WebM Project announces massive uptake, new partners, speed increases

Earlier in the month at the Streaming Media West 2010 conference, John Luther and Matt Frost of the WebM team gave an update (slides, PDF) on the codec’s development in the past 5 months since launch, and an idea of future development of the project.

WebM is a project that was started out in May this year when Google open-sourced the VP8 video codec it had acquired when it purchased On2 in February. It is believed that VP8 is the only video codec that is truly patent-free, unlike existing open-source formats and the complete opposite of codecs such as H.264, for which patents are licensed by the MPEG organisation (we wrote about that back in August). The WebM format itself is a combination of the VP8 video codec, Vorbis audio, all wrapped in a container based on Matroska.

Some of the figures for the codec are extremely impressive, especially considering its short life so far. It has acquired over 20 partners since launch (its partner page now reads like a who’s who of the video encoding world), and is supported on Firefox 4, Opera 10, Chrome 6+, IE9 and Safari (IE 9 and Safari with a codec installation) as well as on Windows, OS X, Linux and Android and x86, Atom, ARM and PPC architectures. It’s used in Skype 5 for multi-party conferencing and 80% of all of the video on YouTube is now encoded in that format for use in its HTML 5 beta. Over 12 Tier 1 semiconductor companies are manufacturing chips with either accelerators or full hardware encoding or decoding implementations. All this adds up to an excellent start for the codec in its goal to provide a viable option in web video support.

But this is not all; there have been criticisms of the project for its slow decoding speed. This has been addressed in the latest “Aylesbury” project, which has improved decoding speed by nearly 30%. Additionally, the “Bali” release coming in early 2011 is focussed almost entirely on encoding speed optimisations.

More on the WebM codec at the project homepage.

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