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Google to Open Source the VP8 Codec 501

Posted by kdawson
from the floor-wax-and-dessert-topping dept.
Several readers noted Google's reported intention to open source the VP8 codec it acquired with On2 last February — as the FSF had urged. "HTML5 has the potential to capture the online video market from Flash by providing an open standard for web video — but only if everyone can agree on a codec. So far Adobe and Microsoft support H.264 because of the video quality, while Mozilla has been backing Ogg Theora because it's open source. Now it looks like Google might be able to end the squabble by making the VP8 codec it bought from On2 Technologies open source and giving everyone what they want: high-quality encoding that also happens to be open. Sure, Chrome and Firefox will support it. But can Google get Safari and IE on board?"
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Google to Open Source the VP8 Codec

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  • Re:Does this help? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mrsteveman1 (1010381) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:20PM (#31826306)

    They also own the company that created it, and i presume that includes the patents they held, if any. If there are patents that Google now owns on VP8, it's possible those patents could be used defensively against other companies, but trolls are always a wild card.

  • Re:Hurrah! (Score:4, Informative)

    by prockcore (543967) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:39PM (#31826486)

    Previously, h264 support for Firefox was basically inevitable because there was no way in hell that Theora was going to overtake h264 as the dominant format.

    It certainly wasn't inevitable.. Mozilla has said again and again, there is absolutely no legal way to include h264 support in Firefox.

  • Re:Yeah, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by RalphBNumbers (655475) on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:44PM (#31826536)

    I expect there are some programable components, but adding whole a new codec to existing hardware decoders may be asking a bit much.

    However, On2 already offered VP6 video decoder hardware designs like this one: http://www.on2.com/index.php?549 [on2.com]
    And, as I understand it, one of the big factors in the VP8 codec design was correcting issues with VP7 that made it hard to implement efficiently in hardware (or parallel software for that matter). So, I would expect them to be working on VP8 hardware decoders.

  • Re:Does this help? (Score:5, Informative)

    by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Monday April 12, 2010 @10:50PM (#31826588) Homepage

    Well it's bad word choice in the article (and summary) to talk about "open source" when, you're right, the real issue is patents. However, every indication is that Google intends to release the codec under a royalty-free patent. From the Google press release [google.com] regarding the acquisition of On2:

    "Today video is an essential part of the web experience, and we believe high-quality video compression technology should be a part of the web platform," said Sundar Pichai, Vice President, Product Management, Google. "We are committed to innovation in video quality on the web, and we believe that On2's team and technology will help us further that goal."

    Now that's certainly not definitive, but this happened right after browsers started implementing the video tag, with everyone arguing about H264 vs. Theora. I think the subtext was pretty clear: Google intended to resolve the situation.

    What's more, the article says:

    ...with that release, Mozilla — maker of the Firefox browser — and Google Chrome are expected to also announce support for HTML5 video playback using the new open codec.

    Now Mozilla was the holdout with H264, so I can't imagine that they're on board if there will still be patent problems. I expect that when this is made official, you'll find that the patents have been licensed in a way that is irrevocably royalty-free. After all, Google doesn't need codec license money. The whole project might be worth it to them if it just makes it cheaper to run YouTube.

  • Re:Hurrah! (Score:3, Informative)

    by bhtooefr (649901) <<gro.rfeoothb> <ta> <rfeoothb>> on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:04PM (#31826718) Homepage Journal

    Sure there is.

    Firefox is licensed under GPL2, not GPL3, among its various licenses. So, they could put H.264 in Firefox.

    Those redistributing Firefox would need a license from MPEG LA, though, and that's why they don't want to do it.

  • Re:Does this help? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lotunggim Ginsawat (689998) on Monday April 12, 2010 @11:09PM (#31826770) Homepage

    What happened to Microsoft's VC-1 will happen to Google too. I'm sure of this.

    Few years ago, Microsoft does the exact some thing with VC-1, telling the world and the dog that they will release VC-1 as a royalty-free video codec. Then the likes of Sony et. al. 'helpfully' tells Microsoft that VC-1 violates many of their patents. Knowing that they will lose heavily in court if sued, Microsoft back-tracks and now have to participate in MPEG-LA patent pool.

  • by Bruce Perens (3872) * <bruce@perens.com> on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @12:28AM (#31827350) Homepage Journal

    The GPL is not the only reason that Firefox would decline to place an encumbered technology in their browser. However, you are incorrect in stating that GPL2 would allow this. Under the terms of GPL2 section 7, the only allowable patent license would be one that licenses all GPL software used by anyone, because the patent license you take may not restrict any of the GPL terms - like modification, and of course you can modify any GPL program into another GPL program.

    7. If, as a consequence of a court judgment or allegation of patent infringement or for any other reason (not limited to patent issues), conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License.

  • Re:Hurrah! (Score:5, Informative)

    by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @01:18AM (#31827610)

    No one is forcing you to provide video in Theora. The idea is that you provide Theora as a fallback, the last resort. It doesn't matter if it's out dated or if H.264 is better quality. It's suppose to be the last resort. The video tag gives you the ability to specify different videos in case the browser can't load the first one you provided.

    H.264 is CPU intensive compared to Theora. Theora doesn't need hardware support because it's a simple codec which can be run in software even on mobile devices. Google is already sponsoring an effort [blogspot.com] to get the Theora codec running on ARM which makes this more practical. Theora even runs on IE via a java applet [flumotion.net] so it's widely supported compared to H.264.

  • Reasons to be happy (Score:5, Informative)

    by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @04:35AM (#31828642) Homepage

    There's no bigger software patent problem than the video situation, and Google's track record is good. They stockpile software patents, but I haven't found any cases of them using their patents aggressively. 29 patent holders are claiming to have a total of over 900 patent on h.264! There's just no way to invalidate them all.

    The only way we can win this is by abolishing software patents (I'm working on it, but it won't happen tomorrow :-), convince everyone to move to Theora, or convince everyone to move to some super new format.

  • Re:I don't like it (Score:4, Informative)

    by omnichad (1198475) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @08:59AM (#31830324) Homepage

    On2 VP8 already is a runaway success. Video content producers with an older version of Flash have an On2 VP8 encoder already. This is the format that Flash used just before moving to H.264

  • Stop saying this! (Score:2, Informative)

    by gbutler69 (910166) on Tuesday April 13, 2010 @09:20AM (#31830590) Homepage
    There is no such thing as "Hardware Decoders". There are DSP's that support various large int/large float matrix calculations etc (ala GPU's) and firmware written for them to do the decoding. Such firmware can be written for any codec.

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