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.