back to article Google to open source $124.6m video codec, says report

Google will take a swashbuckling step towards license-free web video playback next month when it open sources the leading video codec from a company it just acquired for $124.6 million, according to a report citing multiple people familiar with the matter. NewTeeVee reports that Mountain View will open source On2's VP8 codec …


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  1. asdf

    props to Google if they do so

    Granted I am one of the first to rip on Google when the worlds highest tech ad agency screws over the public but this move not only makes sense but does show sometimes Google does the right thing. Most companies that survive long term do (Sony being perfect example of what happens when a company quits doing so, how is the BR/PS3 uptake, as well as your quarterlys there Sony Bony). Most of all I am just grateful to finally see a light at the end of the crap malware flash tunnel that is not the Adobe train f__king us all over.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    YouTube will never be able to dump Flash

    When will all (enough?) YouTube users have browsers that support VP8? Will IE _ever_ support VP8?

    How much more would it cost Google to host YouTube content in both VP8 and Flash-compatible H.264 formats?

    1. Lars Silver badge

      re: Will IE support VP8

      I agree, You Tube cannot dump Flash, too easily, but certainly there can be no technical reasons, like lack of programmers or lack of resources to prevent Microsoft from implementing VP8 in IE.

      So if You Tube demanded VP8 it would appear in IE yesterday.

      In a way, I hope I am wrong.

    2. ShellShockeD

      @YouTube will never be able to dump Flash

      I don't think storage space is the problem it the bandwidth saving google will be interested in

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      VP8 in IE etc

      surely isn't a huge problem- couldn't it be handled by some sort of plugin?

      If Youtube said "we're switching to VP8 in one month" you can guarantee that VP8 would be available for IE almost immediately. Microsoft cannot afford to have customers going off to Firefox, Opera, Chrome, etc. because IE _can't_ do something; that'll lead them away from Live Search/Bing and towards Google/Yahoo/whoever and erode what limited presence they have on the web.

      Plugins, or VP8-enabled versions of browsers, would appear for mobile devices pretty quick as well. People wouldn't want to be without Youtube!

      Remember also that Youtube isn't the only site to use Youtube videos- millions of other sites link off to them. So even those who don't want to spend 4 hours watching kittens playing with string will update to allow them access to their chosen video feeds.

      And not having to pay Adobe (or use pirated software, which would be bad if you got caught) to create Flash videos would surely be a boon for the porn sites that make up most of the web- it'd lower overheads.

      Not to mention that an efficient, widely-used, Open-Source codec with a massive userbase (and which would have a big community springing up around it) would be snapped up by embedded kit developers.

      This could have surprisingly large repercussions for the Web

    4. Piro Silver badge

      YouTube CAN dump flash

      If YouTube uses VP8, IE WILL support it

    5. Anonymous Coward

      It doesn't have to be a big switch

      You wouldn't introduce a change like this and remove the old Flash player. You'd make multiple video formats available. That way, people with old browsers and Flash can keep using Flash; people with new HTML5 browsers that support H264 (e.g. Apple's browser) can use that; and people with new HTML5 browsers that support Ogg (e.g. Mozilla) can use that. This should keep everyone happy.

      Note that the currently, YouTube's Flash video player uses H264. So providing the option of HTML5 video with H264 is easy - they just had to change the web page templates, they didn't have to re-encode the video. This is probably why YouTube did this as a first step. Switching codecs whether to Ogg or VP8) is much more complicated, it requires many CPU-years of re-encoding and terabytes of storage space for the new files. That's probably why it hasn't happened yet.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Game, set and match...

    Unbelievable how incredibly clever Google is when it comes to technology as well as business strategy.

    You wonder what complete idiots are working at Microsoft when Apple and Google pull of these stunts on a monthly basis. I think it has to do with the fraction "johnny MBA's" versus engineering degrees in the companies.

    The logic you ask? Google wants adoption of their platform. So what do you do? You make it as accessible as possible. Nothing sells better then free. So open sourcing 126 million dollars worth of technology is nothing but a very cheap investment to solve a (technical) problem.

    It's a necessary expense. It's like Microsoft saying we're spending 200 million dollars for a advertising campaign for Windows 7, (the irony being that windows does not need any advertising since you are forced to buy it any way).

    I wonder what investment returns more value ?

    1. Colin_L
      Thumb Up

      bravo, AC 21:38

      This is exactly correct. HTML5 has been stuck for a long time because there is no credible open-source video codec available. Apple has paid for H.264 because they wanted to move on. Google wants to move on too, but they see that H.264 is a major problem because of the cost.

