I have always advocated the use of royalty free codecs (first Ogg-Theora and then WebM) for the HTML5 <video> tag. The WebM movement has been slowly but surely gaining momentum since its inception. We have already seen almost all the the major desktop browser vendors (Google, Opera Software, Mozilla and Microsoft*) adopt Google’s open source and royalty free media format. Desktop media players like Winamp are beginning to embrace WebM. And, perhaps most crucially, chip makers like Intel are working to add WebM support at the hardware level.
One of the biggest challenges for WebM is the intellectual properties issue. It’s no secret that the patent system is seriously messed up. Some of the patents granted to the members of MPEG LA, the consortium that owns the patent pool for H.264, are so broad and ambiguous that it’s almost impossible to develop a media codec without violating them. Nevertheless, Google has maintained that WebM doesn’t infringe any existing patents, and is a clean and reliable royalty free alternative to H.264. A couple of months back, MPEG LA, the entity that stands to loose the most from the success of WebM, called upon its members to submit patents essential to the VP8 video codec specification, presumably in preparation of a patent infringement lawsuit..
With the threat of legal action looming, all the companies involved and interested in the growth of WebM have formed a cross-license initiative. It’s essentially a consortium that will freely share all patents related to WebM on a royalty free basis. Google was already working closely with Xiph (maintainers of the Ogg audio format) and Matroska (maintainers of the Matroska video container). Additionally, CCL includes the likes of AMD, LG, Mozilla, Opera Software, Samsung, and Texas instruments. The hope is that with the backing of these corporations, WebM will be able to tackle any legal challenge that it might have to face in the future.
*Internet Explorer 9 can play WebM videos provided that the required codecs have already been installed.
YouTube has already worked on transcoding all videos with the highest views on YouTube to the WebM format. This transcoding covers nearly 30% of all YouTube videos and makes up for 99% of the total views on YouTube. As a rule, YouTube will now transcode all uploaded videos to WebM format too, thereby making the web more open when it comes to video content.
WebM is an open media file format for video and audio on the web. Its openness allows anyone to improve the format and its integrations, resulting in a better experience for you in the long-term.
The entire video catalog of YouTube is massive, given the fact that YouTube adds nearly six years’ worth viewing time of videos every day. The announcement post also boasts of a new processing infrastructure that effectively manages the load between existing YouTube videos and new user uploads, for transcoding and re-encoding to WebM. This ensures a fail-proof method of encoding all new videos, and updating existing videos in the background as well.
Apart from webM, Google also promises to continue supporting the H.264 encoding for videos. Additionally, it has expressed its wish to develop an HTML5 video player as well. You can opt-in for the HTML5 video player here.
This is a big step for YouTube as it tries to unify all its videos into a single codec. Now that Google videos is shutting down, YouTube can be Google’s focus for video content.
Yesterday would have been a very eventful day at Google and Microsoft after Google accused Microsoft of stealing their search results and displaying it in the competitive search engine Bing. The day was filled with accusations and defense galore and lot of Google-and-Microsoft haters had a really big field day.
Day 2: Microsoft just did something that would irk Google even more, they rolled out a new Windows Media Player plugin for Chrome which supports the H.264 code. In a blog post, Microsoft said that they are rolling out these plugin which is also part of Internet Explorer so that Google Chrome customers on Windows 7 would be able to continue to play the H.264 video in spite of Chrome not supporting it.
Today, as part of the interoperability bridges work we do on this team, we are making available the Windows Media Player HTML5 Extension for Chrome, which is an extension for Google Chrome to enable Windows 7 customers who use Chrome to continue to play H.264 video.
We believe that Windows customers should be able to play mainstream HTML5 video and, as we’ve described in previous posts, Internet Explorer 9 will support playback of H.264 video as well as VP8 video when the user has installed a VP8 codec.
The announcement could just be a right hand jab from Microsoft on Google’s chin after they had earlier declared to drop support for the H.264 codec in Google Chrome because of lack of openness and could fuel a much more deeper war amongst these two tech giants.
