back to article Google backs open codec against patent trolls

Google is "very confident" that the newly open-sourced VP8 video codec will stand up to the sort of patent attack Steve Jobs warned of when he defended Apple's decision to shun VP8's predecessor, the open-source Ogg Theora. On Wednesday, at its annual developer conference in San Francisco, California, Google told the world it …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Six of one in the Browser Wars 2.0

    At the moment you can encode in just MP4 and have that displayed by Safari, IE9 and Chrome, or in Flash by Opera, Firefox and old IE. Everyone is happy, except the web designer, who has to do more than they should, complicating their pages in the process.

    All that this announcement means is that in a couple of years you'll be able to encode in just WebM and have that play in Opera, Firefox and Chrome, or in Flash by Safari and all IE. Everyone will be happy, except the web designer, who'll have to do more than they should, complicating their pages in the process.

    So what's the difference? IE and Safari have about as much chance of adopting WebM as IE did of adopting the blink or layers tags.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      IE & Safari adoption

      Will happen IF (big IF) Google decide to only offer Facebook in WebM format.

      Despite what their bosses might think of Google, they care about the bottom line even more. The will bite their tongues and support it.

      As the same time, they will launch a whole raft of lawsuits against Google, complaints to the FTC, WTO, EU and just about everyone under the sun. This wil be followed by a multi billion $$$$ FUD Campaign.

      IN the end when it is all over (Say around 2030) we might move on and finally consign IE6 to the graveyard.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      RE: Six of one in the...

      The difference is that now the web designer, device manufacturers and all the browser makers don't have to worry about paying an arbitrary sum of money to cover "patent infringement" held by two companies that are more interested in screwing the web and it's users rather than advancing online technology for everyone.

      Quite a massive difference really.

      1. Daf L

        @ Steve Davies 3


        Do you mean YouTube?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Paris Hilton

          A bit the same really..........

          As I said I think they are both the same. Bullies, and smart-alecs.

          Different codec, same crap.

          Paris.... because they are all dumb and shallow like her.

    3. Anonymous Coward


      MP4 is just a container, like MKV. It does not reflect what the codec is.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Patents schmatents

    Just need MS to 'certify' a codec for VP8/ WebM support in IE and Intel to jump on to the hardware support board... Once that happens, and I think it will, any patent trolls who are creating a 'patent pool' to go after this will be dead in the... er.. water.

    Between all of them they have enough mutually infringing patents to tie up anyone who goes against this. Sad, but that's how it works...

    Enjoyed the bit in the license where you lose access to the tech if you file a patent infringement suit against it. This and the above should keep everyone honest.

    Overall a good deal all around except for the poor souls who need to create/ host both formats...

    1. Quirkafleeg

      Patent infringement suit clause

      Technically, this removes a freedom. Does the licence pass the DFSG freeness test?

  3. MarkOne


    " IE and Safari have about as much chance of adopting WebM as IE did of adopting the blink or layers tags."

    Microsoft's words:

    "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."

  4. frank ly

    Please contact me to negotiate proofreading fees

    > In legalese, the license says: "If You or your agent or exclusive ... etc. <

    I've noticed that there's a comma missing in that statement. I won't say where it is unless I can get a good price for my work in spotting this.

    I'll help anyone, gladly and for nothing; but not lawyers.

    1. Brian Morrison

      You do realise....

      ...that legalese is deliberately written without commas and punctuation so that lawyers get to drone on and on about it in court while arguing about what it means until they start to froth at the mouth and fall over backwards don't you?

  5. Peter Galbavy

    once there was Dirac

    I wonder what ever happened to the BBC's Dirac ? Was is really that resource hungry for both encode and decode so as to die a quiet death ?

  6. Dan 55 Silver badge
    Gates Horns


    How come MS have just said that'll use DirectShow to play VP8 but a little over two weeks ago said that they wouldn't use DirectShow to play Ogg?

    1. The BigYin


      Just a thought.

  7. Greg J Preece

    Can we get rid of software patents already?

    "Developers should be provided with detailed explanations why Google believes that no one adopting WebM will have to fear allegations of patent infringement."

    As an Englishman, I don't fear patent infringement one bit.

  8. ratfox

    Stupid patent system

    It seems really hard to just say: "We want this to be freely usable by anybody"

    Maybe it would be easier to ban patent lawyers

  9. The BigYin


    ...the chaps behind x264 don't seem to like it one bit.

    1. hexx


      i read it also, looks like a typical 'google' product - unfinished and full of crap

  10. j38

    Patents poison Open Standards!

    We cannot allow patent trolls like Microsoft & Apple to poison open standards like HTML5!

    1. hexx

      what does it have to do with Microsoft or Apple?

      they're supporting h264 because it's available on wide range of devices/medias. it's industry standard and makes it easy for everyone. if you come with an argument 'it's because of royalties' then do some research and you'd notice that they're only two out of many many manufacturers companies and amount of money they receive is half of what they pay for being there.

      1. The BigYin


        MS and Apple (plus a few others) OWN H.264!

        1. hexx

          not really

        2. hexx

          it's not few others

          here's full list of patents related to h.264/AVC:

          MS holds much more patents than Apple (holds 1)

      2. Paul Shirley

        its about excluding competitors

        As part of the patent pool they're protected from patent attacks. Unlike everyone outside that pool... even ignoring any patent fees they're collecting this disadvantages potential competitors.

        Of course they like it, no proven monopoly abuser (Microsoft) or control freak (Apple) could miss this opportunity!

  11. Daniel 1

    Safari adoption is a near-certainty

    Apple have more to win from the new markets for new devices, that could arrive from not having to worry about codecs, anymore, than sticking with a technology whose main aim is to restrict where it can be used and by whom. Data doesn't want to be free, but it does want to be useful, and right now, H.264 makes itself useless, simply by being owned.

