Yes, I broke my own rules and used a “breaking” modifier for this story (let me have my fun for once). Here we have it, as the rumour mill suggested, Google has released the On2 VP8 video codec as open source (royalty free, BSD-style), while also launching the WebM container format which combines a VP8 video stream with Vorbis audio. Support for WebM has been enabled on YouTube’s HTML5 beta, and you can download patches against ffmpeg as well as DirectShow filters for Windows (Gstreamer plugins are labelled as “coming soon”). Mac users are out of luck for now; no QuickTime plugins have been announced yet. Update: The WebM blog is now open – and the list of partners is pretty decent already. It includes ARM, NVIDIA, AMD, Qualcomm, and many others. Update II: VP8 will be baked into Flash. Update III: The Opera labs version with WebM support has been released too, for Linux, Mac, and Windows.
The news hasn’t been officially announced yet, but the WebM project’s website has been launched today, coinciding with the Google I/O conference. As you would expect, both Mozilla and Opera are part of the WebM project, meaning that Opera, Chrome, and Firefox will soon suppor the format out of the box. You can already get your hands on Firefox and Chrome developer snapshots which support it, while an Opera beta is on the way.
The really, really good news is that Google is eating its own dog food: YouTube already supports WebM and VP8, but probably not on all videos. All you need to do is download one of the compatible browsers, enable the YouTube HTML5 beta, and append
&webm=1 to the search URL.
“A key factor in the web’s success is that its core technologies such as HTML, HTTP, and TCP/IP are open for anyone to implement and improve,” the project’s FAQ reads, “With video being core to the web experience, a high-quality, open video format choice is needed. WebM is 100% free, and open-sourced under a BSD-style license.”
You can download patches to apply to ffmpeg, and Google has also made DirectShow filters available for Windows users. There’s also an introduction to the WebM VP8 codec SDK, and of course you can get your hands on the code.
Google is clearly taking on the MPEG-LA with this one, as can be read in the FAQ. “Some video codecs require content distributors and manufacturers to pay patent royalties to use the intellectual property within the codec,” the FAQ reads, “WebM and the codecs it supports (VP8 video and Vorbis audio) require no royalty payments of any kind. You can do whatever you want with the WebM code without owing money to anybody.”
This is very, very good news for the web, people. The news hasn’t been officially announced yet, so we’ll have to wait for more details which will most likely come either today or tomorrow. The WebM blog is
still members-only at this point, but we’ll obviously keep you all up to date on whatever happens is now open.
Microsoft and Apple can apply suction to it.