Google Open Sources VP8 Video Codec


Google on Wednesday made the VP8 video codec available under a completely royalty free open-source license, a move that could go a long way toward clearing up industry squabbling over HTML5 video support on the Web.

Google, which acquired the VP8 in its acquisition earlier this year of On2 Technologies, is packaging VP8 with the open source audio codec Vorbis under the WebM project, an industry initiative launched Wednesday that's being led by Google, Mozilla, Opera and more than 40 industry partners.

The WebM project "is dedicated to developing a high-quality, open video format for the Web that is freely available to everyone," according to the organization's Web site.

Google believes it's crucial for the Web to have a video codec that’s both high quality and open. But Web video must be resilient enough to deal with fluctuations in bandwidth, and VP8 is designed to react to changing conditions, Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google, said in a keynote speech at Google's I/O conference in San Francisco.

"VP8 is very efficient with bandwidth, and it’s a best-in-class codec for real time streaming," said Pichai.

Several of Google's partners joined Pichai onstage to give their thoughts on what WebM will mean for the industry. Mike Shaver, vice president of engineering at Mozilla, described VP8 as an "industrial strength, royalty free video codec" with a high quality open source implementation and broad industry support.

"Open video is here now and it's embedded into the stack," Shaver said. "Firefox will support WebM, and we also want to see it on a broad range of devices."

Shaver also took a veiled shot at the recent controversy surrounding Apple's policy on Flash development for the iPhone. "We wouldn't accept that HTML5 is only used for documents and not for applications. We've seen what happens when things change at the whim of one organization, and the Web needs to be free of that," Shaver said.

Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch said Adobe plans to include VP8 in the Flash 10.1 player, which will expand its reach to "millions of additional users". Adobe is also working with Google "on a bunch of devices" that support Flash, he said, adding that more details are coming in Thursday's mobile-focused I/O sessions.

Opera Software has been another vocal proponent of open video on the Web, and Hakon Wium Lie, CTO of Opera Software took the stage at I/O to voice his support for Google's stance on the issue. "We need for there to be an open and freely usable video on the Web, and I think WebM is it," he said.