Earlier this year, Google finally did what many of us hoped it would do: release the VP8 codec as open source. It became part of the WebM project, which combines VP8 video with Vorbis audio in a Matroshka container. The product manager for the WebM project, John Luther, gave an update on the status of the project – and it’s doing great.
WebM has seen a rather incredible adoption rate. It is supported one way or another by all desktop web browsers; natively in Firefox, Opera and Chrome, and through a user-installed codec in Internet Explorer 9 and Safari. It has become part of FFmpeg, runs on x86, ARM and PowerPC, and is supported on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, and Android. There are codecs for DirectShow, Windows Media Foundation, QuickTime and gstreamer.
There have been 20 new partners, and looking at collection of partners, it’s quite clear that WebM has a very, very bright future ahead of itself. The first VP8 ASIC chips are expected to arrive in the first quarter of next year, delivered by pretty much all the major chip manufacturers.
Furthermore, 80% of the YouTube videos watched every day are already available in WebM. “We are working on transcoding the entire YouTube corpus,” Luther said. Of course, videos barely watched by anyone are much lower on the list of priorities, but eventually, they will be transcoded.
So, what does the future development path of WebM hold? Lots of improvements, mostly. Google is focussing on improving decoding speed, one of the often-cited weaknesses of the current version, leading to an average 28% improvement in decoder speed. They are also working on improving the developer tools.