Google throws new format into HTML5 video cage match

Until today, the HTML5 video codec debate was at a stalemate. Apple, Google, and Microsoft were publicly backing H.264 exclusively, while Mozilla and Opera were instead behind the purportedly royalty-free Ogg Theora codec. Google has now attempted to untangle things with its new WebM format, which combines the VP8 video codec it acquired from On2, the Vorbis audio codec, and the Matroska container format, all in a neat open-source, royalty-free package.

Here’s what Google has to say about the VP8 video codec in particular:

The team that created VP8 have been pioneers in video codec development for over a decade. VP8 delivers high quality video while efficiently adapting to the varying processing and bandwidth conditions found on today’s broad range of web-connected devices. VP8’s efficient bandwidth usage will mean lower serving costs for content publishers and high quality video for end-users. The codec’s relative simplicity makes it easy to integrate into existing environments and requires less manual tuning to produce high quality results. These existing attributes and the rapid innovation we expect through the open-development process make VP8 well suited for the unique requirements of video on the web.

A healthy number of software and hardware makers are already backing WebM. The list includes Adobe, Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera, and Skype on the software front as well as ARM, Broadcom, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments on the hardware side. According to Engadget, AMD and Imagination Technologies are also part of the fold. Nightly builds of both the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox web browsers are slated to get support, and Google has already added WebM to its YouTube HTML5 experiment. As for Microsoft, the company posted this statement:

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.

Apple, which has been very vocal about the merits of H.264 and HTML5 versus Flash, has yet to announce participation. Support for VP8 on the iPhone, iPad, and in Apple’s browser Safari could make this launch a home run for Google, but the search giant has had a strained relationship with Apple recently. The two companies are competing in more areas than ever, which has led to recent confrontation over handsets and Steve Jobs calling Google’s “don’t be evil” motto “a load of crap.”

Comments closed
    • Manabu
    • 10 years ago

    One of the x264 main developers posted an very good in-depth review of VP8, and the WebM format in general, in his blog:

    §[<http://x264dev.multimedia.cx/?p=377<]§ I sugest reading at least the "Summary for the lazy".

    • Farting Bob
    • 10 years ago

    H.264 (particularly the widely used x.264 encoder) has better quality from the VP8 previews ive seen. Vp8 looked washed out more, while x264 may have displayed more blocky in places it provided a much crisper image, and when your watching videos crisper image trumps washed out but less blocky any day of the week.
    Still, html5 needs an open source codec supported by a big company that can defend/deter it from patent trolls. Another propreitry format wont make things much better than x264 under flash.

      • insulin_junkie72
      • 10 years ago

      /[

    • Meadows
    • 10 years ago

    According to web developers, a dev-build of Opera with VP8 support was also released within 24 hours of this announcement.

    I’d better wait for a beta instead, I guess.

    • jbraslins
    • 10 years ago

    This is why:

    §[<http://ping.fm/p/zj2Pc<]§

      • mcnabney
      • 10 years ago

      If Google TV can deliver the TV networks and most cable channels, both a la carte and bundled, in HD over IP with a reasonable fee structure I will never say another bad thing about them again.

    • ApockofFork
    • 10 years ago

    I like how there was about to be a big battle over web video formats with most supporting H.264 and the open source ogg theora due to H.264’s superior quality and associate royalties, then google just steps in and essentially saves the day by providing a high quality open source codec that they shelled out a decent amount of cash for. This move might have just saved the web from an annoying fracture over video formats all thanks to google’s generosity. I wonder if there is any direct financial benefit to google or just a general improvement of the web increases people’s use of their services. Firefox owes google big time thats for sure.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 10 years ago

      Yes, Google’s generosity. They have no interest in HTML5…or video…or internets.

        • CasbahBoy
        • 10 years ago

        Well, in this form Google’s “generosity” is a whole hell of a lot better than the MPEG LA’s “generosity.”

          • Jambe
          • 10 years ago

          Y’nailed it there: (hopefully) ubiquitous open-source video standard vs ubiquitous silverflash.264? Google’s solution wins hands-down, even if they make gads of cash from it (which I hope they do).

