WebM Legalities

Previously I had written about how Google's WebM and VP8 may provide a free alternative to video formats. Well this legal issue has received a lot of buzz recently. I read some legal discussions and want to talk more about this.

First let's look at the components of WebM. You got the spec. Then you have both an encoder and decoder. These last two are just reference implementations. The idea is that somebody will improve and replace them. They are only what we call building blocks to the technology.

Let's look closely at another legal video case. Microsoft licenses VC1 free of charge. However VC1 comes from MPEG4. Therefore Microsoft actually does pay royalties to MPEG-LA. They just eat the cost for Windows users. On2, the creator of VP8 which got bought by Google, has done their patent due diligence for VP8. They knew about the existing patents. Then they worked around those patents to produce something new and original.

Catch the Wave

Google released Google Wave to the public this week. It is supposed to enable real time communications. Google wants you to use it to collaborate with others. Wave is a web app. Google says that it may look like, merge with, or possibly integrate with Gmail in the future.

Google Wave was released to developers last year. Then Google made it available to a select few, who then had the ability to invite people to use it with them. Some of those people sold invites via eBay. LOL. Now everybody can access to the tool.

The app is written in the Java programming language. It is supposed to allow you to have conversations and work on a document at the same time. Waves are actually XML documents. You modify the document like you would a Wiki. Google plans to open source the code some day.


There is a lot of buzz about the latest version of the Android operating system. This would be version 2.2, also known as Froyo. Unlike the iPhone, it supports Flash. It also allows tethering. That means you can use your phone as a WiFi hotspot.

Android is the name of the mobile operating system by Google. They obtained in years ago when they bought startup Android Inc. Since then they have been releasing updates to the operating system. Different versions have been named Cupcake, Donut, Eclair, and now Froyo. In case you do not know, froyo means frozen yogurt.

Android makes used of the Linux kernal to get things done. You can write apps using the Java programming language in Android. Version 2.2 has not actually shipped yet. It might be a couple months before you can buy a phone with Froyo on it.

Froyo and Android represent a challenge to the dominant Apple iPhone. Apple Corporation has the lead in the mobile device market. But all is not well in the land of the iPhone. Some people are complaining about dropped calls using the iPhone. We shall see how pleased users are with Froyo. Flash in general might be a good thing, but its use may eat up your phone battery. It might also cause the phone to overheat.

VP8 Patent Attack

Previously I wrote about Google's new WebM and VP8. They are an open source alternative for video formats. This is in sharp contrast to the H.264 standard which requires a license. Big companies like Apple and Microsoft use H.264. Google also currently pays the license for YouTube videos in H.264 format. However that all might be changing due to VP8.

Larry Horn, CEO of MPEG LA, has said that they are looking into creating a patent pool license for VP8. Google says they did their due diligence with VP8 and On2, the company they bought that developed VP8. Industry seems to be backing VP8. Google is already using VP8 to encode YouTube videos. There is a battle forming here for the future of video.

MPEG-LA is a firm that negotiates claims for patent holders. Some call them patent trolls. A good reason for that might be their assertion that nobody can create a new video codec without infringing upon their patents. Nice. We will see how this plays out. There is big money in video patent licensing. So you know there will be a big battle over VP8.

Google VP8

Google has come out with their VP8 video file format. The specification has a lot of C code in it. Some have complained that the spec is not precise enough. Google says the spec is in a final state.

A competing standard is H.264. VP8 borrows some pieces from H.264. And VP8 might be a bit slower and not as good.

The exciting news is that VP8 is being released under an open source license with no royalties required. Google got the technology when they acquired On2. This is the company that produced VP6, which was used in flash. Other formats like H.264 used in IE9 require a paid license to use.

Browsers like Firefox, Opera, and of course Chrome will support VP8. Also expect YouTube videos to be converted to VP8 format.