The WebM video format revealed at the Google I/O 2010 promises to finally end the HTML5 video feud and get things moving in the right direction. It’s not happening just yet, though, but that’s not stopping its supporters from pushing even more. One of the main reasons for the whole HTML5 video debate was the lack of a codec choice in the specs. This, of course, is due to the fact that browser makers couldn’t agree
on what that codec should be.
Now, there may be a new push to have the codec be a part of the HTML5 specifications. And this time it’s not H.264 or Theora, it’s VP8, the video codec Google just open-sourced
and that is the video half of the WebM format. While the situation around WebM and VP8 is far from settled, Mozilla is hoping that it can get the codec to be a part of the HTML5 standard.
"That's our hope," Mozilla CEO John Lilly told
Cnet when asked if VP8 could be a part of the proposed but not final HTML5 standard. "We'd love for VP8 to be specified in the HTML5 standard. Once it's in the spec, it can really get better traction from other players."
Opera is supporting this move as well and implies that having a codec provision is what the company has been striving for ever since it proposed the HTML5 <video> element. Google didn’t go as far as to saying that it wanted VP8 in the HTML5 spec, but said it supported all efforts to standardize the technology. However, at this time, none of the companies has actually made any propositions for VP8 to be included in the official specifications. Patent issues
But, while the video format’s proponents may be enthusiastic, there are still some concerns to be addressed. The patent issue is one of them. While Google owns the rights to VP8 through its acquisition of On2, which developed the codec independently, others are saying that parts of the codec may be covered by patents
held by other companies.
As such, there is a threat that Google or other companies implementing WebM may get sued. MPEG LA, the licensing body for H.264, is also discussing creating a patent pool for VP8, which would essentially mean that WebM would no longer be license-free. VP8 is not really open-source
But this is only half of the problem. While Google says it has open-sourced VP8, it has done so under a newly created license. This license is not ratified by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) and, as such, can’t really be considered open source. What’s more, Google hasn’t even filed a request with OSI to get the new license approved. Until all of these issues are resolved, WebM and HTML5 video with it are still in murky waters.