Google to make VP8 free, HTML5 to benefit

Sources are indicating that Google is set to open up the VP8 codec that they recently acquired from last year’s On2 purchase. NewTeeVee reports that sources familiar with the matter have confirmed Google’s plan to open-source the project next month at their annual Google I/O developer conference. 

The report comes hot off the heels from last week’s announcement of Google funding TheorARM for mobile devices. This latest move could have a significant impact on the adoption of HTML5, where different parties are picking sides between Theora and H.264. Microsoft and Apple have thrown their support behind H.264 with Internet Explorer 9 and Safari, but others such as Opera and Mozilla are vehement in their allegiance for a free alternative that isn’t encumbered with licensing or royalty fees. 

Theora hasn’t seen the widespread adoption it was once hoped for due to issues in quality and performance. H.264 currently holds advantages in not just video quality, but performance and efficiency from its widespread hardware acceleration support. On2, the makers of VP8, have touted the codec as superior to H.264 in quality and efficiency

"With the introduction of On2 VP8, On2 Video now dramatically surpasses the compression performance of all other commercially available formats. For example, leading H.264 implementations require as much as twice the data to deliver the same quality video as On2 VP8 (as measured in objective peak signal to noise ratio (PSNR) testing). 

In addition, the On2 VP8 bitstream requires fewer processing cycles to decode, so users do not need to have the latest and greatest PC or mobile device to enjoy On2 VP8 video quality.”

If VP8 does get opened, Mozilla, Opera, and Google could possibly include VP8 decoding support in their browsers. Google currently supports both H.264 and Theora in their Chrome browser, but only H.264 in Youtube. Transcoding terabytes of Youtube videos to VP8 seems like an unlikely move given the resource costs, but one can never be certain with Google. 

While the Free Software Foundation should at least be happy with the move, it is doubtful whether it will make a difference to Apple and Microsoft’s deep commitment to H.264. 

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18 Comments

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Oh please ! Why do we have to bring HTML 5 adoption in any conversation ? Come on ! First, HTML is a specification, it has nothing to do with how different browsers implement it. Second, HTML 5 != video tag. It's not like developers are saying "Hey, scrap geo APIs, semantic tags, new form mechanics, history, offline apps, canvas, D&D, WE WANT VIDEO !!11!". It's just a small detail in an ocean of new features, so I highly doubt it will have any impact at all on HTML 5 adoption, maybe on the video tag adoption but that's hardly HTML 5.

"If VP8 does get opened, Mozilla, Opera, and Google could possibly include VP8 decoding support in their browsers"

Why isn't Microsoft included here? Because they hate open source? *shrug*

Northgrove said,
"If VP8 does get opened, Mozilla, Opera, and Google could possibly include VP8 decoding support in their browsers"

Why isn't Microsoft included here? Because they hate open source? *shrug*


Microsoft have already committed to H.264 in IE9, Zune HD, Windows Phone, and Windows 7â€"all with hardware acceleration. It’s just not likely at this point.

Northgrove said,
"If VP8 does get opened, Mozilla, Opera, and Google could possibly include VP8 decoding support in their browsers"

Why isn't Microsoft included here? Because they hate open source? *shrug*

For the same reason Apple isn't included and as clearly stated by the article both Apple and Microsoft are committed to H.264.

billyea said,
HAS Microsoft announced video tag support yet?

Yes, they demo'd the video tag at MIX10 playing HTML5 YouTube video (H.264). It is NOT however in the current platform preview as they were using a custom build for the demo.

torrentthief said,
The title is misleading, please change it to: "Google MAY make VP8 free and possibly open source, HTML5 would benefit"
Of course its misleading, only way Neowin.net can get viewers.. Been doing it for months now.

Quality is a big issue here. We have great screens and almost all media is going HD. We need something that looks clear and crisp but performs well in decompression. Is VP8 really suited for that? H.264 has proved itself. Theora and VP8 have not.

H.264 is also closed, Theora and VP8 are not.
I know, in the end, it's just a stupid licensing issue that could easily be resolved by H.264 becoming permanently open, or Firefox needing a proprietary plugin to play video tags.

I'd like to note that I think we already have a standard, h.264. Windows and OSX support it natively. Almost all podcasts have a h.264 stream. Youtube uses h.264. All mobile devices that are worth anything support h.264. Companies and individuals have already invested in h.264.

ObiWanToby said,
I'd like to note that I think we already have a standard, h.264. Windows and OSX support it natively. Almost all podcasts have a h.264 stream. Youtube uses h.264. All mobile devices that are worth anything support h.264. Companies and individuals have already invested in h.264.

Following that line of reasoning, Windows is the One True standard of operating systems and everyone should only support Windows and no other OS.

Just as with OSes, technicalities aren't the only issue. Ideological differences count too.