            • CasbahBoy
            • 10 years ago

            By the second “generosity” I was referring to the MPEG LA making H.264 free to use for a few years and then starting to charge for it again.

            I’d much prefer free to use indefinitely. Hopefully this will give Matroska more of the recognition it deserves, it really is far and away the best possible container format.

            • insulin_junkie72
            • 10 years ago

            /[<(hopefully) ubiquitous open-source video standard vs ubiquitous silverflash.264<]/ This announcement certainly doesn't hurt Flash short-term. Besides it probably being the go-to solution to get VP8 support into IE and Safari, it's still a DRM-friendly way to push video. Flash won't care if it's H.264 or VP8.

      • adisor19
      • 10 years ago

      There is a benefit to Google : they won’t have to pay royalties to the MPEG-LA once 2015 comes around.

      Google has cash, but it doesn’t mean they have cash to burn. If the VP8 codec and the patents that they acquired from On2 will be enough, then Google will be safe from the MPEG-LA’ wrath.

      So far it seems that VP8 sort of approaches the quality of H264 Base and Main profiles but doesn’t even come close to H264 AVC. This is of course with the current raw implementation so i’m sure if the community puts its head to the task, within a few years, VP8 will be much better.

      Adi

      • Manabu
      • 10 years ago

      This isn’t a problem with copyright laws, or with the openness of a standard, or with the development model for the codec. x264 is free-software, open-source, and developed for the open H264 standard, but H.264 is not the answer for internet video.

      This is a problem related to patent laws, that restrict the use of ideas. So, the key-word here is patent-free, not open-source. And in practice it is impossible to know if a codec (or any standard or computer program, for that matter) don’t infringe any software patents (yeah, this system is really f*ked up). So VP8 can’t really be called patent-free yet. Google just hopes so.

    • bthylafh
    • 10 years ago

    Interesting that they went for the Matroska container instead of Ogg. Anybody know why?

      • BlackStar
      • 10 years ago

      The ogg container sucks. Seriously, google for its technical short-comings.

        • bcronce
        • 10 years ago

        I miss-read “google” as a noun instead of a verb. Ignore

          • danazar
          • 10 years ago

          He was answering a question about why Google picked the Matroska container over the Ogg container. Plz to read first sir.

      • adisor19
      • 10 years ago

      Because Matroska is way WAY better and more complete than Ogg. There is a reason why all recent high quality shows/movies are showing up in the .mkv container. It’s just one file containing : video, multiple soundtracks, multiple subtitle tracks in 1 single file.

      Adi

    • stmok
    • 10 years ago

    Adobe is supporting this via Flash.
    => §[<http://blogs.adobe.com/flashplatform/2010/05/adobe_support_for_vp8.html<]§ And for you Opera browser fans...A build with WebM support is available. => §[<http://labs.opera.com/news/2010/05/19/<]§ Google to Apple: *[<"Your move."<]*

    • Scrotos
    • 10 years ago

    I hope it gets wide adoption. One less thing to worry about as far as royalties and proprietary closed software ecosystems that we’re dependent on. I dunno, it seems like a patent problem waiting to happen from what I’ve been reading, though.

    • boing
    • 10 years ago

    Does HTML5 video offer a complete flash/silverlight-replacement? Or does it just replace the video-playback part offered by Youtube and similar sites?

      • Scrotos
      • 10 years ago

      Um, I think you answered your own question with the phrase “HTML5 video”.

      • Skrying
      • 10 years ago

      Just the video playback. Which is one of the biggest issues people keep ignoring. A site like Hulu (and YouTube to a degree) can’t transistion until suitable methods for delivering ads and features is developed. Likely javascript will be used but that means good players need to be developed still.

      WebM/VP8 though is a big step forward in getting that work underway. Now an open source codec that is just as good as the proprietary one is available. Allowing the web to be standard and open. That’s a big deal.

        • Scrotos
        • 10 years ago

        Golly, you mean ads randomly popping up where I’m trying to read, playing video, having sound, and being obnoxious will be harder to pull off? How HORRIBLE.