It also gives consumers of Google Chrome a chance to view the videos encoded with H.264 codec which they could not have done otherwise. In a battle of browsers Google Chrome, Opera and Firefox have openly said that they would not support the H.264 codec because of royalty issues and would instead rely on the WebM codec, which is still not the best codec out there. Currently, it lacks hardware support and there is still a lot of work to be done with it. Microsoft and Apple on the other hand support the H.264 codec in the Internet Explorer and Safari browsers.
The said plugin is also available for Firefox but the main jabs taken by the article was at Google Chrome which is rapidly gaining more users from both Internet Explorer and Firefox.
So will this war continue to rage along? Will these competitors try to go down the throats of each other in the future too? Well, as per me they will. They will not let go off a chance to bring each other down. The wars had already begun, someone just put more fuel in the fire. What do you think?
Google has announced that it will be dropping support for H.264 in future versions of Chrome, and instead focus on high quality open codecs. Although Google’s announcement is surprising, it’s not completely unexpected. Last year, Google spent a fair amount of cash to acquire On2, the startup behind VP8. Later, Google unveiled its own open source codec called WebM, based on On2’s VP8. Now that WebM has begun to witness increasing amounts of hardware support, as well as improvement in performance, Google obviously feels that the time is right to put its foot down.
The core issue with H.264 has been that it is proprietary. Last year, MPEG-LA made H.264 royalty free forever for free web broadcasts, in an attempt to counter WebM. However, even that move was deemed insufficient since it didn’t include applications that encode and decode video, as well as commercial broadcasts. It also didn’t alleviate the threat that some other patent holding body might come calling.
Chrome will now join Opera and Firefox as browsers supporting only open video codecs, i.e. Theora and WebM. Microsoft had earlier announced that it will be supporting both H.264 and WebM in Internet Explorer 9, provided that the codec for the latter is installed on the system. Apple, which has been pushing for HTML5 <video> as an alternative to Flash, has been a steadfast supporter of H.264. It will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future as hardware decoding support (which is crucial for portable devices like the iPod and the iPhone) for WebM is still fairly limited.
Although Google’s decision to drop H.264 support from Chrome represents a major setback for H.264, don’t expect it to disappear immediately. Apple’s dominance over the mobile devices segment, and the lack of WebM support in tablets and phones is something Google will have to contend with.
NO matter how many feature rich or lightweight media players come into the market, there are people who still swear by Winamp. Winamp is extremely popular because of its low memory footprint and for being a reputed media player for the last 12 years.
Winamp has a strong user’s base and has evolved with time continuously. Keeping up with this, Winamp has introduced a VP8 decoder in its latest build of version 5.581. This will allow Winamp to playback WebM videos.
WebM was introduced in May by Google and has between popular for the web in theory. However, Winamp being desktop software poses as an early adopter in adding native support for this video format. WebM is already available in VLC media player and Miro video player.
More information can be found at the official Winamp blog, which explains WebM as,
WebM’s file structure is based on the Matroska container. WebM defines the file container structure, video and audio formats. The video streams are compressed with the VP8 video codec, while the audio streams are compressed with Vorbis audio codec.
This brings WebM as a strong contender for desktop videos unlike other formats like FLV, which have remained a web phenomenon right from their inception.
VideoLanClient (VLC) has been updated to v1.1.0. This new release, which has been codenamed ‘The Luggage’, introduces some much needed improvements to VLC, including support for GPU accelerated decoding. As a result of this, VLC now performs significantly better while playing high-definition (HD) videos. The program code has also been optimized to make VLC leaner and faster. In fact, according to the VideoLanProject, VLC 1.1.0 can provide up to 40% speed-ups, in HD resolutions.
Back in May, we had reviewed the VLC 1.1.0 Release Candidate. Obviously, there haven’t been any significant changes since then. The Luggage introduces encoding and decoding support for WebM and adds a new add-ons and script framework. All the add-ons will fall into two main categories – content add-ons, which will be integrated in the playlist and functionalities extensions, like metadata searching on the web, or subtitles look-ups.