      If this rumor is true, then all it means for now is that Google wants a unified HTML5 badly enough to pay $126 million for it.

      Of course they monetize everything in some way. What fool doesn't? But Google makes free or inexpensive tech that people WANT to use... rather than boxing people in and forcing them to buy or renew.

      And some of you have clearly missed the point. This isn't just another codec, it would be the only open source one. And it is less about controlling technology than it is about ensuring that technology marches on. Google wants to make products that use HTML5. No great mystery in that.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Gates Horns

    RE: YouTube will never be able to dump Flash

    "Will IE _ever_ support VP8?"

    Not so long ago, I was a web developer asking myself "Will IE ever support standard HTML without it's own freaky, nonstandard nonsense"

    1. Tom 35

      Will IE _ever_ support VP8?

      IE doesn't support Flash. You have to install a bloated buggy plug-in to use flash.

      So even if IE has no built in support for VP8 that should be no more of a problem then flash support, just create a plug-in.

      1. Tom King 2

        Video without plugins

        The gist of video and audio tags in HTML5 is to have video and audio play from the browser *without* plugins or other 3rd-party code/apps/whatever.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Gates Horns

          @Tom King 2

          And since when, exactly, did Microsoft start getting the "gist" of what the standards community is doing? (IE, at version 8, released in 2009, STILL doesn't even properly support the 1998 DOM level 1 standards.)

          I'm not exactly holding my breath for Microsoft to pick up an open-source codec, meant for a standard that won't even become a recommendation for a couple of years, and is owned and released by one of their main rivals. If you wanted IE support for it, a plugin would be required. And given the Jobsian cult's problems with Google (as reported here, and elsewhere), I doubt they would be to quick to jump on the band-wagon either.

          Still, I hope Google switches YouTube to their new codec exclusively (open-source or not). The main (only?) reason people still use IE is because they don't care about which browser they are using, as long as it appears to works. Can you imagine the market share IE would have after a couple of days of IE not supporting YouTube? (They'd finally have the market share they deserve... little to none.)

  5. Ismael

    Google doesn't need to support flash

    If Google dumps Flash on Youtube, and IE simply doesn't support VP8, the mass will just pick whatever browser supports it.

    Hey, look. Right at the side of the Google search page. There is a big button telling me to instal Chrome.

    That's what people will do.

  6. ThomH

    So then what's the hardware situation?

    Is it possible to implement a VP8 codec that runs on the video-specific circuitry already in devices like iPods? I assume it's just as easy to put on the GPU as any other codec.

    1. heyrick Silver badge

      Depends on the power available.

      I would imagine that whether or not it is possible to upgrade a device to support H.264 or VP8 depends upon how much bandwidth is available inside the device.

      I have a digital video recorder which is quite happy with H.263 (up to 2.5mbit/sec) and MPEG2 (up to 6mbit/sec) but there isn't any support for H.264. Could it actually run an H.264 codec, or a VP8 codec? Perhaps. Could it support a high enough video bitrate to be worthwhile? Ah, well, that is the big question...

  7. rhoderickj

    Jobsian cult?

    Why do you have to ruin a great article with such sophomoric behavior? Your douchebaggery has inspired me to call anyone who supports H.264 a member of the "Jobsian cult" while anyone who supports VP8 is a member of the "Googleplex cult" and anyone who supports Ogg is a member of the "freetard cult." This isn't about the technology, it's about who I can jeer at condescendingly. Go Reg!

    1. Trevor Pott o_O Gold badge


      Ever paid much attention to the fans of either Apple or Google? "Cult" applies. Now admittedly that "cult-like fanaticism" probably only applies to some but not all fans of these companies. The sad reality of it though is that it's the cult-like-folks who make all the noise.

      Both Google and Apple managed to do what few other companies, certainly few other technology companies have ever done: get people to believe in them. The fans of these companies believe in them so much that in many cases they view the corporations as being unable to "do no wrong." It's right up there with belief in the divine goodness of the pope.

      Also: it's not "googleplex cult;" it's the chocolate factory. Thus is has been spoken by the high priest Cade Metz of the Cult Of The Vulture. Get it right, will ya?


      You bring it on yourselves.

      Apple pushes it's own standards. Any talk of "open standards" is merely a smokescreen to hide their true and rather self-centered intentions. People that eat up their "open standards" rhetoric are rightfully poked fun at.

      Apple seeks to make the use of their own in-house standards easy and the sort of default while everything else remains more difficult if not impossible.

