back to article Google (finally) nabs On2 video codecs

Google has completed its acquisition of video compression outfit On2 Technologies. On Friday, according to brief statements from the two companies, On2 shareholders voted to approve a deal valued at approximately $124.6 million. That's roughly $18 million more than the value Google named when it first announced the acquisition …


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  1. dave 93
    Dead Vulture

    If Google Open Source this codec....

    the Reg will still spin it as evil machinations of the 'Chocolate Factory' trying to corner the world's supply of free video codecs, mwahahahaha. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, of course, but it is a bit predictable, which is boring. Make up some new jokes to make me laugh again, please.

    1. theblackhand

      Re: If Google Open Source this codec....

      Fantastic if they release the codec as fully open source with no conditions.

      What I expect them to do is release it under a free for x many years licence at which point the contents all there but you need Google to access it.

      Paranoid? Me?

  2. tempemeaty


    This instead of Flash in the future Youtube would be fantastic.

    1. Lunatik

      You can get this already...sort of

      Try the YouTube HTML5-ifier extension for Chrome and it'll serve (most) vids sans Flash.

      Works today, better tomorrow though.

  3. Jerome 0

    Nice work Google

    I can't wait to see Google's next move. Will it be as simple as open-sourcing the latest ON2 codecs? Will that be enough to convince every party involved in HTML5 to standardise on a single codec? Whatever the outcome, I doubt the guys at Adobe are having a great day right now.

    1. StooMonster

      In addition

      They'll have to convince Nvidia, ATI, and Intel (and other GPU vendors) to include hardware support for the codec too.

      1. M Gale


        Only at the moment, and only for slower processors. I'm pretty sure that it won't be forever before any old CPU is able to render 1080-line HD in whatever codec you like. Remember when you needed a ReelMagic card to play MPEGs 1, 2 and 4?

  4. Stewart Atkins

    And ON2's codec is more likely to be accepted by everyone than Ogg because...?

    Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTML

    1. Piro Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Theora IS an On2 codec

      So yes, Ogg/Theora IS an old On2 codec.

      They have newer, better codecs with better compression/quality.

      If Google do The Right Thing™ and open On2's current best codec, there won't be any reason to use anything else

    2. psyq

      Ehm... because of... quality?

      Because VP6 is quite better in terms of quality per equal bitrate comared to Ogg Theora?

      Meaning that bandwidth required to carry quality streams will be lower?

      Or, meaning that people would get higher video quality per same bandwidth utilized?

      Not to mention that streaming HD streams with Theora requires ludricous bit rate compared to H.264 or even On2 VP6. Argument that "everyone has broadband" does not cut it - first of all because it is still NOT enough for HD Theora streams, and second -because someone HAS to pay for all that bandwidth being moved between servers.

      Of course that anyone with a hint of technical competence would choose better codec (better in terms of quality per bits engaged) as it decreases costs and improves quality of viewing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "Of course that anyone with a hint of technical competence would choose better codec (better in terms of quality per bits engaged) as it decreases costs and improves quality of viewing."

        Of course that anyone with a hint of technical competence would choose better OS (better in terms of reliability/security/usability) as it decreases costs and improves quality of usage.

        Cough, cough.

        1. Ammaross Danan


          But who would want to use the "better OS" if it only played on a small subset of specialty devices? Go buy a "better format" HD-DVD and see how far you get.

          Disclaimer: No flames about using a "dead" format please. It was for sake of argument and as a common-knowledge visual. Only flame for the fact this was a stab at a "OSX Rules, Wind0ze has Virii!" post

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Why should it be accepted?

      Because it offers superior performance, possibly on par with H.264, perhaps?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      re: And ON2's codec is more likely to be accepted by everyone than Ogg because...?

      Because google will get grown-ups to work on it, likely.

      If you've ever wasted time on the ogg/theora codebase, you'd see it was a messy, crabby poorly-documented and ass-backwards implementation wrapped around a meh-quality at best (because it's old, was good in its day) coder written by someone else.

      It's not nice to develop against xiph's libraries for audio or video- I can't blame a lot of people for preferring libavcodec/ffmpeg for open source stuff and sticking fingers in ears over licensing issues.

      If Google were to take a later version of the On2 codecs than xiph have, and offer sensible specimen implementations, people might just go for it. A decent codec and a decent implementation could be quite tempting.

      Whatever your stance on Google is, they certainly Get Stuff Done(tm), so they could make this one fly if they wanted to- a bazillion dollars > a few sulky, incoherent volunteers (having interacted with some of's more senior developers, when offering to fin their development of open source, I was not impressed).

  5. GettinSadda

    They could do it...

    Imagine in 6, or 12, or 18 months if YouTube would only work in browsers using this new codec, or would give a hugely better result (e.g. large high quality videos compared to small blocky ones in the Flash or h.264 version)

    How quickly do you think users would move to a YouTube-compatible browser?

