But given the head start of H.264 in the market, the only possible way for Google to get everyone to use VP8 would be to release it for free.

I'm happy about this. This is just a win/win for everyone. If VP8 is decently competitive with H.264, and it is completely free, then as shutdown -p now commented [slashdot.org] , there is no longer any need to choose between good compression and free software. Everyone can have both!

steveha

What I would ask Google is.. (1, Interesting)

Phoe6 (705194) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826566)

Was this decision taken after the urge of FSF or they had it in their plans? I think the lobbying and urging by FSF to a corporate like Google seems somewhat undignified, at least to me. This act seems of higher quality and nature, be whatever its motivations are.

But yeah, I would be curious to know from the Google Insiders as how much of FSF urging help?

Re:What I would ask Google is.. (1)

belg4mit (152620) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826904)

>I think the lobbying and urging by FSF to a corporate like Google seems somewhat undignified, at least to me.

Why? If corporations get to lobby government, which is supposed to be of and by the *people*, and
non-profits can do so as well, why can't a non-profit lobby a corporation? Compare a (call to) boycott.

They might be On2 something here... (5, Funny)

abhishekupadhya (1228010) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826640)

that's all.

Now it gets interesting.... (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826708)

But can Google get Safari and IE on board?

I suspect that IE will come on board once it starts loosing enough market share to browsers that support it. Since Google owns YouTube, it's a pretty safe bet that YouTube will migrate over to it. When that happens, IE won't have much choice or much reason not to support it.
Where it gets interesting is with Safari. Apple has been very bullish as of late about only supporting what it wants to support, not what customers want. If it sticks to its guns and refuses to support HTML5 video, there will be a lot of pissed iPhone/iPad users that can't get YouTube video anymore (they already have to live without Flash video). Since it's beginning to look like Opera may not get approved for the iPhone (20 days and counting since its submission - no big surprise if Apple turns them down), iPhone/iPad users will be S.O.L. when it comes to video.
I wonder how "cool" Apple will look when all all the Android & WinME Mobile devices are showing off their HTML5 video support and Apples devices can no longer do video?

Safari and IE? (3, Interesting)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31826734)

But can Google get Safari and IE on board?

What?

Just make it the default format for Youtube, and everyone will include it, just to get rid of Flash. Apple hates Adobe, and Microsoft merely dislikes it, so no tears are going to be shed.

this battle was over a long time ago (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826778)

H.264 rules the universe guys. Stop living your little pipe dream that anything else will survive. Hardware encoders and decoders are out there in the millions. That single fact alone will make it stay.

MPEG4/AAC audio took over the world, and no one looked back.
H.264 has taken over the web, and you should never look back.

Video is quickly becoming an commodity. It is ridiculous that html5 took so longer to get here.

Who gives a damn what the file format is anymore at the end user level. The only possible place for giving a care is at the high end ( 2K, 4K video + ) a new algorithm there could get some traction.
H.264 is going on 5 years now. Yeah their licensing terms could change, but do you really think all these hardware and software vendors will tolerate that? The market will take care of itself.

Where Is The Mention Of Opera (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826870)

Has everyone forgotten who is responsible for the Web browser ballot in Windows 7 in the European Union? Opera! The point is, Opera gets results for the benefit of everyone. If only they patented tabbed browsing...

It only takes one porn video in VP8... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31826934)

then everyone will support it.

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