      This is the origin of their rift with Adobe. Adobe undermined Apple's attempt to own the web video standards and now Apple is trying to wrestle control back from them.

      The fact that Google is now throwing a wrench into the works is terribly funny. They're taking Apple's open systems rhetoric and actually making good on it. It may not be the most practical approach but it is certainly amusing. Perhaps it will keep Apple from running completely amok. Even members of the cult benefit from that (even if they don't realize it and would never admit it).

      1. Rattus Rattus

        Apple's "standards"

        So, Google's move might also help usher in the demise of Quicktime as well as that of Flash?

        If that's the case, then more power to the chocolate factory!

        1. Daniel Pimley

          Open source VP8 != death of QuickTime

          QuickTime is a very robust and versatile container format for desktop video production. As a delivery platform for internet video, it is as flawed as all the other proprietary solutions. I welcome a high-quality, universally adopted solution to the thorny issue of web video, but I don't feel the need spitefully to wish for the demise of other useful technologies.

          1. Rattus Rattus

            "to wish for the demise of other useful technologies"

            I wasn't wishing for the demise of any useful technologies, I was wishing for the demise of Quicktime. Fuck Quicktime. Fuck it long and hard, with a splintery pole studded with rusty nails. It's a horrible container format that makes it far harder than it should be to do anything with it's contents, even simply playing it back.

            Why not use a container that won't try to fight the user and scream "No! You'll do things MY way or not at all!" Hmm, does that sound familiar, coming from an Apple product? Why not use a genuinely useful container such as OGG, for example? Or MKV? Or, indeed, anything but Quicktime?

            1. Daniel Pimley

              Hate is not a useful emotion

              There is the world as we wish it to be, and the world as it is. QuickTime is not perfect - far from it - but it is an entrenched standard which, just like Flash, predates the newer superior technologies we are discussing now. Perhaps one day QuickTime will disappear from the web and the desktop, but your hate and vitriol will not make that happen.

      2. chuckc

        HTML5 + H.264

        I fail to see how HTML5 and H.264 can be called "Apple standards". One is specified by a comittee, the other is a proprietary video codec that Apple and many others happen to use.

      3. Volker Hett

        Yeah, like the HTML5 canvas element

        Apple seeks to make the use of their own in-house standards easy and the sort of default while everything else remains more difficult if not impossible.

        One of those standards, the canvas element, has been adopted by any browser but IE and is now an W3C open to anybody html5 standard.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Great, smart move...

    Open sourcing VP8 would enable Google to switch You Tube content and encourage migration to Chrome while minimizing the attention of anti-trusters. Provide Open Source to any wannabe browser competitors and even bundle competitor Flash with their own browser. It's almost like they looked at the MSFT-EU 'browser war' and are preempting any similar problem. Still it's not really about the browser, it's about eyeballs to search and ads (and one other thing), but we all win anyway. Is it possible the choice of open source license could make it impossible for MSFT to build an IE plugin (or Apple a Safari plugin) ? I guess that would hurt MSFT more than Apple: most people tend to have Firefox installed anyway as the second browser of choice, and it's MSFT that stands to fail to leverage referred-by-the-browser eyeballs. And that "one other thing", in the long run a) if H264 is patent encumbered they don't want to have a critical dependency on that for Android platform(s) and b) if Flash is a pig they don't want to have a critical dependency on that for Android either.

    1. Awesomo

      Wii Flash

      While I hate all things Adobe on my PC, I like using Flash on the Wii. There are several web sites dedicated to Wii flash games, many enjoyable FREE games there. Which can be played with the Wii remotes, via the Opera browser.

      A good use of Flash, though it may well be the only one!

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Great, smart move...

      "Is it possible the choice of open source license could make it impossible for MSFT to build an IE plugin (or Apple a Safari plugin) ?"

      I don't see how. An earlier version of the GPL was worded in such a way that some tools like bison and flex couldn't be used to create closed source software, but I think that's been sorted now and it would in any case be possible for MS to publish the source for an ActiveX control. (There couldn't be any resulting obligation to publish the source for "the" container application, since there are probably thousands of ActiveX control containers and MS didn't write most of them.)

      Irrelevant in any case, since ActiveX is a stable and open specification and so Google can write and deploy the ActiveX control for IE, just as Adobe do for Flash.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        RE:Re: Great, smart move...

        ""Is it possible the choice of open source license could make it impossible for MSFT to build an IE plugin (or Apple a Safari plugin) ?"

