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The title is mostly due to having seen three or four other blog posts simultaneously making this joke. It had popped into my mind too :-)

In case folks hadn't seen yet, Google (as everyone had expected with bated breath) announced the open sourcing of VP8 today as part of the WebM project. WebM combines a Vorbis audio stream and a VP8 video stream into a Matroska container for use in web video. Then there are a whole lot of other tiny project details like garnering industry support.

Yes, we've actually known for a little while this would be happening. Google is moving quite fast after having their On2 purchase plans delayed several months. We'll have a press release up soon expressing support in drier language, though it's mostly an exercise in formality since everyone already knows our position.

Now that I'm actually allowed to talk about it, the important bits to take away are:

  • Of *course* we (Xiph) support WebM. This is great news for open source, open media, and our own plans at Xiph count on WebM succeeding. How good the WebM news turns out to be depends on what we make it.

  • Vorbis is part of WebM and will probably see a new uptick in active development. WebM doesn't immediately affect Theora (development of Theora continues along with VP8), but that's vaguely irrelevant. The good of unencumbered media is the point, not Theora or Vorbis or Ogg or any specific piece of software. We're after a fundamental change to the business and social environment. Software and software advocacy happens to be the tool Xiph uses to effect change.

  • Open media is obviously philosophically 'clean' and good for the public and good for social transparency. It's even better for business. Business makes good money on the Web using Open technologies. In fact, these are the only technologies that have seen sustained success online. We fully expect that pattern to hold.

  • Xiph has been locked in a political battle with a large monopoly power for years now, and a political fight is not what Xiph.Org is good at or built for. We're built to research and develop media software. This announcement gives us breathing room to get back our primary long term goal: leapfrogging the proprietary competition. We don't want to be as good, we always want to be better. there's some officialness for you all :-)

P.S. I put the Xiph logo first because it's my blog and all.

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Re: What can you said about...

"Do you believe that VP8 is more or less a rip off h264"

No. That's pretty serious hyperbole. Some design chunks look very similar even to the trained eye, but details matter in both code and patents. DS ignored the details.

"that there must be patents"

If any litigation materializes, I doubt it will be motivated by actual infringement. Here's where it's nice to have Google around.

"is imprecise, unclear, and overly short, leaving many portions of the format very vaguely explained."

Sadly, he's correct about this. We can fix the spec and write a good one after the fact, but this leaves up in the air how many bugs are undiscovered because no one documented the hard parts (so no one else could check them). Tim's been pouring over the code for weeks already and has caught a few such instances, I don't think any were major.

That said, despite Google's claim that things are already frozen, I'm sure that if a showstopper popped up they'd change their minds. I don't think there are any showstoppers. What we'll probably find in the future are instances of 'aw, geez, it would have been nice to change that if it wasn't too late.' We have some amount of experience dealing with that from Theora :-)

Edited at 2010-05-20 07:19 am (UTC)
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Re: What can you said about...

And about the quality of the codec itself? Any preliminary comment about where it stands now and where it can get? (Is it competitive/better with good h264 implementations? Will it be? Is it really a better alternative than Theora?)
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Re: What can you said about...

Quality of the format: Theora was good enough and VP8 is solidly better than Theora (even current Ptalar). So, awesome, it's a pretty pure win.

I know everyone wants a 'but how does it compare to h.264' answer, or more specifically 'how does it compare to x264'. A: Total red herring; none of the orgs with money involved care much about that answer. It's only good for trash talking, not actually winning a fight. B: I don't actually know for sure yet. We've been concentrating on evaluating the spec and the codebase quality rather than drag racing it, because pinning VP8's success on a size contest completely misses the point.

Theora was already beating some h.264 encoders out there (no, not x.264) and VP8 at very least already beats more. As far as the sourcebase goes, it raises the ceiling over Theora on how far we can improve things. Neither h.264 nor VP8 will be holding still.

...but once I have a clearer picture of the answer to B, I'll still fess up ;-) Chances are the answer is 'about the same', at least right now. We'll see.
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