Despite Google patent efforts, VP8 no shoo-in for Web video

Justin Uberti, a WebRTC leader and VP8 advocate at Google, speaking at Google IO 2012.

(Credit: screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

A Google patent-licensing deal two weeks ago dramatically improved the fortunes of its VP8 video technology, but Nokia has added a barricade to what has already been an arduous road to adoption.

VP8 is a codec — technology to encode and decode video or audio data for compact storage and efficient network streaming. Despite passionate debates about VP8 vs. the incumbent codec, H.264, most people need never care about video codecs.

But as video becomes ever more deeply embedded in the Net — TV entertainment, chatting with friends, videoconferences for business, online schooling for children — the video codec issue becomes ever more important. At stake in the current debate is whether H.264 and its big-business licensing terms will prevail, or whether there also is room for an open-source, free-to-use alternative that could give an edge to cash-strapped startups, schools, and self-publishers.

Spreading VP8 Google and allies including Mozilla want to build VP8 into the workings of the Net as a royalty-free technology. The current focus for the debate is WebRTC, a technology for Web-based chat that members of the Internet Engineering Task Force are standardizing.

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