Chances are that if you have not heard of WebM by now, you likely know that Google had plans to buy On2, or that speculators hoped Google would release Theora’s younger brother, On2’s VP8, to the public. And, what you know, that’s exactly what happened.
Google united most of the industry around this plan and the result is WebM, a royalty-free, BSD-licensed mixture of the Vorbis audio and VP8 video codecs on a modified Matroska container. For the discernible user, it tastes raw with a hint of spiciness, and you soon realize you haven’t tasted anything like it before.
In a surprising turn of events, the whole industry (barring Apple, but they don’t count anyway) embraced the newcomer, apparently solving the whole video on the web debacle that’s been going on in the last years. So, expect browser and even hardware support coming really soon.
Of course this is all new and the paint’s still not exactly dry. Documentation is a mess, encoder quality is terribly optimized, and there’s a whole lot of work ahead for those involved, but all things considered? This is likely the best outcome possible. Even Adobe, in an (what I assume) attempt to screw Apple for the whole “die Flash, die” chapter, sided with WebM and will support it in Flash.
By the way, while we are ahead, shouldn’t we try addressing the FUD certain people of the h264 faction are already spreading? Certainly. Less glamorous comments by those who should know better must always be addressed before they spread like an infection. Did you know some people still take that silly claim of “Youtube in Theora would take all of the Internet’s bandwidth” seriously? Why yes, some people not only believe that but will always take a moment of their monotonous day to quote it during Internet discussion.
Some people also believe in a Flying Spaghetti Monster.
But where was I? Oh, right. I was debunking the commentary from a certain developer without any knowledge of software patents who decided he knew better than On2 when it came to waltz around MPEG-LA’s patent pool and now claims VP8 must surely be infringing on something or another. Or rather, in a Glenn Beck logical fallacy: “I’m not saying it does, but it didn’t prove me wrong either”.
He then went on to compare years of h264 optimizations against the upstart and surprisingly, considering how unbiased someone whose livelihood depends on nothing replacing h264, came out in favor of the establishment. He forgets, however, that Google has enough money to buy whole countries hire all the engineers they could possibly want to improve VP8’s encoder quality in record time.
Anyhow, WebM’s adoption of Vorbis, just as this one introduced drastic surround optimizations in its code base a couple of months ago, is a great sign of trust in Xiph’s work. But, what does it mean for Theora now that it has apparently been left out of the Web Video Wars? A good question, but with a simple answer: the Theora community will likely find more niches that Theora can tap. Considering Theora is the most lightweight video format of all the modern offerings that’s a no-brainer.
And the Ogg container? Now with the recent addition of an index to improve seeking in corner cases, nothing much is stopping it from being employed in more and more situations where a container as malleable as Ogg is needed.