back to article Is Google spending $106.5m to open source a codec?

After acquiring On2’s video compression codecs in a deal valued at approximately $106.5 million in stock, will Google simply turn around and open source them? It certainly looks that way. In both the press release and the blog post announcing the acquisition of On2, Google makes a point of saying that it believes “high-quality …

COMMENTS

This topic is closed for new posts.
Anonymous Coward

H.264 patents

A list of those H.264 patents, which countries they apply to, and when they expire, would be interesting.

0
0
Happy

Just want to say...

...bravo Google!

0
0
IT Angle

The BBC has produced a codec that is GPL

http://www.bbc.co.uk/rd/projects/dirac/overview.shtml

I remember seeing very high quality result and it's already open source.

Maybe they needed to ditch some tax dollars?

0
0
Happy

google should be careful

i mean, they shouldn't put all their ogg's in one basket...

0
0
FAIL

And whilst all the big boys are squabbing...

Users are the ones losing out...

0
0
Badgers

Anything but Flash, please

Ogg Theora, On2, whatever, as long as it's open source and doesn't make browsers crash. Macromedia Flash (now Adobe Flash) plugins have been making my browsers crash for years, both in Windows and Linux. It's a bloated piece of junk. Whenever I view a YouTube video or two, I have to make sure that I don't have any important email edits in progress or Web sites open in other tabs in my browser suite, because when Flash screws up, it blows everything away. Since Adobe hasn't fixed this long-standing problem in years, concentrating on adding more "features", I expect they never will. The sooner Flash goes away from the World Wide Web, the better. Due to its unreliability at the browser end, I refuse to inflict ANY Flash content on visitors to the Web sites I maintain.

0
0

@AC - H.264 Patents

Here is a list of the patents ... all 34 pages of them:

http://www.mpegla.com/avc/avc-att1.pdf

and an overview of their holders

http://www.mpegla.com/avc/avc-licensors.cfm

H.264 has the most hardware support but VP6 has some hardware support but sticky licensing.

0
0

Who the hell

is "On2"? never heard of it. Ogg would be a great standard in my opinion, it just works and we don't need another dozen wheels on the wagon, there are far too many codecs as it is.

0
0

@ andrew p

what browser you use? in 10 years+ of web usage and web development ive never seen flash crash a browser.

wonder if it might be down to FF?

0
0
Jobs Horns

Of course they can't sit down....

"All which makes for tough going when the browser makers sit down to discuss an HTML5 video tag (or - in the case of Microsoft - when they don't sit down)."

Well if Steve quit throwing all the chairs, they'd be able to sit down! Common sense people!

0
0
Pirate

Easy downloading

Will the <VIDEO> tag gain widespread usage once pointy-haired bosses, lawyers and co find out that suddenly you can download videos by right-clicking and selecting Save As? Sure, there's a million ways around Flash's URL obfuscation, but it takes it from those who bother to find out how, to making it available to everyone by default...

0
0

Ogg

Well nobody is going to use Ogg while it has such a stupid name, if they call it something less stupid sounding it might have a chance but frankly I'd be embarassed to use it in case someone asked what it used.

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Stop the madness

How the fuck was a codec ever patentable in the first place?

It's a mathematical operation, for transforming one list of numbers into another list of numbers. It's something you could do in your head, given accurate log tables and plenty of paper.

I'm seriously thinking of standing for election, with an "IP bonfire" -- a mass annulment of extraneous copyrights and patents -- as my big manifesto promise.

0
0
Silver badge

@Citizen Kaned

More likely a video driver / hardware issue in some cards that crashes things *that* badly.

But his point is good - flash is an endless source of cross-platform vulnerabilities.

0
0
Coffee/keyboard

@Citizen Kaned

ZOMG SRSLY?! NEVER?! You must be the good luck charm of the internets.

Don't think I've ever sat in front of a browser which HASN'T been sunk by Flash at one time or another.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

How the hell . . .

. . . does someone have an opinion on Ogg Theora, but not know who On2 are?

Clue : Theora is derived from a codec On2 donated to Xiph, and the company is well known for providing the codec technologies used by Macromedia for Flash, before Adobe switched over to H264.

