Google launched its loyalty free, open source WebM video format to much fanfare during its Google IO Conference this week. With 40 partners for the launch events including Adobe, this new video format is competitive to H264 since day one. Already Mozilla and Opera, off course Google’s own Chrome browser has nightly build with support for it. YouTube will be converting any video uploads with 720p or higher resolution to WebM format in addition to H264. Adobe is committing to support this format in Flash as well as its developer tools.
Already, an x264 developer has posted an unfavorable in-depth study of the new format. One alarming note from the article mentioned a possible pattern issue with WebM.
With regard to patents, VP8 copies way too much from H.264 for anyone sane to be comfortable with it, no matter whose word is behind the claim of being patent-free.
Irregardless, WebM is here to stay with Google behind it. WebM is derived from codec by On2 which Google acquired for about US$124million in February. Google has now offered the technology free to the world. It is interesting to speculate why this move by Goole. WebM with its VP8 technology is better than open source Ogg Theora but no better than H.264. Open-sourced and giving it loyalty free currently benefits Linux user and Mozilla Firefox browser, which has the philosophical tradition to use only free and open sourced technology, by which H.264 is not. With the world moving to HTML5 with H.264 as the main video codec of choice, WebM is a breather to Firefox which can remains competitive when WebM is commonplace.
Microsoft mentioned in its windows blog that IE9 will support WebM as long as the users has the codec installed in the PC. Which means IE9 will not support WebM natively but rather depends on third party plug-in for viewing WebM content in IE9. This is how Safari on the Mac OSX can support WebM without Apple’s involvement. But Apple needs to built the support into Safari for iPhone and iPad because there is no way third party plugin can work within iPhone OS.
AppleInsider has posted an article confirming that Apple does not intend to support WebM at the moment. Which means Safari on iPhone and iPad will be the only browsers not capable of viewing WebM content.
This might looks like an impending video format war, but it is not unless Google especially youTube abandons H264 and use WebM exclusively. WebM might make it to be an alternative video format but it might just be a niche format as Ogg Theora. As with many Google products lately, having a colorful logo attached does not mean a surefire success. It might just be another Google beta. As for Safari, there is no technical reason why it can’t support WebM.