    After all, "they're going to see it all eventually, so who cares how they get it?"

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mobile devices

    Broadcom just announced that their VideoCore4 processor for mobile devices will support WebM by Q3 - so that low power HW acceleration for your mobile already. Quick on that bandwagon! I guess all the other mobile processor people will make similar announcements pretty quickly. So that a bit chunk of the market place already going for it. If I were Microsoft, I would be taking a good hard look at this.

  13. Jamie Kitson


    Is there any compatibility between VP8 and Theora? In either direction?

    1. Havin_it

      Doubt it

      They may share a common ancestor, but that was something like 6 years ago or more.

      Anyway, what sort of compatibility do you mean? An encoder and decoder that can handle both? I can't see much point to it aside from presumably some level of code re-use, but this wouldn't be of much interest for hardware decoders at least. They'll probably just go with the one that works better (although there are programmable DSPs out there that can decode Theora although they weren't designed for it).

  14. The Fuzzy Wotnot

    Fantastic thing about standards!

    Every bugger has one and very few agree to them! Not a mess as such but as usual the major players can't agree and it's the users and especially the admins, that suffer trying to get all the codecs and supporting libraries to play nice on the various platforms!

    1. CD001

      Which standard?

      Which standard are we talking about here? HTML 5 is not a standard yet and, as it stands, whilst the video element is part of the markup language the video encoding itself hasn't been specified.

      We're currently at the stage where every browser maker can implement the video tag and claim "HTML5 support" whilst one browsers uses <video> to stream Ogg, another H.264 and another VP8 - and ALL of them can rightly claim to "support HTML5" in it's current form.

      Eventually there will be consensus on which video codec to use (this announcement has probably given VP8 a massive shot in the arm) and that will become part of the HTML 5 "standard" - that's how web standards evolve, they're not just magically spawned good-to-go, they start as an idea, move to "working draft", "last call" and finally "recommendation".

      Big chunks of HTML 5 are still working drafts - claiming "HTML 5 " support at the moment is a bit like sticking a big BETA label onto your browser... sounds perfect for Google then ;)

  15. brudinie

    Well done Google!

    An open source video codec that trounces h264 is just what HTML5 needed.

    Apple and Microsoft are suitably frustrated with Google's move because Google have effectively flushed millions of dollars of Apple and Microsoft h264 investment down the toilet.

    Lets not forget, Google own youtube.

    By moving youtube to WebM, Microsoft and Apple will have to support it eventually.

    If they don't support it then they will certainly loose browser market share (and quite rightly so).

  16. A J Stiles

    Why BSD licence, though?

    Should have been LGPL with some GPL components; eventually, more components could have been moved under GPL so as to render the project effectively GPL.

    BSD licences are dangerous, because they don't do enough to block closed derivatives. (Unlike the BSD developers, it must be said, who do work their behinds off to ensure that any functionality added to closed derivatives is recreated in the next release of the Open Source version.)

    1. Svein Skogen

      And that's exactly why.

      And that's exactly why it should be BSD licensed, and _NOT_ GPL.

      Do you thing it, for instance, could be statically linked inside the bootflash of a mobile device if it was GPL? Seriously? You fanatic penguinistas (or other herds of GNUs) wouldn't be chasing that manufacturer down with pitchforks requiring them to abide by the GPL and open source all the rest of their software?

      BSD unlike GPL is _NOT_ a viral license. And in this case (if you want the commercial backers), GPL would be a _STUPID family of licenses to use. Sorry. Thanks for playing.

  17. Anonymous Coward


    "No word from Jobs. Somebody please send him an email ( He doesn't like us." - You owe me a new keyboard!

  18. lucmars

    No, all this noise is just for h264

    Google open vp8 to force MPEG LA with an irrevocable royalty-free license to play h264. For the rest, distributing and encoding, nobody care: if you're a distributor, you don't own the content, so you have to satisfy the owner; decoding/encoding is the part of the hardware manufacturer which licks the content's owner.

    Goog will negociate his own license with MPEG LA and since FF, Opera and all other video player software vendor will be granted of a royalty-free license to play h264, then they will don't care about the so-called creator's content on the web ; because FF and Co don't create any content, they just read it and that's their very buisness which is at stake for the moment.

    Who wants to bet?

    1. Havin_it

      Not me

      This doesn't make much sense to me. If Google intended VP8 simply as a bargaining-chip to net a freebie H.264 licence, wouldn't they have simply made back-channel threats to open-source it rather than actually doing so? Now that they have, the genie is out of the bottle: they no longer control it, so it doesn't actually make any difference to MPEG LA what they do now.

      As for Mozilla and Opera also being given free licences, (a) I don't see why this follows from Google getting one, and (b) it wouldn't be possible, at least for Mozilla, to accept. No licence under which MPEG LA could possibly offer H.264 to Mozilla would be compatible with the licence under which Firefox et al are distributed. For this to be so, everyone who downloaded the source code or binaries of Firefox would have to be granted the same rights they have to do just about whatever they please with the rest of the codebase. Can't really see MPEG LA going for that, TBH.

  19. Kevin Johnston


    Had this explained to me as an apprentice when I voiced an assumption about the RS232 'standard'.

    Standards are the colours raised in battle to identify the knight beneath them and no two knights had the same flag. Standards later represented regiments, armies or even countries but it has gone full circle now so that each player in IT has their own standard but they very nicely let other people gather under their flag (for a fee of course).

  20. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Who encodes?

    If you have a home video camera or a webcam then you want to encode video.

    If you are self employed or a small business owner then you are liable to be charged business rate for video services.

    For instance if you handle Avon cosmetics...

    A lot of people will get a nasty surprise if video codec licence fees are enforced, personal or otherwise.

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