Google sticks with VP8, opposes Cisco’s push to make H.264 the default codec for WebRTC

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There goes that plan to unite the industry behind one video single codec: Google intends to stick with VP8 as its default codec for real-time communication, even after Cisco won support from Mozilla in a last-minute push to get everyone to adopt H.264.

Earlier on Wednesday, Cisco announced that it was going to provide third-party developers with a freely usable version of H.264, with Cisco paying any licensing costs. The first major project to make use of Cisco’s H.264 will be Mozilla’s Firefox.

The announcement came just a week before the Internet Engineering Task Force is meeting in Vancouver to decide which codec should become part of a new standard dubbed WebRTC that promises to bring interoperable voice and video chat to browsers and apps on all devices.

Google is a major proponent of WebRTC, but it has argued against using H.264, and instead proposed to use its own, license-free VP8 video codec. Cisco’s new initiative didn’t do anything to change Google’s position, with a spokesperson telling us:

“We continue to believe that open platforms should encourage open and royalty free technology. There is strong industry momentum behind the open, royalty free VP8 video format. We hope that the IETF community will come together in voting against royalty encumbered technology as they slow down the pace of innovation on the web and on the internet.”

However, that position seems increasingly isolated. Monty Montgomery, an influential open codec developer who recently joined Mozilla to work on a next-generation video codec called Daala, said Wednesday in a blog post that it may be time to move on:

“Let’s state the obvious with respect to VP8 vs H.264: We lost, and we’re admitting defeat. Cisco is providing a path for orderly retreat that leaves supporters of an open web in a strong enough position to face the next battle, so we’re taking it.”

He went on to argue that Cisco’s H.264 deal may be far from ideal, but that time may be better spent working on next-generation codecs and the licensing issues that will once again come up with these codecs:

“H.264 is already considered ‘on the way out’ by MPEG, and today’s announcement doesn’t address any licensing issues surrounding the next generation of video codecs. We’ve merely kicked the can down the road and set a dangerous precedent for next time around. And there will be a next time around. So, we’re focusing on being ready.”

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