One problem that remains with nominating Theora is that while adding a video tag to browsers running on existing hardware is relatively easy, adding Theora support to existing hardware decoders is another matter. There are already tens of millions of devices out there with H264 hardware support (and not just from Apple) so we'd effectively be delaying the video tag until that hardware was replaced, rather than until browsers were updated.

[That may actually be true by the time MS implement it]

Personally, I think the H264 issue has been over-rated - most operating systems have a native video framework, and practically speaking, most Linux users have H.264 playback installed, even if their are complications in shipping it out of the box.

0
0
Grenade

CODECs shouldn't be patentable

This wouldn't be an issue if we disallowed software patents.

The patent mills and IP lawyers have basically created a Union of protectionism that stifles creativity and advancement of technology.

0
0
K
Bronze badge

LOLZ

This is why Google can do no wrong!

Sure they have ulterior motivations, but fine we'll take the high road..

0
0
Silver badge

@CODECs shouldn't be patentable

That's no so much the problem, if you beleive that a particular patented CODEC is worth paying for rather than using an unpatented one - fine thats a business decision.

The problem is allowing patented CODECs (and file formats) to be adopted as ISO standards. It's like adopting the metre, everyone agreeing to use it and then deciding to charge them.

0
0
Alert

Best committee group nave EVAAARR!

Given their behaviour, I think El Reg missed a solid-gold nicknaming opportunity: the semi-expansion of the hideous abbreviation WHATWG into the apt "WHAT Working Group"?

Of course, you can also replace "Web Hypertext" with "The Web". That gives an even more apt acronym!

0
0
FAIL

@Citizen Kaned

I saw one crashed by havin no flash player and the website requiring flash just 2 day and yesterday and day before

dam thing is it is our company website

0
0

h.264

As I understand it, the problem with h.264 patents is that even the decoders need to be licenced. Surely, it would be easier to try and get the h.264 patent holders to permit royalty-free decoders?

Also, how does the x264 project get away with encoding h.264 video?

(as far as I am aware, the x264 project is open-source and free-to-use - as in beer)

Now, I agree that decoders for the video codec(s) used by the VIDEO tag should be freely implementable by everyone (following in the spirit of the Web itself), but I think h.264 has too much traction (e.g. existing broadcast media, Blu-Ray, YouTube, hardware chips, etc) to be passed over in favour of Ogg.

How much do the h.264 patent holders rake in from licencing decoders?

0
0
Silver badge

I think they've just urinated in their chips.

"Apple refuses to use Ogg Theora in Quicktime and Safari because of scant hardware support" BS alert!!!! Add other companies and proprietary products as you wish.

They dont want Web video standards - End Of . Standards - as MS know - mean you can rip people off for old hat technology. Freeing up On2s patents is just going to mean they have to access another page of excuses not to have it accepted in HTML5.x

Been using OGG in FF3.5.2 on a shitty old 1Ghz machine with a lousy GPU on 512k BB - only problems are with download speed but that's OK cos I can save the content and watch it later. The only reason Flash and Quicktime need compression is cos I keep having to re-run the same old bit of video time after time to try and get past the bit where it crashes!

0
0

Clearly to save money

With the amount of money it costs to run youtube, a new, freely available and highly efficient codec would drastically reduce their bandwidth bills. 1 month of the savings would be more than enough to pay for the acquisition.

0
0

iPhone

Of course Youtube is already flash-free on iPod/iPhone.

0
0
Alert

@andrew p

Ahha, I know this one. You're using IE and upgraded it but not Flash. IE will crash with some odd DLL or CAB error randomly when a Flash movie is embedded.

We saw this a lot when people upgraded from IE6 to IE7. Try removing and then reinstalling Flash from scratch, that worked for us and our bods.

0
0
Thumb Up

You guys should know On2

Funny, I almost asked whether they might open source it in the last article but I dismissed it as a stupid question. I couldn't think of any reason why they would. Now it makes sense.

I heard of On2 a while ago because it was their VP6 codec that was introduced in Flash 8. Since there was no Linux release of Flash 8, it drove Linux users crazy because there were a lot of videos that they couldn't play for a while.

