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WebM: Taking Another Look

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This week WebM, one of the two major video formats competing for use with HTML5 video, took a major stumble when the Mozilla browser announced support for competing H.264. Even though it's not royalty-free, H.264 already had the lead; now it looks insurmountable.

That makes this a good time to look back at what WebM offers, before the door closes. At the recent HTML5 Video Summit in Los Angeles, John Luther and Matt Frost of Google (and formerly of On2) gave an overview of the format, guiding the audience from WebM's creation to its future plans.

"What WebM is, it's essentially three things: it's the VP8 video codec which Google acquired from On2 Technologies. That's where Matt and I both came from. Open sourced it in May, 2010. It also uses the Vorbis audio codec, which is a high-quality open source royalty-free audio codec. This is all done is a Matroska-based file container...We use a different file extension primarily to avoid confusion between Matroska files that don't have VP8 and Vorbis and those that do," explained Luther.

Some audio and video formats in use online weren't designed for the Web at all, said Luther. WebM was, and it aims for efficiency.

"What we are trying to do is something specifically for the Internet, designed for the Internet, taking advantage of the Internet's capabilities but also trying to work around its limitations for video. At a high level, what we're trying to do is focus on simplicity of design. There's a lot of video technology that...was not designed for the Internet. It was designed for television, so CD, DVR, DVD players, so part of that, we believe, is low complexity decoding, which the VP8 codec features. It was designed to be very low complexity," Luther said.

"The other goal we have is that you should be able to serve a single bitstream to any device," said Luther. "No profiles. You're not going to have to create Baseline for this device and Main for that device. It just gets way too confusing. Levels, we believe, are useful as reference, particular for hardware vendors, but they also complicate things."

To learn more about WebM's past and possible future, watch the video below.

What's New with WebM?

Based on the VP8 codec, Google's WebM is an open, royalty-free media format designed specifically with HTML5 delivery in mind. Since its introduction in 2010, it's been a key component of HTML5, and Google has been a major player in the entire HTML5 initiative. In this session, representatives from Google will update you on the latest developments with the format itself as well as adoption and its place in the HTML5 ecosystem.

Speaker: Matt Frost, Senior Advisor, Business and Legal Affairs, Google
Speaker: John Luther, Product Manager, Google

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