VP8/WebM – A Collection of Resources

WebM/VP8 is Google’s recent entry into the codec market. Here’s a roughly chronological list of resources about the codec/technology. If you see any prominent articles that I’m missing, please let me know.

Webm – an open web media project – Google site for WebM.

The Moving Picture: Past Performance is No Guarantee of Future Success – (8/2/2010) – EventDV, by Jan Ozer (me). My conclusion? – “VP8 is a blank canvas that Google must shape into a viable technology before anyone should consider its use. Don’t stand up and salute just because Google launched it, because it wouldn’t have seen the light of day absent Google’s search business. Don’t assume that it’s going to be a raging success, because when it comes to producing and launching a codec, the alleged one-trick wonders at Google don’t really seem to know what they’re doing.”

WebM vs. H.264: A Closer Look – (July 30, 2010) – StreamingMedia.com, Jan Ozer. A review of the quality, encoding time and CPU playback requirements. I found that VP8 lags in quality, takes longer to encode and is harder to decode, though there are some indications that Google can quickly narrow the gap on playback requirements. Until they do, I don’t see any reason to think about switching to VP8.

Announcing the world’s fastest VP8 decoder: ffvp8 – (7/23/2010) – From Diary of an x264 Developer, Jason Garrett-Glaser. Using 1080p clips, this very technical article shows that VP8 decoders vary decidedly in performance. Confirmation that the current VP8 playback requirements of most browsers probably will decrease significantly in the short term.

Streamline: What WebM Means for You – (7/16/2010) – From EventDV.net, by Tim Siglin, in the same issue as the first article mentioned above. Tim and I are great friends who agree on very few codec-related issues. Here’s his pithy conclusion In the end, it looks like we’ll have both the ability to encode WebM formats with traditional tools (support has been announced by major encoding and transcoding tool companies) and the ability to play back WebM files within a few distinct browsers, such as Mozilla’s Firefox. Consumers and content producers both win, as the WebM format provides a royalty-free way to deliver adequate web video and audio, once its own potential royalty issues are resolved. For you long-time Saturday Night Live devotees, he might as well have preceded his comments with “Jan, you ignorant slut.”

Google opens VP8 codec, aims to nuke H.264 with WebM, (6/2010) ars technica, by Peter Bright – Reviews the implications of Google open sourcing VP8. Concludes “WebM is set to rapidly become the most widely supported standard for Web video. Firefox and Chrome together command about 35 percent of the browser market, which gives them more share than all the current H.264-supporting browsers together. This certainly makes WebM a compelling option.But until Microsoft and Apple commit to not only allowing use of the new codec, but actually including it, the long battle over which standard to use for Web video won’t end soon.” Hard to disagree with the conclusion, but remember that browser playback support doesn’t equal actual usage. WebM has a long way to go before it comes close to H.264, VP6, or even WMV.

How Google’s Open Sourcing of VP8 Harms the Open Web, (5/21/2010) – Rob Glidden blog – Rob focuses on the open source aspects of the announcement – “Much of the initial commentary on Google’s open sourcing of the VP8 codec it acquired in purchasing On2 has breathlessly, and uncritically, centered on the purported game-changing impact of the move. But unfortunately, these commentaries miss an essential point that Google has studiously avoided mentioning the need to standardize royalty free codecs (not just release an open source snapshot).”

First Look: H.264 and VP8 Compared – (5/20/2010) – StreamingMedia.com, by Jan Ozer. One of the first reviews of VP8 quality – here’s the opening. “VP8 is now free, but if the quality is substandard, who cares? Well, it turns out that the quality isn’t substandard, so that’s not an issue, but neither is it twice the quality of H.264 at half the bandwidth. See for yourself, below.”

Google backs open codec against patent trolls – (5/20/2010) – The Register, Cade Metz – Cade details the patent issues surrounding VP8 and why Google is confident that VP8 won’t have patent issues. “Today, when The Reg asked if VP8 was vulnerable to patent attack, Google product manager Mike Jazayeri indicated this isn’t a big concern for the company. “We have done a pretty through analysis of VP8 and On2 Technologies prior to the acquisition and since then, and we are very confident with the technology and that’s why we’re open sourcing,” he said.” After reviewing the entire article, you may feel like Google is whistling past the patent graveyard.

