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On2 Offers Up VP3.2 Source Code
New site provides development community structure — and the code for the streaming media codec.
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Last night, On2 Technologies, The Duck Corporation, made available the source code to its VP3.2 codec at www.vp3.com, a site launched in response to community requests that there be a central site for working with the open source technology. The site includes a CVS repository, instructions/help for those new to code repositories, message boards, and of course the codec source code, which can already create data files compatible with QuickTime, Video for Windows, and Direct X.

A big concern among skeptics had been that On2 might create a restrictive or proprietary licensing policy for the codec; but those fears have proved unfounded. The license is derived from the Mozilla Public License (MPL) 1.1, with two noted minor exceptions, both intended to prevent others from modifying the source code to disable interoperability with the VP3.2 specification. Other codecs may be supported, but the VP3.2 support may not be removed. That seems perfectly reasonable, and this licensing policy is likely to excite the open source community.

The VP3.2 codec, while not On2's latest (that's VP4), is a current and robust codec. According to On2, it's the world's second best codec (second only to VP4). Of course, neither of those claims can be easily confirmed. However, VP3.2 has been licensed by both RealNetworks and Apple for their Internet video players.

For serving streams, users can build a server, simply use download (progressive or full), or purchase a server from On2. Aside from selling server licenses, On2 hopes to make money by charging for its newer VP4 codec, and by offering consulting services to those who need assistance in modifying the VP3.2 code to fit onto a certain platform or into a certain environment.

To get it right, On2 talked to many people in the Linux development community, as well as others, about licensing issues. According to CEO Doug McIntyre, "Anybody we could find in the open source community who would talk to us, we did."

Although the ramifications of this release will take time to play out, it appears a very significant event in the history of streaming media. For the first time, current codec technology is available in source code format — free, royalty free, and with no restrictions on where it may be deployed.