Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Future of the VP8 Bitstream

Recently we've seen software products such as VLC, FFmpeg, Logitech Vid, Flumotion and Tixeo adopting and using WebM and VP8 (the video codec in WebM) in exciting new ways.

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.

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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Opera Beta with WebM Available

More exciting browser news. Opera has released a Beta build of their desktop browser with WebM playback support. They've even made their own WebM demo (about Norway, of course).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

VP8 Codec Optimization Update

Since WebM launched in May, the team has been working hard to make the VP8 video codec faster. Our community members have contributed improvements, but there's more work to be done in some interesting areas related to performance (more on those below).

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Thursday, June 10, 2010

New WebM Product Rollouts

We are excited to see more WebM-enabled products launching every day.

Mozilla has now officially enabled WebM playback in the nightly dev builds of Firefox. Read all about it on their blog.

We also want to welcome several new supporters to the WebM project, including Oracle/Sun, Videantis, Flumotion, VMIX and others. See the most recent list on our supporters page.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Changes to the WebM Open Source License

You'll see on the WebM license page and in our source code repositories that we've made a small change to our open source license. There were a couple of issues that popped up after we released WebM at Google I/O a couple weeks ago, specifically around how the patent clause was written.

As it was originally written, if a patent action was brought against Google, the patent license terminated. This provision itself is not unusual in an OSS license, and similar provisions exist in the 2nd Apache License and in version 3 of the GPL. The twist was that ours terminated "any" rights and not just rights to the patents, which made our license GPLv3 and GPLv2 incompatible. Also, in doing this, we effectively created a potentially new open source copyright license, something we are loath to do.

Using patent language borrowed from both the Apache and GPLv3 patent clauses, in this new iteration of the patent clause we've decoupled patents from copyright, thus preserving the pure BSD nature of the copyright license. This means we are no longer creating a new open source copyright license, and the patent grant can exist on its own. Additionally, we have updated the patent grant language to make it clearer that the grant includes the right to modify the code and give it to others. (We've updated the licensing FAQ to reflect these changes as well.)

We've also added a definition for the "this implementation" language, to make that more clear.

Thanks for your patience as we worked through this, and we hope you like, enjoy and (most importantly) use WebM and join with us in creating more freedom online. We had a lot of help on these changes, so thanks to our friends in open source and free software who traded many emails, often at odd hours, with us.

Chris DiBona is the Open Source Programs Manager at Google.