For now, the GPU acceleration works well only on nVidia’s graphics cards due to problems with ATI drivers for Windows and lack of developer access to Intel hardware supporting GPU decoding.
VLC 1.1.0 can be downloaded from here.
Earlier last month, Google, Mozilla and Opera announced a new competitor to the H.264 codec for HTML5, WebM. Opera had already released new builds with WebM support, and today Mozilla will be officially adding WebM support to their nightly builds.
The announcement was made by Chris Pearce a Mozilla developer working on Firefox. WebM is a welcome addition to the HTML5 family since there are only 2 codecs available right now one of which is open source and other one being proprietary.
WebM on the other hand is open source and superior than the Ogg Theora codec currently in use. WebM in itself has not been out of controversies and has also come under attack from Steve Jobs who himself support the proprietary H.264 codec.
If you haven’t yet heard about WebM or want to learn about it, read our earlier post: WebM: Why We Should Be Excited.
Excited about trying out WebM on Firefox? Head over and download the latest copy from the Firefox Nightly Build repository here. Once you have downloaded and installed the latest nightly you can experience WebM support by visiting a YouTube HTML5 experiment here.
For more information about the nightly build and instructions on doing your own build with WebM support visit Chris’s blog post here.
Intel has plans for supporting the hardware acceleration of WebM videos. This news was confirmed by an Intel executive who said that the technology will be available on an Atom CE Systems-on-Chips(SOC) if VP8 gains popularity.
This Atom SOC chip can be used on TV’s and set top boxes to provide Internet connectivity and streaming videos to these devices. Logitech poses as one prospective buyer of this new chip as it is gearing up for the launch of its Google TV set top boxes this fall. The Google TV platform will perform even better with this technology and Google can significantly cut down costs by offloading a greater part of the rendering job to the client end.
The SOC available as an Atom CE4100 chip already packs a GPU, a CPU, an audio processor, a cryptography acceleration and USB connectivity.
The decoding of VP8 is still possible without this chip by using alternate software solutions. Though, this hardware support makes the CPU more responsive and allows a generic video decoding which support many popular formats.
The CE4100 already supports DivX and Xvid and H.264 which are popular and are in wide usage. Support for VP8 gives consumers more options in choosing their products and gives a better user experience.
Barely a week ago, Google unveiled the new open audio-video platform dubbed webM. Since, then we have seen a flurry of activities surrounding webM. Opera integrated webM into its main trunk, Firefox is supporting it in their nightly builds, Google has released a Chromium build with webM and earlier today VLC became one of the first webM compatible media players. Now, the Barcelona based Flumotion is pushing their in-house webM powered live http streaming technology.
We are certain to have been the first to offer live HTTP streaming in WebM only 48 hours after the announcement, claimed Thomas Vander Stichele, CTO of Flumotion. In fact, Flumotion reacted with immense speed and offered their solution just 48 hours after webM was announced.
The fast integration of WebM proves once again the flexibility of our technology and the expertise of our development team, remarked Jean Noel Saunier, CEO and Co-founder of Flumotion. He added, Speed, innovation and end-to-end services are the important factors for our clients, who need to stay on top of new formats and devices to ensure that their content reaches the maximum audience possible.
FluMotion’s webM live stream can be demoed here.
VideoLanProject has just launched the first release candidate build of VLC 1.1.0, codenamed as The luggage. VideoLanClient is a cross-platform media player, which takes pride in its exhaustive codec support. With the latest release, VLC has once again outpaced its competition by being amongst the first media players to support VP8 and webM.
Another major feature introduced by ‘The luggage’ is extension support. As suggested by its name, extensions are plug-ins that will enable users to extend the basic features present in VLC.
Other improvements include GPU accelerated decoding for smoother playback, improved interface, enhanced avi, mkv and mp4 codecs, improved codec support and support for SFTP protocol. The Windows port also adds Windows 7 taskbar integration, while the Mac port features a new video output module.
The full changelog is available here.
[ Download VLC 1.1.0 RC or Windows and Mac ]