        "I don't see how. "

        I do.

        You don't use the GPL, you use your own lawyers to draw up your own license (possibly based on the GPL) that provides the source code and stipulates how it can be used.

        Then meet them in court to make rich lawyers even richer.

  9. Mike Kamermans
    Thumb Up

    And On2's explanation of VP8:

    It's a nice code, certainly a lot better than VP7.x, currently used in Skype.

    And anything that Google buys and then opens up (rather than buys, and ties into its ad revenue business model) is a good thing. Buy me more free things, faceless company run by people no one knows, consisting of people who have a completely different idealistic world view than I do. You can keep your locked and tied in technologies, but buy me more free things!

  10. bertino

    Do it!

    So, you go to youtube, it defaults to VP8 codec, with a click here to see the flash version. If your browser does not support VP8, the image where the youtube vid would be is replaced with a 'download chrome to see this vid' link.


    Please open source this google, you have turned a bit evil in recent months, this will restore a lot of faith.....

  11. Andy Enderby 1

    another codec..... ?

    Is what's required here seriously yet another codec ? Surely Google and Youtube, and those with interests in the browser arena are represented on the appropriate HTML 5 committees and can thrash something out... ? Except that would mean one group of great egos not getting their pet adopted and someone else "winning".

    Seriously, given the falling out between the Cupertino troll and Google, what makes anyone think that Apple as a topical example will support this initiative any more than they have Flash.....?

    Unfortunate that the usual array of egos and control freaks have to have everything done their way....

    Seriously.... F- must try harder for all concerned in what is becoming the sequel to browser wars, codec wars...... Shit... chucking the alternatives into a lottery and selecting one at random would at least be a decision, but this is set to run and run a lot of money and effort will be spent to no great effect....

  12. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    What has google got against flash?

    MSFT would be happy for Flash to disapear, they will just make the new codec's plugin depend on Silverlight and so tie people to Windows

    Apple want flash to go away so people can't have any iApp that hasn't been iProved by the iSteve.

    But what Google want is people to view their site in a browser that can't do ad-blocking. Best way to do this is to switch youtube to a format that only their browser supports.

    The only reason to opensource the codecs is to avoid monopoly investigations, in which case they will opensource it in the same way that MSFT published OOXML or Autocad publishes DXF

  13. SlabMan


    The HTML img tag does not specify what image format to use. Why should the HTML 5 video tag specify a codec? Just call it a video and ahve done. Browsers will support one or more codecs. For others, plug-ins will appear. Standards will emerge quite quickly. Stop jabbering on and JFDI.

    1. Oninoshiko
      Thumb Down

      except img is exactly WHY we should have it in the standard.

      img only works because there are a long list of image formats you EXPECT the browser to read, but do you know which ones it does?

      BMP - no idea (no you shouldn't use this, but it's been around forever...)

      JPEG - yes

      GIF - yes

      PNG - most likely (I'm sure someone sill has some anchient IE)

      SVG - maybe

      BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE!! Since it's not specified, why not go for cdr, cpp, psd, psp, xcf, or exr?

      Wouldn't it be nice to have a list of formats that you could depend on a browser supporting? jpeg, gif, png, svg? As it is, because it's not required, we cant even depend on svg support.

  14. zenkaon

    Looks good

    Shame I'm about a week into re-encoding my entire DVD collection to h.264 (currently using xvid and it's a bit blocky)

    Anyone know when there will be a gpl'd encoder?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      x264? for ages

      The post is required, and must contain letters.

    2. A J Stiles
      Thumb Up


      I'd be very surprised if ffmpeg couldn't do it. It seems to be able to handle almost anything you chuck at it!

      If not, well, just keep an eye on the svn repository.

  15. SlabMan

    @Yet Another Anonymous coward

    AdBlock for Chrome

    'Blocks ads all over the web'

  16. Andus McCoatover

    Will no-one think of the children?

    By that, I mean the children who are adept at video controllers, internet, computers, etc who'll have to set up Grandpa's PC for yet another codec?

  17. Nexox Enigma


    We could alternately just go back to the good old days where the only thing that moved on web pages were animated gifs, <marquee> tags, and the occasional java applet.

    Everyone keeps saying this internet video stuff is the future, but it all seems so broken and devoid of content to me... I'm just waiting for the future to catch up to whenever people realize that it was a terrible idea all along.

  18. Disco-Legend-Zeke

    It's Not That Flash... a steaming pile of crap, but rather that it continues to steam after all these years of fail.

    Even a 211 doesn't seem to help.

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