    Even the threat of doing this would make most browser manufacturers take serious note

  6. snafu

    …it is proven

    On2 codecs are already in commercial use, some of them are comparable to h.264 and so on.

  7. Absent

    @Stewart Atkins

    "And ON2's codec is more likely to be accepted by everyone than Ogg because...?"

    The current Ogg video codec is quite inefficent, producing relatively large bandwidth hungy files.

  8. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    Two alternatives

    Google may re-iterate the openness of Ogg Theora, and keep the later versions closed for their own use, or they may open up the latest version.

    The problems that apparently prevents some people from accepting Ogg Theora are questions about the possibility of patent infringement, and the performance.

    The first option may allow the question of patent infringement to be put to bed once and for all (unless the patents are challenged), but the performance issue would remain.

    The second option may kill Theora off completely as an irrelevance.

    Either way, it is likely to be bad news for the Theora project. This would be a real shame, as they have been working really hard to produce an acceptable open codec.

  9. Robert Heffernan


    "Either way, it is likely to be bad news for the Theora project. This would be a real shame, as they have been working really hard to produce an acceptable open codec."

    Why would it be bad news for the Theora guys? The way I see it, if Google open sources the latest On2 generation, then the Theora project could pick up that source and spin it into a new, more efficient Theora codec.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


      In order to retrofit one of the later codec's, they would have to compromise the backward compatibility of Theora (which is one of the sacred cows for the Theora project) , or else spend quite a lot of time merging the codec's to allow the reference Theora code to use both.

      If someone (like Google themselves) were to just put the later codec into an ogg container, (which would be quite simple if the later codec is available in source form), then we could get an open 'standard' created before Theora complete their work. Thus Theora would be sidelined. This is why it would be bad for them.

  10. NeoLurker
    Black Helicopters

    Performance and patents?

    While VP6 is what most current Flash content uses, it isn't comparable to H.264. VP8, On2's latest codec was announced a year or so ago but very little seems to be known about it. I'm not aware of anyone using it or indeed anyone who has seen it. There are some old comparisons between H.264 and VP8, but they are not independent comparisons and are out of date. So the performance and capabilities of VP8 are somewhat unknown. The only information I've seen is a year old.

    More serious though is the patent situation of VP8. The On2 site is keen to point out "no patent pool hassles" but doesn't explain what that means. What is the patent situation with VP8? It is hard to imagine a modern codec that wouldn't somehow make use of IP that is protected by one or more patents.

    I'm sure Google has done their due diligence and if their end game is to make VP8 the "free" codec for HTML5, then I assume they're either going to buy their way out of any patent situation or it will make for a good spectator sport.

  11. Mike VandeVelde

    ogg says go

  12. Tom 7

    @Jerome 0

    "Will that be enough to convince every party involved in HTML5 to standardise on a single codec?"

    You don't really believe that certain parties joined the HTML5 standardisation process to get an standard agreed do you? They couldn't stop it happening on the outside but once they joined in they could get in the way, so they joined.

    I do hope Google releases the codecs unencumbered, just so I can hear what these self imposed roadblocks on the information highway will come up with as excuses for not agreeing to them.

    'The wrong sort of compression on the line'

    'That codec introduces some slightly green features on our expressions so we cant agree to that one'

    1. Jerome 0

      My mistake

      My mistake - I meant to say "every party involved in HTML5 except Microsoft".

      1. Ammaross Danan

        But there's a reason

        Microsoft won't support it because such wonderful piece of software could do nothing but make their browser crash. Not saying that cruddy software [*cough* Flash *cough*] doesn't crash their browser already... Oh, sorry for the "crash browser" when it should be "crash browser tab," which then crashes the whole browser anyway....

  13. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    As soon as there's an exploit,

    As soon as a bug is discovered in this video codec that can be used to interfere with PCs - or with Internet servers - there'll be calls to switch to a browser that DOESN'T support it, for safety.

    Having said that, it isn't Microsoft so are there likely to be bugs like that?

  14. Penti


    On2 doesn't just do codecs, they also do the On2 Flix engine which powers Youtube.

    With regard to open sourceing the codecs so they could be used with HTML5, sure but there's still the problem of "lacking hardware support" which locks out Theora even though Theora does perform good enough in pure ARM implementation without video decoding hardware and it wouldn't be harder to add support in hardware for Theora then VP8/6 or whatever they wish to use. (Note that Chrome doesn't support VP6, neither does it include any other commercial codecs it's all homebrew + patent license). Google often buy up small businesses to use their tech, doesn't mean a revolution is going on. Or even that they will use the tech to it's full potential.

  15. Tim Almond

    Might Be In Google's Interest

    The big thing that Google do (and have admitted to this) is to get people to use the web. If people are using the web, they're more likely to use Google's ads.

    Open sourcing the codecs would mean that a common video standard could be used across at least 2 different browsers (Chrome and Firefox). It might mean more video on the web, which would mean more people using the web and clicking more of Google's ads.

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