Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Google to open source On2 VP8 codec at Google I/O?

Category: Video

There was a big cheer at last years Google I/O when Google Wave was demoed. It made a great demo and really showed that the Web can do a looooot more than we think.

It sounds like we will have another big cheer moment for this years Google I/O though, and it will won’t be for a demo, but for something more meaningful.

It appears that Google will open source VP8, the On2 codec at the event. Video has been painful for the Open Web crew. Many bash Theora on the grounds of quality, and then others hit back saying that it is hog-wash. H.264 has been taken up almost ubiquitously, with Mozilla holding out on principled grounds (which has created a groundswell around that decision too). The folks who make money on H.264 extended our puff on the pipe, but wouldn’t it be nice for the Open Web to have a true open video alternative?

That is what folks like the FSF begged Google for when the On2 acquisition was happening. Now we may have our wish.

This doesn’t mean that all is well. Having a codec is one thing, but getting it out there and implemented is another. Chrome and Mozilla may support it out of the gate, but what about Apple and Microsoft? At the very least though, having a truly viable open codec allows us to hold the H.264 folks feet to the fire.

Google also recently funded open video work on ARM that does use Theora. I am looking forward to IO!

Posted by Dion Almaer at 1:15 am

4.7 rating from 27 votes


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It always frustrates me when people characterize decisions like Mozilla’s as “religious”. Their position is purely pragmatic; that pragmatism is just operating over a slightly longer time horizon.

And it’s not even that much longer: they’re looking ahead a few years to H.264 internet streaming licensing going up, and they’re looking downstream to all the people that recompile and redistribute mozilla code.

Why are the people in our field so shortsighted that they can’t even look ahead a few years? It boggles the mind.

H.264’s “ubiquitous” takeup is itself a very recent phenomenon. But some people treat that takeup like it’s some kind of universal law. It’s not, though; it’s just as ephemeral as anything else in the tech world.

Comment by surrealize — April 14, 2010

Also, the comment system eats newlines. WTF?

Comment by surrealize — April 14, 2010

Does VP8 have hardware decoding support?

That seems to be the major advantage of h264 to me – especially on mobile devices where you want to preserve battery life.

Comment by ckorhonen — April 14, 2010

With the recent partnership with Adobe (Google and Mozilla), it would be great if Google/Mozilla or convinced adobe to implement ON2 codecs in the flash player.

Obviously Adobe might be resistant to this, but I really think going in that direction might be a good idea for Adobe, basically to start being a force for deploying features that Mozilla/Google/Opera want natively in future browsers. Even though it seems like this would atrophy some of Adobe’s business models I believe it might actually increase Flash usage as Adobe/Google/Mozilla/Opera would all be collaborating rather that competing on increasing the functionality of browsers.

Comment by endergen — April 14, 2010

My biggest thing also is hardware codec support. As it stands my strategy on html5 video is to use the alts in markup technique and order the file precedence by hardware codec, then sw codec then flash fallback with h.264. As much as I want to favor the open formats h.264 is going to perform better on mobile from an energy consumption standpoint because of widespread hardware support. And the longer the user’s battery lasts, the longer they can use my site.

Comment by tack — April 14, 2010

Well, I think that open-sorucing VP8 will be good for us all. But there is a bit of a bigger concern over HOW Google attempts to do this.

They could just go it alone, control all aspects of the format as an open-source entity. But given that, I am unsure that Google alone could handle the community that would spring from this. Governance would be an issue if it grows as big as I think it would, and Google doesn’t really do that well as seen with Android.

It’s either that, or it’s off-loaded to another foundation to handle. And at with point, I begin to ask the question of whom is going to be a proper steward of the format and defend it well (the second that VP8 is an open source option, I do expect MPEG-LA or someone else to attack it).

To say that this is only the begining, is an understatement.

That is my thoughts on the matter.

Comment by Duv — April 14, 2010

“A major VP8 design goal was to simplify the decoding process for one of the world’s most ubiquitous microprocessors: the ARM 9. To that end, we invested considerable development effort in producing a decoder that would work well for ARM.

One option we’ve added to the bitstream guarantees that a decoder won’t have to perform expensive clamping operations (i.e., limiting values to a 0 to 255 range). In essence, the encoder is forced to guarantee that its encoded residual — when added to the predictor — doesn’t require clamping. This alone saves time, but also allows VP8 to perform what we call pseudo-SIMD operations. Essentially, we perform four adds at once, by treating four separate bytes as a single integer. “

Comment by antimatter15 — April 14, 2010

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