Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

Google buying On2; New twist in the hope for Open Video

Category: Google, Video

Today, video is an important part of many people’s everyday activities on the Internet and a big part of many Google products.

Because we spend a lot of time working to make the overall web experience better for users, we think that video compression technology should be a part of the web platform. To that end, we’re happy to announce today that we’ve signed a deal to acquire On2 Technologies, a leading creator of high-quality video compression technology.

This could be huge for the Open Video movement. It all depends on what Google does with the codecs going forward (and the deal going through of course).

Robin Wauters has more:

Some of its codec designs are known as VP3, VP4, VP5, TrueMotion VP6, TrueMotion VP7 and VP8. Its customers include Adobe, Skype, Nokia, Infineon, Sun Microsystems, Mediatek, Sony, Brightcove, and Move Networks. On2, formerly known as The Duck Corporation, is headquartered in Clifton Park, NY.

If would be great if Google decides to open-source On2’s VP7 and VP8 video codecs and free them up as the worldwide video codec standards, thus becoming alternatives to the proprietary and licenced H264 codecs. On2 has always claimed VP7 is better quality than H264 at the same bitrate.

Also noteworthy: Google could use the VP8 codec for YouTube in HTML5 mode, basically forcing its many users to upgrade to HTML5-compliant browsers instead of using Flash formats.

What would you like to see?

Posted by Dion Almaer at 9:29 am

4.5 rating from 31 votes


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Is there anything to support the notion that google plans to open-source this? What would be the advantage to Google? Are you saying they would open-source the codec, promise they won’t enforce any patents involved in the codec, and give this to the HTML5 WG? (this would seem to me to not be a viable solution, as the WG was already given an open-source codec which Apple rejected because of “patent concerns”. Possibly a big organization like google behind a codec could help… who knows)

Or is this just wishful thinking?

Comment by idio — August 5, 2009

Regarding your tweet there, On2 don’t own the Nellymoser codec, and Flash 10 (as well as XBox live and others) already supports a better, free voice codec from Xiph called Speex:

Also, there are already Open Source versions of VP6 in use by folks such as Google/Youtube.

More importantly, addressing the real issue, releasing any/all of the modern VP codecs royalty free will destroy both Silverlight and Flash.

Comment by bawjaws — August 5, 2009

@idio – If Google owns the codec that has patents attached then I would imagine that Apple would still reject it for “patent concerns.” I’m afraid that due to the way patents work in the US just about everything created these days is violating someone’s patent. Heck, this post is probably violating at least five.

@bawjaws – “More importantly, addressing the real issue, releasing any/all of the modern VP codecs royalty free will destroy both Silverlight and Flash.”

I guess that’s because the only thing Flash and Silverlight are good for are video players? Could you please elaborate on what you mean?

Comment by travisalmand — August 5, 2009

Hasn’t Apple specifically stated they wanted a codec with proper hardware decoding too? Not saying it’s up to Apple, but they do have a valid point.

Comment by lensco — August 5, 2009

Anything would be better than Ogg Theora.

Comment by Darkimmortal — August 5, 2009

Ouch, nellymoser is indeed not part owned by On2. My assumption came because they used to be the only entity that sold licences for nellymoser decoders but its been a while since I dived deep into coded territory.

Comment by Malde — August 5, 2009

I checked my old email. My recollection was wrong. My licencing talks were directly with nellymoser Inc.

Comment by Malde — August 5, 2009


Flash is useful because it’s installed everywhere. And conversely it’s installed everywhere because it’s useful.

Flash began it’s long, slow journey into irrelevance when it gave up control and supported standard H.264. As soon as it is delivering the exact same file you could play in Silverlight, Quicktime or directly in HTML5 video then it is added nothing but processor overhead, instability, poor multiplatform support and unwieldy and utterly ineffective DRM.

The next big knock was the move off the Windows desktop to alternate devices based around the web. Apple couldn’t get it running on iPhone (or didn’t want to give Adobe control) and went direct to the source for the most important use of Flash: Youtube. Flash is suddenly less “everywhere” and therefore less “useful”. Expect to see similar happening on open platforms like Android and Chrome OS now that there’s the chance of a truly open standard codec.

The same is also very true of Silverlight which appears even more stuck on the desktop.

Flash and Silverlight don’t only do video, but video was, until now, the only area where they weren’t exposed to direct competition from open source and royalty-free competitors (aka the web) since video has a wall of patents and licencing around it. The wall is gone and they now no longer have a USP that can’t be undermined by the open web.

Comment by bawjaws — August 6, 2009

In my eyes, this looks pretty clever to me. It looks to me, that Google is trying to find a codec all browser vendors are able to implement.

Just image, if you need to have your videos in 2 formats, that will double the hard disk space and though the cost for that. In case of youtube this amount will be huge! So aquiring on2 and propably open sourcing a codec and removing all patent issues is in the end less cost than to have 2 formats of each video.

Hopefully i’m correct with my prognosis.

Comment by gossi — August 6, 2009

I’m not an advocate for using Flash and non-open-source technologies, but Flash remains because you can design interfaces visually that will look/function the same in all browsers [with the plugin installed]. It’s not just about video. Sure, you can recreate most of what’s capable with flash using JavaScript/HTML/css/etc. but it’s not as simple/intuitive for many designers. That’s why native video support isn’t going to be the end of Flash.

Comment by mjuhl — August 6, 2009

I have been involved in flash video for a while, and the simplicity that flash offers in interacting with that video has always been a great plus. We build seminar applications that sync video, slides, links, chats, etc., and frankly, it’s a lot easier to make it work for everyone with a single plugin. That’s how flash took over with video. Either you have the plugin and it works, or, you don’t and it doesn’t. I think that simplicity will keep a lot of video apps in flash for the foreseeable future.

That being said, I am excited about open video and we are trying to build our newer applications with flash only delivering the video portion of the page. The amount of testing that has to go into it is significantly higher because of the obvious cross browser issues. If we are stuck in a codec war between ogg, vp6 and h264 that’s just another unknown variable to throw into the mix. So, if Google wants to take over open video, we can only hope they do like flash did before. One codec would save so many headaches…

Comment by birdtakesbear — August 7, 2009

Good move google

Comment by Clickplay — January 16, 2010

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