When Google announced the new WebM video platform at Google I/O this morning, it wasn’t just browser makers who were standing behind Google; many of the big players in web video have also pledged their support for the V8 codec, including Brightcove, Encoding.com, Telestream, Sorenson, Broadcom, MIPS and Qualcomm.
Even Microsoft, a company that previously said it would only support H.264-encoded content in HTML5 playback in Internet Explorer 9, has clarified that if a codec for VP8 video is installed on a user’s computer, IE9 will support it. The strong support from software, hardware and middleware providers for VP8 suggests a strong start for the WebM platform.
H.264 has become the dominant codec in the world of web video for many reasons, but the primary reason is that, in addition to being of high quality, H.264 enjoys plenty of support on both the software and hardware side. Web video services like YouTube, Brightcove, and Vimeo encode in H.264 as one of their defaults and hardware acceleration for H.264 playback and/or recording is supported in a cavalcade of devices.
Practically every consumer electronics device that supports video playback in any way includes support for H.264. Because the codec is highly versatile, it can be used when recording video from Flip cameras and it can also be used to encode feature length content to Blu-ray discs.
One of the problems that other open standard video formats like Ogg Theora have had in the past has been limited support from hardware and software creators. Already, VP8 has support from some of the biggest embedded chipset makers — Qualcomm, Broadcom and MIPS — which means that many future consumer electronics devices will include support for VP8 playback at the hardware level.
On the software side, Brightcove and Encoding.com will both be offering WebM support for their users. I spoke with Jeff Malkin, the president of Encoding.com, earlier this afternoon and he told me that his company will have WebM support as an easily selectable preset in the coming weeks. This means that Encoding.com users will be able to select WebM as one of their codec presets, just as they can with the iPhone or iPad so that the video they embed is automatically playable on browsers or devices that support the format.
In fact, looking at the number of supporters, practically everyone in the entire video industry has expressed some level of support for VP8/WebM with one glaring exception: Apple. While Apple has made its support for HTML5 and H.264 clear, we’ll have to wait and see how the company plans to address VP8 in its desktop products and in future mobile devices. As of right now, this isn’t an either/or battle. Almost every company that has aligned with VP8/WebM is also a supporter of H.264. It will be interesting to see how Apple and the MPEG-LA respond to this announcement.