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Google to open source VP8 video codec

Will announce it next month
Tue Apr 13 2010, 11:14

SEARCH-ENGINE OUTFIT Google is planning to open source the codec that powers Youtube.

Google has controlled the VP8 codec ever since it finalized the acquisition of video codec maker On2 Technologies in February.

Apparently the cunning plan is to work with the Mozilla Foundation to support the newly open codec. The code will also find its way into the Chrome browser. It's not clear whether it will be supported in Internet Explorer or Safari, though.

Some companies are throwing support behind the open source Ogg Theora and others think that H.264 is the future of web video. While Youtube, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 and Apple support H.264, Mozilla has refused to support H.264 due to potential licensing issues.

By making VP8 open source Google will provide a high-quality and open alternative to H.264 and other existing codecs. When VP8 was first launched its inventors at On2 claimed it could provide "50 percent bandwidth savings compared to leading H.264 implementations."

The move has the backing of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) as a way of killing Flash and avoiding potential lock-in to patented technology.

An open-source VP8 could end concerns about H.264's licensing issues and Theora's quality. But it is not sorted out yet. Microsoft has never been quick to adopt open standards, and no one has any idea how Apple might react.

However, Google's move could be good news to Steve Jobs, who is currently campaigning to kill off Adobe's Flash and replace it with something that is more amenable to his will. His scheme has been hamstrung by the fact that HTML5 is still only half baked. And Apple, which has been the driving force behind HTML5 video and H.264 playback on the Iphone and Ipad, is about as open as Spandau Prison.

Google is not saying anything officially yet, but an announcement is expected next month. µ


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