Free Software Foundation jumps on board with WebM

The Free Software Foundation, an organisation devoted to the preservation and promotion of truly free software, have thrown their weight behind Google's offering in the HTML 5 video format wars.

Last week we wrote that Google announced plans to drop support for H.264, the patent-encumbered but widely used video codec, in their Chrome web browser. While H.264 is currently compatible with most major browsers and devices through dedicated hardware decoders or software licenses, it is those licenses and associated royalties that make it infeasible for smaller browser or hardware vendors to provide support for the codec.

Google released WebM as a fully patent-free codec last year after purchasing the On2 company who previously owned it. It is now supported in the Chrome, Firefox and Opera browsers, with Apple's Safari and Microsoft's Internet Explorer being the only major browsers not to support it.

The Free Software Foundation signing on as a "supporter" of the WebM project is significant in that it validates Google's claim that the encoding is truly free. It is the first major organisation of its type to provide such support for the codec.

"H.264 is a patent-encumbered codec; the MPEG LA organization requires developers who implement it to agree to a patent license. This license is fundamentally incompatible with software freedom. It requires developers to restrict how their software can be used, and to collect royalties in many situations" writes Brett Smith of the Free Software Foundation.

"We've signed up as a supporter of the WebM Project, and we encourage other foundations and organizations to join us. Today, we're also urging Web site operators to distribute videos in the WebM format, and abandon H.264."

Along with this announcement, the Free Software Foundation said they would be re-launching their PlayOgg initiative to PlayFreedom to demonstrate the availability of both the WebM and Ogg video formats.

There's more on the FSF's site.

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