Google Open Sourcing VP8 as Part of WebM Project

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Google announced at its i/O developers conference that it is open sourcing its VP8 video codec under a BSD-style license. The move is part of a wider open source initiative dubbed WebM that is supported by Chrome, Firefox, Opera and a number of other players. Google Vice President, Product Management Sundar Pichai made the announcement early on inĀ  he keynote and was then joined by Mozilla’s VP of engineering Mike Shaver, who said that the format will be supported by Firefox, with nightly builds being available starting today.

Opera’s CTO Hakon Wium Lie was up next, announcing that Opera is supporting WebM as well, and demoed Opera playing back WebM. The browser make will make first builds supporting WebM available today on its Opera Labs page. He encouraged developers to start using WebM and then called web access one of the human rights of the 21st century.

WebM is essentially Google’s attempt to build up industry-wide support for VP8 playback through HTML5, with audio playback being powered by Ogg Vorbis, which is also open source. The initiative’s website went online during the keynote at Webmproject.org. The project has support from a variety of hardware makers, including ARM, AMD, NVIDIA, Texas Instruments, Broadcom and Qualcomm. On the publisher side, it’s getting support from Brightcove, Ooyala, Encoding.com, Kaltura, Zencoder and others.

VP8-encoded video will also be available on YouTube starting today. The video site has started to convert its entire catalog, according to Mozilla’s Shaver. users can start playing back VP8 video by downloading a browser that’s supporting the format and then enrolling in the site’s HTML5 test.

One of the most unexpected supporters is Adobe, whose CTO Kevin Lynch said that his company is really excited about the new codec. Adobe will use VP8 for Flash and, Lynch said that it will help to dristribute VP8 “to a billion people within a year.”

Google’s open sourcing of the VP8 codec has been widely expected ever since it announced plans to acquire On2 Technologies in August 2009, and speculation intensified after the deal closed. NewTeeeVee broke the story of Google’s plans to open source VP8 at Google i/O a month ago. Google also released WebM software development kits (SDKs) to make it easier for developers to take advantage of the open-source codec, as well as a FAQ document.

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