SAN FRANCISCO — Thanks to Google, HTML5 is getting an open-source video codec, removing one of the last hurdles standing in the way of widespread acceptance of the new content-delivery protocol.
At yesterday’s Google I/O developers conference keynote, Google announced it would release its VP8 WebM video codec as open-source software.
Previously, HTML5 relied upon commercial codecs, such as H.264, which was jointly produced by the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group together with the ISO/IEC Moving Picture Experts Group. While free to use for decoding and playing videos, H.264 encoders require a license and payment of royalties.
The WebM codec came to Google as part of its August 2009 purchase of On2 Technologies. Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google, said that On2 had been developing video software since 1992. The resulting codec was used in Adobe’s Flash product to support one form of video streaming.
Further, given that there are several competing commercial codecs in widespread use, the working group didn’t want to endorse and adopt just one codec. Since browser makers would therefore have to choose which codec to include in their software, Web-based video would have to be saved on the server encoded into several different formats so as to assure playback in all browsers.
While there is one popular open-source codec from Vorbis, Apple’s Steve Jobs has alleged that Vorbis is vulnerable to an impending patent lawsuit.
Also at Google I/O, Google unveiled the Chrome Web Store. The new service gives Web application developers an app store similar to that for the Android and iPhone smartphones.
The Chrome Web Store gives Web developers a marketplace to hawk their products. The store offers a payment system; Google’s Pichai demonstrated a purchase of Web-based video editing software, Darkroom, for US$5. He then handed the stage over to the editor of Sports Illustrated, who showed off an interactive Web-based magazine experience that will be offered through the Chrome Web Store.
Lars Rasmussen, the lead developer of Wave, Google’s real-time collaboration system, took the stage afterwards to announce the service is now open to the public. He claimed that Wave’s speed and capabilities have improved significantly since it was introduced at Google I/O last year, and he also announced the availability of new APIs and open-source portions of the system. He added that robots, Google’s name for Wave applications, have been improved as well.
“Robots no longer have to live on Google App Engine. They can live anywhere on the Web now,” he said. “We also have a new Wave data API, so you can build notify functionality for lightweight clients. We’ve always wanted Wave to be an open technology. Anyone should be able to build their own Wave application. Novell Pulse will support the Wave protocol, and SAP StreamWork will also support the wave protocol.”
Rasmussen said that Google would be “open-sourcing additional components of our production code; also the in-browser editor, which was one of the hardest pieces to write. We’re also publishing the beginnings of a client/server protocol.”
The Google I/O keynote closed with a lengthy discussion of Google’s plans for making cloud development easier for enterprises. Paul Maritz, CEO of VMware, announced that the two companies would be working together to integrate the Google Web Toolkit 2.1 with SpringSource’s automatic project creation tool, roo.
Maritz said he hoped that Google and VMware could collaborate to build the operating system of the cloud.
On the second day of the show, Google took direct swings at Apple’s iPhone by introducing the features of the next version of the Android operating system. Vic Gundotra, vice president of engineering at Google, said that the Android platform accepts and runs Adobe’s Flash. He also announced Microsoft Exchange support and new security management tools for enterprise Android users.
Google also introduced a number of other products and services at the event, such as a developer storage service that can host up to 100GB of objects, mirrored across data centers. The program is currently in closed beta.