LXer: Google opens VP8 codec, aims to nuke H.264 with WebM
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LXer: Google opens VP8 codec, aims to nuke H.264 with WebM
Published at LXer:
Ever since Google announced its purchase of video codec company On2 in August 2009, there's been an expectation that On2's VP8 codec would someday be open-sourced and promoted as a new, open option for HTML5 video. An open VP8 would offer comparable quality to H.264, but without the patent and royalty encumbrances that codec suffers. Last month, this speculation seemed confirmed, with inside sources claiming that Google would announce the open-sourcing of the VP8 codec this month at the company's I/O conference.
The spec consists largely of C code copy-pasted from the VP8 source code — up to and including TODOs, “optimizations”, and even C-specific hacks, such as workarounds for the undefined behavior of signed right shift on negative numbers. In many places it is simply outright opaque. Copy-pasted C code is not a spec. I may have complained about the H.264 spec being overly verbose, but at least it’s precise. The VP8 spec, by comparison, is imprecise, unclear, and overly short, leaving many portions of the format very vaguely explained. Some parts even explicitly refuse to fully explain a particular feature, pointing to highly-optimized, nigh-impossible-to-understand reference code for an explanation. There’s no way in hell anyone could write a decoder solely with this spec alone.
Addendum C: Summary for the lazy
VP8, as a spec, should be a bit better than H.264 Baseline Profile and VC-1. It’s not even close to competitive with H.264 Main or High Profile. If Google is willing to revise the spec, this can probably be improved.
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, but not via conventional means.
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 way too much from H.264 for anyone sane to be comfortable with it, 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.
I think it may take a while before it is deciphered enough to be able to evolve. Also, the patent issue is not as certain as many make it seem. Like I have said before: You can never prove for certain that it is patent-free.
I wonder what kind of coders did On2 higher when they worked on VP8? I never thought the code for VP8 would be so poorly documented, and even worse be written in rather such an uncouth and inefficient matter; and people 'claim' that OSS code is hard to read?
Looks like the engineers at Google should have taken some more time in cleaning up/documenting the code before releasing it. Put it back in the oven, it ain't ready yet.
Actually, maybe it is a good thing they're releasing the code if it is in such bad shape. There certainly is a TON of interest in a non-h.264 solution here, so this could end up being a good testimony to the strength of FOSS. Or it could turn into a bloody disaster.
However, Google has a reasonable financial interest in VP8 being a success, so I'm hoping they toss a few programmers at the thing.
Indeed, Larry Horn, CEO of MPEG LA, the consortium that controls the AVC/H.264 video standard, tells me that the group is already looking at creating a patent pool license for VP8.
For what it’s worth, Google seems to believe that it has done its due diligence here and has the necessary patent clearance for VP8. Said Google product manager Mike Jazayeri: “We have done a pretty thorough analysis of VP8 and On2 Technologies (VP8’s developer) prior to the acquisition and since then, and we are very confident with the technology and that’s why we’re open sourcing.”
It will be very interesting to see the outcome, because if the patent fails to stand up in court, maybe H.264 won't stand up either.
I'm betting on a big lawsuit. MPEG LA isn't going to quietly sit there and watch Google obliterate their business. If Jobs comments about VP8 are any indication of how MPEG LA is thinking, then they definitely believe their patents are being infringed. Personally, I buy Google's line that they did the needed due diligence and are OK. As far as I know, On2 didn't have anything besides their video technology, so it wasn't like this was some weird side issue in the purchase.
It will be very interesting to see the outcome, because if the patent fails to stand up in court, maybe H.264 won't stand up either
Actually, if VP8 is cleared in court it probably won't matter if h.264 patents stand up or not. Things will migrate to VP8 simply to avoid the licensing cost associated with h.264. And if Google moves YouTube to VP8, you can kiss h.264 goodbye.
But you are right, it will be interesting. I wonder if Groklaw will set up a site for this one? From a web standpoint this is every bit as important as the SCO nonsense because if the h.264 patents are found to cover VP8, open codecs are probably dead.