The WebM VP8 BandWagon Rolls On – Who’s In and Who’s Not

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Google announced the would open VP8 up as WebM, an open source video codec in a Matroska package with Ogg Vorbis as the audio encoder. So I thought it would be good to have a news round up of who’s in, who’s out and what Apple thinks (we all know that without a 500-page letter from Mr. Jobs).First off, I covered the original announcement so I won’t cover that again, you can find it here. Shortly after Google made the announcement public some high profile announcements were made in support of WebM.

Microsoft Says Internet Explorer will Support WebM

In a somewhat surprising move, Microsoft lined up with the masses to announce they would add support for the new open source video codec to Internet Explorer 9. Perhaps they smelled the winds of change, or perhaps they saw a way to stick it to their old rival Apple by teaming up with their other rival, Google. It’s hard to say really.  As if already believing that VP8 (the On2 Technologies name for the video portion of the WebM codec) would be the default codec for HTML 5 Microsoft stated, “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 was in a quick blog post by Dean Hachamovitch the Internet Explorer General Manager, hours after the WebM announcement by Google.

Oddly, they didn’t mention anything about Ogg Theora even though they claim to be “all in” when it comes to HTML5. Perhaps they simply forgot to tell us they’re supporting it? They did however, not fail to use the announcement to take a shot at Mozilla‘s lack of H.264 support.

Considering that Google, Opera and Mozilla all were part of the original WebM announcement the only major browser left to announce support Apple’s Safari, but perhaps they’re too busy attacking Ogg Theora to realize that they’re late to the party.

There will still be one big problem with perhaps loads of big name sites (aside from GooTube) supporting WebM, the lack of DRM support. Google has already stated that there is no digital rights management in the codec.  However, there is an alternative.

Adobe says Flash will support WebM

In what is most likely a nose-thumbing at Apple, or a really smart move to secure their place in the market space. Adobe has announced that they will add WebM support to Flash. Now, that would then allow for DRM on the content and still have it encoded in WebM. Pretty freakin’ sneaky guys! Adobe put out two announcements involving HTML5, the first of which is that there is now an add-on pack for Adobe DreamWeaver CS5. That will allow the application to utilize, implement and preview HTML5 coded pages.

But the bigger announcement followed on. Adobe’s CTO Kevin Lynch openly stated that  Adobe will integrate VP8 (WebM) into the Flash videoplayer by year end and have it distributed to the masses. How large are the masses? Oh say, One BIIIILLION people. That means that you’ll be able to encode that video content once, and have an HTML5 player with Flash fallback for non-compatible browsers.

Like I said, pretty sneaky guys.

There are already all sorts of FUD flying about. Some say that there will be patent lawsuits (personally, I wouldn’t go up against Google there) and some say that it won’t run well on smartphones  and other less powerful devices. But hardware companies are already lining up and offering to work on hardware acceleration. AMD (who owns graphics cardmaker ATi), NVidia and ARM are all signed on. Broadcom already jumped in and announced that they would help support hardware acceleration on mobile phones, as have Qualcomm and Texas Instruments. Hardware-wise there’s really only one major player we’re waiting to hear from, Intel.

They have already signed on with Google in the Smart TV deal along with Sony, it wouldn’t be such a stretch to see that leveraged into further cooperation including this.

In the online video industry some big names have already announced they’ll support VP8 and WebM. Google announced that all 720p or higher resolution videos uploaded to YouTube will automatically be encoded with it. Others have announced cooperation as well, including Brightcove (who support Flash and HTML5), (who states they’ll have a live beta soon and supplied the specs below), Kaltura, Ooyala, Sorenson, and ViewCast.

Whew! That’s a big list already!  Even Skype has announced that they’re IN (they have used VP7 for several years already).

Here are the technical details:

  • Container File Format: WebM
  • Video Codec: VP8
  • Audio Codec: Ogg Vorbis
  • Container DOCTYPE: webm
  • File Extension:  .webm
  • Mime Type: video/x-webm

So, I’m opening a pool “Who will give into VP8 first, Intel or Apple?” Include which company you think will announce first and give a date and time in comments. Closest person wins…er, our neverending respect for their prognosticating skills.

As a side note, I’m VP8-compatible as well, now I just need to get GDN on the bandwagon.


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