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YouTube comes to the Wii, thanks to Google’s WebM video codec

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Updated. YouTube launched its first-ever native Wii app Thursday, making it possible for users of the game console to watch videos without relying on the game console’s Opera browser. The Wii (s NTDOY) app looks somewhat similar to YouTube’s recently-launched PS3 (s SNE) app, with an interesting technical twist: Most videos consumed through it are streamed in Google’s (s GOOG) WebM open video format.

Google open sourced WebM more than two years ago, and YouTube has been working on converting all of its assets to the format for some time. However, on the web, most videos are still being streamed in H.264, and only users who opt into the site’s HTML5 trial, and also use a supported browser, get to see some of the videos in WebM.

On the Wii, things are looking decidedly different: WebM is the primary video format used in the app, and codecs like H.263 are only used as a fall-back option. This makes the app “the largest deployment of WebM video in the world today,” according to a YouTube spokesperson.

YouTube has been aggressively working on rolling out native and content-centric app experiences on as many platforms as possible, with an app for the video site now being available on over 400 million devices. Part of this has to do with the fact that it’s easier to monetize content in a native app experience. But going native also allows YouTube to add other functionality, like the AirPlay-like(s aapl) experience it rolled out on Google TV earlier this week, which the company intends to bring to other platforms and devices in the coming months.

Update: YouTube is explaining some of the technical background of its WebM implementation on the Wii in a post on its developer blog.

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