The Future of the VP8 Bitstream
In addition to software developers, many hardware vendors have committed to shipping VP8-accelerated products based on our current bitstream in 2011 . Devices that use hardware acceleration for video are a very small percentage of overall web traffic today, but they are a rapidly growing segment of the market and our project must be mindful of these vendors' needs. Given the longer lead times for changes in chipsets, hardware companies implementing the codec today need to be confident that it will be stable and supported as VP8 content proliferates.
Like every codec, WebM is not immune to change; the difference in our project is that the improvements are publicly visible, and compatibility and implementation issues can be worked through in an open forum.
So, to maintain codec stability while also allowing for quality and performance improvements in VP8, we have added an experimental branch to the VP8 source tree. The WebM community can use this unstable branch to propose changes to VP8 that will produce the best video codec possible, but without the constraints of a frozen bitstream. At some point in the future, when the experimental branch proves significantly better than the stable branch, we will create a new version of the codec.
Teams dedicated to improving WebM are actively investigating and evaluating new techniques, and are committed to do so for the long term. We encourage the WebM community to keep contributing as well. To learn more about the experimental branch and get involved, see our repository layout page.
Jim Bankoski is Codec Engineering Manager at Google.