Mozilla and company announce WebM, VP8-based open video format project

It is not that big of a surprise, but still the most important announcement for the open web this year, Mozilla, Google, Opera, Adobe, and many other companies have announced WebM, a new open media project that aims to develop an open alternative for creating video and audio content for the web.

WebM uses VP8, the efficient video encoding format Google got when it acquired On2 Technologies (a process completed earlier this year) and is now relicensed under an open BSD license, Vorbis for audio encoding, and a subset of popular Matroska as the video and audio container.

More surprisingly, all browser vendors already have development versions that support the new WebM. You can get Opera, Firefox, and Chromium builds right now.

ffmpeg, DirectShow, and the VP8 SDK are the current options for encoding and creating WebM-enabled applications right now, with even a few commercial alternatives already available as mentioned in the WebM Tools section. The specification is labeled as final, so developers can conifdently start hacking according to the site.

As for content, there are already 1.2 million YouTube videos available in WebM. The WebM site provides instructions  for watching WebM video which involve URL tweaking. Google has also announced they will transcode all YouTube videos to WebM.

Google to open On2’s VP8 video format

According to NewTeeVee, Google will open the source code of On2 VP8, the capable video compression format, on the upcoming Google I/O, citing “multiple sources”.

If this turns to be true it could be a favorable game changer for the open web. The two main objections Apple and Microsoft have to embracing Theora (based on On2’s VP3 format), are the risk of submarine patents, and the discussion on whether Theora or H264 are the better quality format, which prompted Google’s decision to choose to H264 for YouTube video encoding.

Hopefully, the patents issues have been solved by Google lawyers, and according to On2, it is superior to H264.

It is strange however, why if Google knew the progress of VP8 open sourcing, it rushed to announce H264 for YouTube .

We will have to keep waiting for Google’s say on this subject, and hope for the best.