          • insulin_junkie72
          • 10 years ago

          Well, until the DRM and ad-serving issues are resolved to providers’ satisfaction, things aren’t going to change from the status quo – which might be horrible, depending on your viewpoint.

          • Skrying
          • 10 years ago

          Ads support sites like YouTube, they support the content creators on YouTube, they allow sites like Hulu to exist, hell they allow TR to exist. I get it. The ads annoy you but until you come up with a better revenue model that actually works I’d love if you’d and others who can’t seem to think beyond their nose just shut up about ads.

            • UberGerbil
            • 10 years ago

            It’s not the ads /[

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            Hmm… wonder what supports Google… oh it’s ads. You made me nearly forget. Ad revenue directly supports content creators on YouTube, there is a growing number of people who make a living by becoming YouTube partners who are paid via those ads.

            Yes, there are numerous annoying implementations but the sites you do see those on are almost always of the lowest quality or some news paper website that doesn’t get the web. Anything quality won’t have that because the content creators there hate them as much as you do.

            To top it all off when implementations have been created that don’t rely on Flash the annoying types of ads will still exist. Which is why, again, the line of thinking you and some people hold blow my mind. Flash provided the technology but it certainly won’t be replaced by a new technology until what is possible with it is possible with the new. Companies are not willing to make less.

            We could also all have the long discussion from a few months back when Ars did their little experiment and Scott’s post and the comments that followed again. But hey, I keep hearing how the ad model is broken but then again the some people are going to keep whining and whining about how it’s “broken” but those same people (for the most part) wouldn’t be willing to pay a subscription either. Oh well. I guess we’ll see how broken it is.

            • Scrotos
            • 10 years ago

            I am not opposed to ads at all. Just intrusive ones. So the more intrusive they are using tech that jacks with computers (I call tell, even on a quad-core machine, when a Flash ad loads because my browser grinds to a halt for a second or three), the more people will be using ad blockers or just disabling Flash.

            So where’s the revenue stream then? Less people would be blocking them or complaining about them if they were less intrusive. That’s not a hard concept to get.

            Yes, us unwashed masses are killing off TR by blocking ads, oh noes, good thing you got the moral high ground on us! No, really, you’re missing the point I was making. It wasn’t ads = bad, it was INTRUSIVE ads = bad. I’ll agree with you that it could be JAVA just as easily as Flash or some other tech, ok, but it’s less the tech and more the implementation that’s the issue.

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            Of course it’s the implementation and I’m telling you that the annoying implementations are not going away with a technology change.

            Also, when you exaggerate as much as you did with the” grinds to a halt for two or three seconds” nonsense you ruin any point you try to make. My laptops power brick is bricked right now, my laptop won’t even go above 800 Mhz and Flash STILL doesn’t do that. Can I watch an HD YouTube clip? Nope. But I can still do YouTube just fine…

            • poulpy
            • 10 years ago

            Still -whichever way you want to look at it- moving improper, large and lame adds from a memory hog and slow technology to a something better can’t be a bad idea..

            Then -speaking of personal experience- I felt the pinch of Flash adds starting on way better hardware than yours, not even talking about when they brought my browser to crash once in a while..

            Flash should just die, period.
            Yes it’s less painful with today’s CPUs, yes it just recently started cleaning its act by moving some of the load to the GPU but its too little too late as far as I’m concerned. Had enough of that junk.

            • Skrying
            • 10 years ago

            I agree. I never said Flash was good exactly, especially from a performance view (though it’s not as bad some some people make it out to be). I’m just saying that Flash won’t be gone in a number of areas until complete solutions are developed that meet the requirements that the big providers have. That also people shouldn’t expect those obtrusive ads to just disappear, no matter the technology there will be advertisers with very annoying ads and website desperate enough to make a profit that they’ll run them, doesn’t matter if it’s done in Flash or some combination of HTML5 and Javascript. If we want to eliminate those then people need to simply avoid those sites and support alternative revenue models.

    • willyolio
    • 10 years ago

    how does VP8 compare to h.264 in terms of file size and quality, anyways?

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