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April 13, 2010

Google Will Open Source On2 VP8 Codec

NewTeeVee reports that Google will soon open source VP8, the latest video codec released by On2, a company acquired by Google for $133 million.

On2 is the company that open-sourced VP3, which has been further developed and it's now known as Theora. "In June 2002 On2 donated VP3 to the Xiph.Org Foundation under a BSD-like open source license. On2 also made an irrevocable, royalty-free license grant for any patent claims it might have over the software and any derivatives, allowing anyone to use any VP3-derived codec for any purpose. In August 2002, On2 entered into an agreement with the Xiph.Org Foundation to make VP3 the basis of a new, free video codec, called Theora."

Now that browsers have native support for playing videos, many wondered what is the best video format for the web. Firefox, Opera support Theora videos, Safari plays H.264 videos, while Google Chrome supports both formats.

"Although the h264 codec has gained dominance due to its excellent compression and broad support in the consumer electronics ecosystem, it is covered by patents that preclude broad royalty-free usage. (...) Ogg [Theora] may offer advantages from a licensing standpoint, but there are still many unanswered questions about its quality and suitability for Internet video streaming services," explains Ars Technica.

Open-sourcing VP8 could solve the problem, although it could take years until Google releases the code and browsers start to support the new format. Despite all the hurdles, it's rare to see a company that pays more than $100 million to open source a video codec.

"Today video is an essential part of the web experience, and we believe high-quality video compression technology should be a part of the web platform," said Google's Sundar Pichai, when Google announced the On2 acquisition.

Here's what the Free Software Foundation wrote in an open letter to Google:

"With your purchase of On2, you now own both the world's largest video site (YouTube) and all the patents behind a new high performance video codec -- VP8. Just think what you can achieve by releasing the VP8 codec under an irrevocable royalty-free license and pushing it out to users on YouTube? You can end the web's dependence on patent-encumbered video formats and proprietary software (Flash)."

{ Image licensed as Creative Commons by yummiec00kies. }


  1. YAY great news!! 133m and opensourced... google rockz

  2. despite the fact that Google is a commercial company and exists to make money, they give the internet community so much back. I hope this move will solve the "video standard for internet" problem ones and for all.
    Bold move Google! thank you

  3. another battle in the war between Google and Apple. Apple likes H.264, Google likes VP8 Codec

  4. Um...sorry, why this picture!??

  5. Even if opensourced, patent holders can go after google for infringed patents. Opensource and royality free are two different things. H.264 is also open standard.

  6. Here's a possible answer from Theora's site:

    "Q. Isn't VP3 a patented technology?

    The Foundation has negotiated an irrevocable free license from On2 to the VP3 codec. It is legal to use VP3 in any way you see fit (unless, of course, you're doing something illegal with it in your particular jurisdiction). You are free to download VP3 and Theora, use them free of charge, implement them in a for-sale product, implement them in a free product, make changes to the source and distribute those changes, or print the source code out and wallpaper your spare room with it.

    Q. What if and On2 decide to break off their agreement?

    Because Theora is an Open Source project, the source code will continue to be available and development will continue. Users will still be protected from the On2 patents."


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