WebM Is Coming to Live Streaming

Barcelona-based video streaming startup Flumotion is celebrating the world’s first WebM live stream this week with a live feed from the GUADEC conference in The Hague. The conference, dedicated to the open source GNOME desktop, is a fitting coming-out for the codec, which was open sourced at Google’s (s GOOG) I/O developers conference in May, and it seems to generate some significant interest: Early reports mention more than 100 concurrent viewers.

That doesn’t sound that much — until you realize that this is not only a niche audience event, but that most users aren’t actually able to watch the stream without installing a new browser. Opera is the only browser maker to have integrated WebM into its regular releases. Chrome users still have to install an early access release usually reserved for developers, and Firefox users will have to resort to the most recent beta version of the browser.

I asked Flumotion’s co-founder and CTO Thomas Vander Stichele when WebM will matter to the rest of us, and when it’s going to reach its tipping point, and he sent me the following reply via email:

“WebM will be important for the mass audience when Firefox and Chrome start supporting it natively outside of non-beta releases. The tipping point will be when either Microsoft or Apple ship WebM by default in Internet Explorer or Safari.”

Safari users may be out of luck for the foreseeable future: Apple (s AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs has slammed WebM for potentially violating patents. Microsoft (s MSFT) on the other hand has said that it will hold out until the format is more mainstream.

Related content on GigaOM Pro: What Does the Future Hold For Browsers? (subscription required)