Yesterday Google announced that they were open sourcing the VP8 video codec and releasing it royalty free under the heading of WebM. This is a shot over the front of the ship that is H.264. We’ve discussed very recently about H.264 and Theora (the other open source, royalty free video codec) and how Steve Jobs has claimed that there is a patent pool set to go after Theora for patent violations.
What Does This Mean
Well mainly it means that someone with deep pockets is backing an open source, royalty free video codec. Meaning that if that patent pool is going to go after someone, they’ll definitely go where the money is first (in this case Google). But to assume that Google just opened itself up to patent infringement lawsuits is to not do them justice. Everyone knows that the people who work at Google are mainly smart individuals and to assume they didn’t do the proper legal due diligence would be to not give them proper credit.
What this means is that there is a good chance that Google could help some of those patents be revoked. I’m not saying it will happen, I’m just saying that it could. But in the end, it means that we should finally get answers on exactly what the H.264 patents contain and what can be done in a free, open way.
It’s About Open Standards
The thing here is that while Apple and Steve Jobs can talk about “supporting open standards” and how they give back to that community, but like I said before Steve Jobs is talking about an open web but he’s pushing a codec that could require royalty payments in the future and that’s dangerous. Google on the other hand is furthering open standards by releasing quality codecs and putting their deep pockets behind them to defend them in court.
The WebM project uses the VP8 video codec (open sourced with the WebM announcement), the Vorbis audio codec (Ogg) which is open source and royalty free, and uses the open source Matroska as the container (what allows both the audio and video files to be in 1 outputted file for easy playing). When open standards and open source is used to integrate, everyone wins. Because anyone developing something new has access to the same things as someone who’s larger and has more funding. In the end it allows the better application to truly win. And this is what Google is pushing for.
An open web where developers don’t have to potentially pay royalties is a good thing. Keeping things open and free when it comes to ensuring that everyone has the same thing on the web is important when you’re developing web applications. Knowing that everyone is going to have the same components, the same codecs, and the same fonts make the web a constant experience regardless of browser choice.