Jobs drops hint on Google open video codec – (5/20/2010) – The Register, Cade Metz – Cade reported that when asked about VP8, Steve Jobs responded with the URL of the Jason Garrett-Glaser article just below this one. Metz continues “After obtaining early access to the VP8 spec and code, Garrett-Glaser says that VP8 is “better compression-wise” than Theora, but he also says that the codec is “not ready for primetime.” Among other things, he calls the spec “a mess,” and he says that as a decoder, VP8 “decodes even slower than” the H.264 decoder provided by the FFmpeg project.

The first in-depth technical analysis of VP8 – (5/19/2010) – Diary of An x264 Developer, Jason Garrett-Glaser – the best technical analyis of VP8 from a patent and utility perspective. Concludes: “VP8, as an encoder, is somewhere between Xvid and Microsoft’s VC-1 in terms of visual quality. This can definitely be improved a lot. VP8, as a decoder, decodes even slower than ffmpeg’s H.264. This probably can’t be improved that much; VP8 as a whole is similar in complexity to H.264. With regard to patents, VP8 copies too much from H.264 for comfort, no matter whose word is behind the claim of being patent-free. This doesn’t mean that it’s sure to be covered by patents, but until Google can give us evidence as to why it isn’t, I would be cautious.”

Google Open Sources VP8 Codec – (5/19/2010) – StreamingLearningCenter blog, focusing more on the patent issues. Concludes “Google paid over $120 million to acquire On2; they may have to spend quite a bit more to actually use the VP8 techology.”

Google planning to open the VP8 video codec (4/2010) – ars technica, Ryan Paul – Ryan Paul’s prediction proved prescient. “inside sources have confirmed that Google will be open-sourcing the VP8 codec next month at the Google I/O conference. Mozilla and Google will also reportedly announce plans to implement support for VP8 in their respective browsers at that time. The move could have profound ramifications on the viability of standards-based video playback and the future of rich media on the Internet.”

Google Closes On2 acquision – Better check your wallet – 2/23/2010 – StreamingLearningCenter – here’s the heart of it – “If Google donates VP8 to the open source community, it creates more problems than it solves. That’s because while the web may go with VP8, the other three screens that we all care about (cellular, living room, device) all use H.264. … For at least the forseeable future, all major web publishers will have to produce their videos in H.264. If Google donates VP8 to the cause, and HTML5 usage becomes prevalent, many web producers will have to produce in both formats, doubling the administration, storage space and processing requirements.”

Commentary: Pieces of (VP)8 (9/19/2008) – StreamingMedia.com, by Tim Siglin. Most experienced compressionists look at any VP8-related claim with a jaded eye. Here’s why – a quote from the article detailing VP8’s original launch.With On2 VP8, we set out to increase compression performance . . . while reducing playback complexity by 40%,” said Paul Wilkins, co-CTO at On2. “In the end we exceeded these goals and even back-ported some of what we learned to our On2 VP6 or Adobe Flash encoders.” Even today, VP8 comes nowhere close to meeting those goals.

Video Compression Format offers alternative to H.264 – ThomasNet News, reprint of original On2 VP8 Press Release (no longer available on On2’s site). Here’s another quote: “On2 VP8 Surpasses H.264, VC-1, Real Video in Quality and Performance. With the introduction of On2 VP8, On2 Video now dramatically surpasses the compression performance of all other commercially available formats. For example, leading H.264 implementations require as much as twice the data to deliver the same quality video as On2 VP8 (as measured in objective peak signal to noise ratio (PSNR) testing).” Hmmn. Like I keep telling my kids, be careful what you write on the Internet, because it lives somewhere forever.

About Jan Ozer

I help companies train new technical hires in streaming media-related positions; I also help companies optimize their codec selections and encoding stacks, and evaluate new encoders and codecs.

Check Also

Sourcebook 2021 Tutorials Focus Video and Course Production

Every year, the Streaming Media Sourcebook features tutorials to help streaming media professionals perform their …