Two weeks ago, Google made the patent deal for wider adoption of the Web giant's VP8 video codec and its streaming-video platform WebM. But Nokia refused to license patents and VP8 is no shoo-in for Web video.
VP8 is a codec -- technology to encode and decode video or audio data for compact storage and efficient network streaming. VP8's biggest competitor -- H.264 -- is used by many companies in video cameras, Blu-ray discs, and more, which pay royalties for use of the codec. However, most people never care about video codecs.
As we all know, video becomes ever more deeply embedded in the Net -- TV entertainment, chatting with friends, videoconferences for business, online schooling for children -- the video codec issue becomes ever more important. At stake in the current debate is whether H.264 and its big-business licensing terms will prevail, or whether there also is room for an open-source, free-to-use alternative that could give an edge to cash-strapped startups, schools, and self-publishers.
So far, Patents are still a significant problem to VP8 and its use in WebRTC, but not the only barrier. The biggest issue, arguably, is simply that the industry so far has largely coalesced around H.264, aka AVC, and it looks likely to move smoothly to its successor, H.265 aka HEVC.
The technology is well-understood and broadly supported. With H.264, makers of Web browsers, video cameras, mobile-phone processors, and DVDs pay royalties to MPEG LA which licenses a pool of patents for the codec. But WebRTC could still spread VP8 widely, lowering Web video costs for startups and schools.
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