FFMPEG has had VP6 decoding support for a long time now but an encoder has never materialised. Maybe that will change now.

0
0
Silver badge

ON2 VP6

Wortel, ON2 created VP6, one of the most widely deployed codecs (thanks to Flash) used by lots and lots of streaming sites as it gives a great compression ratio with great quality. If it is open sourced, it'll be a good thing, as my VP6 encoding license cost me $99 *and was worth it*!

For those who don't get why codec choice is so important, the last few percent in filesize reduction for a specified quality can make a huge difference when streaming videos which by nature are huge files often with many, many streams making massive bandwidth bills.

0
0

Doomed to failure.

Unless of course this new format contains a way to embed non-removable advertising.

Google might not have any inline vids on youtube, but the rest of the industry relies on a pre-roll ad before the content plays.. and advertisers will not pay to put those there if they can be skipped with ease using a <video> tag.

Flash isn't just video, it adds a lot more additional functionality besides simple playback.. it has it's own OOP language.. not entirely sure that the new format is going to be capable of replicating that.

0
0
Grenade

long enough lever?

Let's say that VP8 is open sourced.

Mozilla and Chrome uses it. Maybe Apple even use it.

Youtube uses it.

Youtube stops using Flash.

IE no longer plays youtube, just gets a "please upgrade" message.

All the kids install Firefox or Chrome on every pc they can.

How long before Microsoft come running to the table?

0
0
Happy

@Martin 6

Isn't that what rambus or whatever they're called did with DDR2?

Also, I'd take this as Google trying to standardise how video appears on the internet. Which makes it far easier to parse content. Which makes their job easier, allowing them to increase profits- and increase market share.

So they'll end up making a fortune. Just 5 years down the line when it's more widely adopted. Sounds like a good idea- they get more money long-term and we get a great codec for nothing!

0
0
Alert

@Anon

The question is if youtube switched to a codec not supported by IE, would all the kids switch browser or just switch video site? I suppose youtube might be popular enough to carry it off.

0
0
WTF?

Boot on the other foot!

"Apple is worried that the patent holders behind the Theora technology will come knocking with a lawsuit."

Welcome to the OSS world, where we cannot use anything anyone else has, we always have to write our own to ensure we don't get bent-over and taught a lesson in "stealing"!

0
0

This post has been deleted by its author

Coat

Licence to flash eh!!

"I do not like the situation on the Web today, where to use all the content you need to have a license to Flash," Mozilla director of ecosystem development Mike Shaver posted to WHATWG earlier in June.

Licence to flash eh!! ... hey it's friday, I've already got my coat on standby!

0
0
Pint

@CODECs shouldn't be patentable

Patenting open source and/or ISO standard code is not necessary a problem as it is up to the patent holders to choose whether they charge, not an obligation. Patents don't automatically protect themselves. They have to be enforced, by choice or necessity.

Commercial companies have managed to sell products containing open source code for a while now: MacOS is based on open source Unix BSD-based Darwin plus their own proprietary user interface, etc., countless TV set-top-boxes, network storage drives - and - now mobile phones, e.g., Android are based on open source Linux, mixed with proprietary components. So it can work.

One wonders why, if the BBC had developed an open source codec back in 2003, that they hadn't developed this to production quality for the iPlayer, avoiding the row over supporting Windows first with a proprietary codec, and at the same time relinquishing their dependence of Real Video.

Perhaps Digital Rights Management absent from the BBC's dirac codec deterred them from adopting it for the iPlayer. Though with the benefit of hindsight, DRM seems to be going out fashion rapidly with iTunes being increasingly free of it for example. Time to revisit the dirac codec, BBC?

Hats off the Google for its latest philanthropy into the open source movement, along with Google Summer of Code and the like. Meanwhile, the other companies go down the old route of technology lock-in, where compatibility is the enemy of competition.

0
0
Unhappy

Doesn't solve the patent issue

Buying up On2 and open-sourcing their stuff doesn't help with the patent issue, though. All On2's patents for VP3/Theora are licensed for free to anyone that wants to use it - the supposed concern is with patents that other companies hold, and moving to VP6 or VP8 increases that risk since they almost certainly not only do most of the patent-infringing stuff from VP3, but also include new shiny ideas.

