Google announces WebM video format: Future of HTML5 video?

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from the Geek Tech blog at PCWorld.com.

Among the announcements made at Wednesday’s Google I/O keynote is WebM, a new open-source, royalty-free video format based around the VP8 codec intended for use with HTML5 video. The WebM project’s goal is to develop “a high-quality, open video format for the Web that is freely available to everyone.” The project has the backing of Google, Mozilla, Opera, and numerous other companies. If it catches on, it could settle the rift that currently exists with HTML5 video support, thus speeding up HTML5 adoption.

Currently, there are two competing formats being used for video embedded using HTML5: H.264 (backed by Apple and other companies) and Ogg Theora (backed by Mozilla). Safari, Chrome, and other browsers support H.264 video, as will the upcoming Internet Explorer 9. On the other hand. Mozilla Firefox supports only Ogg Theora video.

Mozilla cites licensing concerns with H.264 as its justification for going with the free Ogg Theora format. MPEG-LA, the group that oversees the H.264 format, says that it won’t charge licensing fees for use of the format for Web video. However, this free-for-Web-video arrangement lasts through only 2016; after that, it’s up to MPEG-LA to decide whether to charge for H.264 or to keep it free.

On the other hand, some have raised concerns over Ogg Theora’s quality; at least one comparison shows that using H.264 may result in higher quality streaming video.

I’m a big fan of HTML5 and what it’ll let Web designers do, so I’m hopeful that WebM will help HTML5 become more mainstream. If you want to know more about WebM, be sure to check out the WebM Project site.

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