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WebM - An New Force in the Field of Container Formats

by Edwin Liu | March 15, 2015 13:50 PM
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If the emergence of H.264 declares the war over the over-charged MPEG-4 Part 2 video encoding, then we can say that Google supported WebM declares the war to other video encodings that are not royalty-free. Although as to the video quality, WebM does not have many advantages, the WebM standard is open-source and royalty-free. So it is regarded to be a catalyst to make the network more convenient. The VP8 video currently used by WebM does not have technical advantages over H.264. But it is free and this is its biggest advantage.

WebM is inclined to be open-source and based on HTML 5 standard. Moreover, many network tycoons including Opera, Mozilla, Adobe, Chrome, etc. and AMD, ARM, NVIDIA, QUALCOMM and other hardware giants also support the WebM standard. It is a big future potential in the video encoding field. In addition, Google’s own YouTube which is the biggest video sharing site all over the world also support the new WebM format. (Note: If you want to upload DVD clips to YouTube, you can convert DVD to WebM format first and then upload the converted video.)

WebM project is sponsored by Google and its goal is to build an open, royalty-free video file format. This format should be able to provide high-quality video compression for use with HTML 5 video. WebM project is an open source project using the BSD license and it applies VP8 video codec developed by On2 Technologies and Vorbis audio codec developed by Xiph.Org Foundation (an open source audio compression format with no patent restrictions) , the Encapsulation Format it uses is based on the open-source Matroska (MKV) format.

Although WebM now enjoys the supports from the large-scale technology field, MPEG LA issue still exists. MPEG LA has an H.264 licensing organization. The organization says it is considering gathering a patent pool for VP8. The statement said codec may be covered by the patents belongs to MPEG LA related to the companies. If this is eventually done, VP8 probably will no longer be royalty-free.

Now Google has started using VP9 video encoding and decoding algorithms in the latest version of Chromium. Purchased and supported by Google, this VP9 is an open-source and royalty-free video codec algorithm. According to Google, VP9 takes less than half bandwidth/capacity comparing to the popular H.264, and also the image quality does not drop too much. WebM will be upgraded to accommodate the Opus audio codec and the VP9 video codec. Next, VP9 will become a part of WebRTC this year-end, and then the non-plugin support will be achieved. Then it is very possible that WebM will become more and more popular standard format for network videos.