0
0

Compression-rate improvement in video codecs has been very modest

Cliff says: "For those who don't get why codec choice is so important, the last few percent in filesize reduction for a specified quality can make a huge difference when streaming videos...."

On the contrary, a few percent filesize reduction is just a few percent and this is simply very little and arguably practically negligible. To put the same thing the other way around, when you have a specified filesize, the improvement in picture quality from using a VP6 (or VP8) encoder is barely perceptible against VP3, and you'd have to concentrate carefully to see it. It's worthwhile if it's free, but I'd argue it's not worth paying for. More generally, over the past decade the improvement in the compression rate of the state-of-the-art video codecs has been very modest, whereas there have been major improvements in bandwidth and more major bandwidth improvements are coming.

0
0
Thumb Down

@Citizen Kaned

Never witnessed flash crashing a browser? How many browsers have you seen during your 10+ years of web usage and web development career then?

I'm wondering how could you qualify to web developer at all...

0
0
Thumb Up

Fingers crossed

Here's hoping. The video tag is one of the most potentially promising features of HTMLv5.

It would be really nice if google release the codecs along the lines of

"You can use this technology royalty free, as long as you're not a patent troll, in which case you can't"

2. Buy shares in Washington State furniture companies.

3. Convert You Tube to use the new codec.

4. Watch the chairs fly!

5 Profit!

@Mosh Jahan - An open standard can't mandate a propietery technology that needs to be licenced (it would no longer be an open standard as there would be a barrier to implementation - money). This is why there's a debate. You're right that some of the current H264 patent holders are f**kwards.

0
0
Flame

Re: @CODECs shouldn't be patentable

Rob Davis writes...

"Patenting open source and/or ISO standard code is not necessary a problem as it is up to the patent holders to choose whether they charge, not an obligation. Patents don't automatically protect themselves. They have to be enforced, by choice or necessity."

That's like saying that bad laws are not a problem if the police are nice. Apart from the ethical issues (as already covered in this discussion), having patent encumbrances on standards is like imposing a tax on people. I know that there's a perverse, largely American attitude that regards taxes as evil unless they're called something else and are imposed by private enterprise, but standards should be there to allow people and things to work together, not to shore up the bottom line of a bunch of people in perpetuity.

And patents on open source software are obscene: you're effectively ripping up the rule book that governs the use and distribution of such software and makes it open (copyright licensing), in favour of a bunch of people who, despite not having done any of the hard work implementing the software, decide that they should get the red carpet treatment because they have had some ideas validated by the corrupt patent system machinery. Such people can't stomach the fact that something in their area of business isn't owned or controlled by them, and so they use the dirty instruments of "intellectual property" to seize control by other means.

"Commercial companies have managed to sell products containing open source code for a while now: MacOS is based on open source Unix BSD-based Darwin plus their own proprietary user interface, etc., countless TV set-top-boxes, network storage drives - and - now mobile phones, e.g., Android are based on open source Linux, mixed with proprietary components. So it can work."

I know that some people think open source is a popularity contest, but I don't care whether mixing proprietary stuff with open stuff "can work". Indeed, I'd rather people used copyleft licensing to stop the freeloading undertaken by all those "commercial companies" which ends up with open stuff under the hood with the hood welded shut. Those companies should be put in the position of choosing between having to do the hard work themselves or instead making "open access" products where their customers can actually fix stuff instead of throwing it away when a minor flaw becomes too irritating to tolerate any more.

"One wonders why, if the BBC had developed an open source codec back in 2003, that they hadn't developed this to production quality for the iPlayer, avoiding the row over supporting Windows first with a proprietary codec, and at the same time relinquishing their dependence of Real Video."

Because the BBC is now plagued by a bunch of competing interests, some demanding DRM and content restrictions ostensibly so that they can sell content to foreign people, although I imagine it's mostly about siphoning off money for their chums in various production and media houses. In other words, the BBC isn't necessarily thinking about their audience's (and the source of their funds) best interests.

0
0
This topic is closed for new posts.

Forums