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Well done Google, we know you care about the future of the web with your WebM Project (VP8)

May 20, 2010

Yes, it’s been announced as predicted:

http://webmproject.blogspot.com/2010/05/introducing-webm-open-web-media-project.html

All I can say is well done Google, they’ve truly done the right thing and could have single-handedly helped to preserve the future of video on the web! They’ve also hit the ground running with a very impressive list of people backing the format, such as:

nVidia
Intel
ARM
Qualcom
Adobe Flash platform
Opera
Mozilla / Firefox
CORE Codec
AMD
Logitech and more!

Why is this all so important?

Well, without an “open” standard for the web, essentially if people continued down the path of using a proprietary codec such as h.264, come 2014 the world could literally be held to ransom by the MPEG-LA. They’ve stated that (in laymans terms) it’s OK to use h.264 video for the web and will review this again by 2016 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H.264#Patent_licensing). What that means is they could decide to start charging for the use of this codec in a few ways, but it’d potentially destroy video on the web with a mad dash for people to find alternatives in order to avoid paying royalties.

Not only that, but with the emerging HTML5 standard (In laymans terms, it’s a way of defining how browsers should display web code) there is the need to define the codec used with the <video> tag, and that means getting a lot of people to agree on it where previously they wouldn’t. Ogg Theora wasn’t good enough quality (amongst other things) but was open-source. h.264 was, but wasn’t open-source.

By preempting all of this, Google has not only given us the chance to use what is essentially a better codec in MANY ways, but they’ve saved the future of video for the web.

Not only this, but by having such an array of people back the format when it’s launched, the WebM project is pretty much a guaranteed success right away! You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see that when Google puts video in HD on YouTube (It’s currently re-encoding all video that is 720p or 1080p to WebM format), that people are going to start using the format right away.

Same for Skype, they’ve seen that the ex-VP8 codec is pretty much king of the hill in terms of Video Conferencing, and hopefully other 3rd party video conferencing applications and hardware will begin to support it very shortly.

Then there’s support from hardware vendors too, hopefully this means that there will be hardware acceleration for the format that will continue to improve performance, especially with respect to playback on handheld and portable devices like Cellphones or iPods.

Not to mention rather than shun Adobe, they’ve pulled them onboard and the Flash platform will support VP8 also. They’ve got all their bases covered!!

Now, the only thing left for them to do is get Apple onboard with their iPods, iPads and MacOSX. That’s a huge slice of the market that you don’t want to leave out in the cold, but technically speaking there is very little from WebM being supported simply through the push of a software update. Heck, what greater way for Apple to say “Upgrade to the latest iPhone OS 4.0 and you get support for the latest video format for 720p video from YouTube etc.”, as I know that’d be a killer feature and reason to upgrade.

Same goes for Microsoft, they’ve gotta get them onboard. While Microsoft with Internet Explorer haven’t yet (from what I can tell) ruled out the idea of supporting this format, they had announced that they would back h.264. In an ideal world, Microsoft would support WebM in Internet Explorer 9 (IE9 is in heavy development right now), and potentially even push out an optional software update for the likes of Windows Media Player that provides it with support. It would be genius on their behalf as it would mean less people over time *need* to install 3rd party media players and codecs, and can continue to use Windows Media Player.

In summary, I’m absolutely stoaked that Google have released VP8 as the WebM project. It was just 7 hours ago when I was trying the homepage, http://www.webmproject.org only to find nothing on it.

Time will truly tell how this tale unfolds, if VP8 / WebM flies or flops.

All I can say is this: Google, you have my support, well done for thinking of the future of the world, and well done for launching with such an impressive list of companies backing you too!

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