Google Chrome dropping support for H.264, will support only open web codecs in the future

In an understated announcement on the Chromium blog, going forward, Google Chrome will drop support for the encumbered H.264 video codec and will support only VP8 (through WebM) & Theora video natively.  This is great news for the open web, as it will further strengthen the stance of supports of free, open, and unencumbered formats — arguably the only way to preserve the spirit of the web as a public resource and a means of free information exchange.

The move is likely to rub some that do not attach importance to unencumbered formats the wrong way.  But it is important to point out that the patent blade hanging over the heads of the entire web, should H.264 video adoption become the only option for video formats, places an inordinate amount of control in the hands of the few corporate interests that hold these patents.  Such a situation is a looming problem that only a strong stance in support of free-as-in-freedom web formats can have any hope to avert.

Indeed, it is in the financial interests of the world at large, as well, to support such open formats, as outside of the MPEG-LA cabal, no one profits from the licensing that is or can be placed on any usage of the H.264 format.  So, it is unnecessary to point that this is in Google’s financial interests, because as that is true, so is it true for everyone else.

Finally, for those that wish to make the technical argument that H.264 is a superior format over the other optiones (e.g., VP8 or Theora), while superficially true, of what advantage are the technical superiorities of a format if your usage of it is restricted, as it happens to be with H.264.  (I would like to refer those new to this issue to read our related post on what, exactly, you can & cannot do with the H.264 format, according to MPEG-LA’s license terms:

So, once again, we welcome Google’s decision to use their clout to encourage a more open web, and we hope that content providers will recognize the wisdom behind this move, and we call upon them and everyone else to raise your voices in support of moves like this that enable user freedom, and not to hinder them.

As a final point, it is important that open codecs be supported on all hardware and software platforms.  If you are a user of such a platform that does not yet have support for an open format like WebM or has not yet announced intention to support it (it is still new, of course), then it is important to let your voice be heard and inform them the importance of using such technology.  It is a far lower cost, in the long run, to support a web format that does not carry with it a burdensome license, than it is to perpetuate an encumbered format for a small, short-term gain.

Update: Added a link to the actual announcement. *grin*

A Digital Media Primer for Geeks

Xiph.Org has just released a video entitled, A Digital Media Primer for Geeks.  Hit that first link for the press release and hit the second for the actual video page.

To briefly summarize, the video features “Monty” Montgomery of Xiph.Org introducing digital media concepts for “geeks”.  It’s a great presentation for today’s Internet savvy folks that, while adept at common Internet tasks, don’t fully understand how the underlying multimedia that drive the web work.  Monty does a great job explaining things at a level accessible to a wide audience.

Comments are most welcome, and Xiph.Org has also featured a discussion page on their wiki.


Open Video Conference registration is now open!

Registration for this year’s Open Video Conference (OVC) is now open!  Register on or before August 1st, 2010 to get the early bird discount.  This year’s OVC will be held in New York City from October 1 – 2, 2010.  Mention Libre Video when registering and…maybe they’ll offer a discount…next year.  😉

MPEG-LA answers some questions about AVC/H.264 licensing

The issues surrounding the nature of content created using the AVC/H.264 video specification, which includes the video produced by most camcorders, digital cameras, and cell phones in use today, have confused many people.  In fact, people on both sides of the issue have made contradictory claims and rarely, if ever, were such claims based on actual facts, but rather, either speculation or misunderstanding of the issues that come into play.

One notable mention that came-up during the heated debate of which codec should be used in the HTML5 <video> tag was Ben Schwartz‘s posting, No, you can’t do that with H.264. Ben avoided the mistakes committed by most by explicitly referencing the legal terms found in the documentation of professional products, including Final Cut Pro as well as Windows 7 Ultimate.

In the interest of clarifying the ambiguous claims regarding the licensing terms of using the AVC/H.264 video technology, Libre Video has taken the time over the past few weeks to contact the MPEG-LA directly, the licensing authority responsible for administering the patent pool for the H.264 specification.  We have asked them various questions related to what we feel are important issues surrounding the terms under which normal people are permitted to use hardware products that they have purchased and the resulting multimedia content created with them.  This communication happened via a series of e-mails over a little more than one week that we have compiled together here.  They graciously answered our queries to the extent that we can draw some concrete conclusions related to what users can and cannot do according to the licensing terms they are generally granted.

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The challenges in using proprietary standards (linked)

Venkatesh Hariharan, author of the Open Source India blog, has made a post that quotes Jonathan Gay, co-creator of the Flash, on the challenges in using proprietary standards.  It’s a good read demonstrating the real & practical roadblocks that royalty-based licensing schemes such as those that exist for the AVC/H.264 video standard that lead to Macromedia (the ones that developed Flash before being purchased by Adobe) to choose an alternative codec from On2 (now owned by Google) due to a much smaller licensing burden.

WebM License Updated to Address Concerns & Compatibility

The WebM Open Source License has been updated.  This update comes after much concern had been raised about the use of certain language related to patent protection and its compatibility with other popular free software licenses, such as the GPL 2 & 3.

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Time running out for proposals for the Open Video Conference

We’re a little late on this one, but better late than never!  Time is running out for proposal submissions to the 2010 Open Video Conference.  The submission deadline is June 7th, 2010.  So, whether you’re a Theora developer, working on freedom-friendly hardware, or any other myriad projects in the spirit of libre/open video, it’s a great opportunity to reach an audience of like-minded individuals and get your ideas heard.

You can submit your proposal on the proposal submission page.

WebM on the web

News & developments about WebM are coming too fast to cover all of them, but it’s definitely encouraging to see that the free software world (as well as some other surprising, but welcome, players) has unequivocally embraced WebM as the standard for the web.

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The WebM Project

It is with great joy that Libre Video can share with you this announcement: “The WebM Project is dedicated to developing a high-quality, open video format for the web that is freely available to everyone.”  The WebM Project is a joint effort of several industry partners, including Mozilla, Opera, and Google, to name just a few.  However, many companies on the hardware side are also involved, including ARM, Nvidia, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments, to name just a few more.

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Theora: Ptalarbvorm project update 20100518

Monty of Foundation has given us a demonstration update of the latest development going into the Ptalarbvorm Theora encoder, which is lined-up to be released as libtheora 1.2.  The demo includes screenshots comparing the latest development code with the last release, libtheora 1.1.1 a.k.a., Thusnelda.