Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

WebM: The On2 codec is here, with support from Google, Mozilla, and Opera

Category: Google, Video

The WebM project is dedicated to developing a high-quality, open video format for the web that is freely available to everyone.

The WebM launch is supported by Mozilla, Opera, Google and more than forty other publishers, software and hardware vendors.

WebM is an open, royalty-free, media file format designed for the web.

WebM defines the file container structure, video and audio formats. WebM files consist of video streams compressed with the VP8 video codec and audio streams compressed with the Vorbis audio codec. The WebM file structure is based on the Matroska container.

It happened. Today, Google is up on stage at I/O unveiling a new WebM project alongside a slew of partners (notably: Mozilla and Opera on the browser side) that gets the On2 codec out into the open. This is huge news for the fight for Open Video, and everyone will now have eyes on Safari.

YouTube will be a huge push here, and you can go to their html5 version: and check it out. Today it is available in trunk builds on Chromium and Firefox. Soon, an Opera beta, Chrome dev release, and more.

The project is going after:

  • Openness and innovation. 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. 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.

  • Optimized for the web. Serving video on the web is different
    from traditional broadcast and offline mediums. Existing video
    formats were designed to serve the needs of these mediums and do
    it very well. WebM is focused on addressing the unique needs of
    serving video on the web.

    • Low computational footprint to enable playback on any device,
      including low-power netbooks, handhelds, tablets, etc.*

    • Simple container format

    • Highest quality real-time video delivery

    • Click and encode. Minimal codec profiles, sub-options; when
      possible, let the encoder make the tough choices.

* Note: The initial developer preview releases of browsers supporting WebM are not yet fully optimized and therefore have a higher computational footprint for screen rendering than we expect for the general releases. The computational efficiencies of WebM are more accurately measured today using the development tools in the VP8 SDKs. Optimizations of the browser implementations are forthcoming.

Congrats Open Web.

Update: Flash will ship VP8, as will IE9. Now everyone looks at the Safari team :)

(One thing though about IE9 support: “In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video as well as VP8 video when the user has installed a VP8 codec on Windows.”). That is a bummer.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 10:46 am

4 rating from 1 votes


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Will Apple cave-in on this one? Will Microsoft adopt? If YouTube goes WebM (hard to imagine Google won’t do that), they’ll have to. Man, CPU-cycles to re-encode the whole of YouTube in to WebM…

Comment by Malic — May 19, 2010

There’s an Opera beta available now: Chris Mills posted an entry on the Opera Developer Community blog with details of WebM and links to WebM-enabled builds for Windows, Mac, and Linux (Ubuntu):

Comment by davidlantner — May 19, 2010

This must be the by far best news so far in 2010! Awesome Google! This will echo far into the century, if not the Millennium!
To Microsoft and Apple, this *will* win the codec format wars. To pretend anything else is stupid. Embrace it *today* or lose the second browser wars!

Comment by ThomasHansen — May 19, 2010

Flash is going to support the format too – which means there’s a fallback on plugin enabled browsers (IE and Safari on the desktop). That just leaves the iPad/iPhone.

Comment by CaptainN — May 19, 2010

My 2 billion cents on this;
Hahaha. ROFLMAO! Funny! Seems Flash have one last task to do before crawling off to die … ;)
Which is to force Apple and Microsoft to implement the darn thing [On2 codecs in their browsers] …
Hysterically funny! I guess the strategy of “conquer and divide” is still equally important as it was millenniums ago when Cesar launched it …!

Comment by ThomasHansen — May 19, 2010

So… does YouTube keep cross-encoding everything from one lossy format to another? I would hope they leave current video as-is and only encode new submissions with the new codec.

Comment by derbbre — May 19, 2010

Presumably if Google check the WebM code into Webkit then Safari will automatically support it, unless Apple specifically modify their build to exclude it.

I’m still no clear on how WebM will avoid patent issues though, as it’s supposed to be very similar to H.264 in a lot of ways.

Comment by Amtiskaw — May 20, 2010

Unfortunately IE9 will not *ship* with VP8 support but require codec installation instead. This is a rather awkward way to “support” WebM. There is a bug open in Microsoft Connect, but would they change their stance?

Comment by Bundyo — May 20, 2010

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