YouTube Now Saves All Videos in WebM

Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb has excellent news in the struggle for open standards based video on the web. Google will now save all videos uploaded to its YouTube sharing services in WebM, the format it released as open source and unencumbered by patent royalties last year.

YouTube is announcing this afternoon that all videos uploaded to the site are now saved in WebM format, as well as other supported formats including Adobe Flash. 30% of the YouTube archives, making up 99% of the views, is now available in WebM as well and the full archives are being put in the new format as we speak.

Kirkpatrick also explains how the format has been progressing to address some of the technical criticisms around its quality and performance. It should only be a matter of time before both Chrome and Firefox pick up these changes as both now support rolling release models rather than infequent, monolithic updates.

I am glad to see Google shift direction after its initial reluctance to use the open codec as the default for YouTube. Such deep support from one of, if not the most, popular video sites on the web may prove a watershed in the adoption of WebM as a de facto standard for online video. I don’t expect the MPEG-LA to take this lightly.

YouTube Now Saves All Videos in Open Format WebM, ReadWriteWeb

Google Reveals Plan to Only Support Open Video Formats in Chrome

Mike Melanson at ReadWriteWeb, among others, has this latest development with regard to video standards on the web. With the adoption of the video tag into HTML5 minus a default codec, the question has largely been left to browser makers to decide via their share of users. Apple has of course been backing H.264 in which it has considerable stakes invested. Mozilla has maintained a commitment to open and unencumbered standards, supporting Ogg Theora and then WebM, the format and codec that Google freed, but not H.264.

Up until now, Google had been playing Switzerland supporting both open and proprietary codecs in Chrome. Melanson quotes a Google blog post explaining their change of heart to focus exclusively on open formats and codecs.

We expect even more rapid innovation in the web media platform in the coming year and are focusing our investments in those technologies that are developed and licensed based on open web principles. To that end, we are changing Chrome’s HTML5 <video> support to make it consistent with the codecs already supported by the open Chromium project. Specifically, we are supporting the WebM (VP8) and Theora video codecs, and will consider adding support for other high-quality open codecs in the future. Though H.264 plays an important role in video, as our goal is to enable open innovation, support for the codec will be removed and our resources directed towards completely open codec technologies.

The blog post also credits the openness of WebM for its rapid improvement and adoption since its first availability. That may be a relatively fair assessment but Google’s backing no doubt had a lot to do with it, too. By comparison Ogg Theora has developed at a slower pace with much shallower adoption. I think the unencumbered nature of WebM makes it attractive to partners who otherwise might feel they are giving up too much control to Google while the backing of the search giant attracts those more interest in support and maybe a hope of indemnity if anyone ever makes good on submarine patent claims. It is nice they are crediting the open nature of the technology but it isn’t the whole picture.

More staunch critics of Google’s motives are already pointing to continuing support for Flash, asking why the commitment to open technologies doesn’t extend to dropping Adobe’s plugin. I am simply happy that Google is acting to shift the balance in one instance even if other questions are unanswered. It will be a few months before this change percolates from Chromium, the open source branch, into the more consumer facing Chrome anyway. We’ll need more time beyond that to see if the move to drop H.264 support has any noticeable effect on video producers and sites for distribution. *cough* YouTube *cough*

Google Says It’s Open or Not At All for Video on Chrome, ReadWriteWeb

Following Up for the Week Ending 10/31/2010

Mozilla Experiments with Recording from the Browser

The fine folks at Mozilla Labs announced a pre-alpha add on for Firefox that enables recording audio and video directly from the browser.

We’ve experimented with audio recording in the browser as part of the Jetpack prototype earlier, and want to revisit the idea. There have been great strides on video playback recently, but there’s still some work to be done before users can create multimedia content for the web, on the web.

There are ways to do this already but they all require proprietary technologies like Flash and Java. What the Rainbow extension could do as it matures is suggest ways that creating media become standard features in the browser. I really like that idea, of a browser directly supporting the creation of peer media creation, not just access and sharing.

The add on only works with the Mac version of the current nightly build series. The developers are working hard to expand support to Windows, Linux and 64-bit systems. Currently Rainbow encodes Vorbis and Theora using the Ogg container though future plans include adding support for WebM/VP-8 as well as streaming.

Cloud, meet Rainbow, Mozilla Labs (via Slashdot)

feeds | grep links > TV Interview with Captain Crunch, New Report on Circumvention Tools, IP4 Addresses Running Out, and More

Help Support Free Video Formats

I saw via Groklaw’s news picks a plea for help over at the FSF. What they are looking for is the kind of advocacy and education work I actually rather enjoy. Rather than just declaiming creators should use free video formats, like WebM and Ogg Theora, they want help in answering specific questions that arise from the actual people trying to do so.

Logistically, it involves being subscribed to our low-traffic GNU audio-video team mailing list (audio-video@gnu.org) and responding to the questions and problem reports sent to the list by people making the videos. In the remaining time, you could assist with the written documentation we are working on to help guide people through the video production process.

My own experience falls much more on the audio side but I may sign up anyway. Often the simplest questions go unanswered causing a potential adopter of free and open technology to give up, permanently writing it off as a waste. I see mailing list archive after forum littered with these kinds of questions that would take the bare minimum effort to answer.

If you have deeper experience with any part of video production using free software and encoding into unencumbered formats, consider signing up as well. Having been both a provider and recipient of these kinds of answers, I cannot impress on you enough how far a little bit of help really goes.

Interested in free video formats? We need your help! FSF

Following Up for the Week Ending 9/5/2010

feeds | grep links > Why Privacy Isn’t Dead, H.264 Royalty Waiver Extended Again, and More

  • Why privacy is not dead
    Many of the people I follow online re-posted the link to this brief article by danah boyd on Technology Review about how our implementation of privacy in networked systems needs to evolve. Much of what she says resonates with what I was trying to say in my podcast rant about complex privacy and privacy controls. Hopefully more people will pay attention to a researcher whose focus is in this area than did to my muddled rantings. If you struggled to understand what I was trying to communicate in my own rant, please read this post by boyd.
  • A new coalition forms to offer self-service private cloud
  • MPEG-LA extends royalty fee period for H.264
    The H was one of several sites to have this news. Its still a little unclear exactly when the new waiver period ends, what exactly “end of the license period” means in practical terms. Regardless, this is only for players, not for encoders. By comparison, Google’s patent grants for WebM make both ends of video, production and consumption, free as in beer and liberty. There is also nothing stopping the MPEG-LA from changing terms on new licenses, even if existing licenses are still in some royalty-free grace period. Chris Foresman at Ars Technica clarifies that the waiver of royalties only covers free internet streaming, excluding for-pay video and other uses.
  • Police extend detention of e-voting critic

WebM Powered Semantic Video Demo

From the WebM project blog[1], a link to a JavaScript and WebM powered demo on what is possible with open video when it also carries rich metadata. It is actually just a taste of a larger project, Web Made Movies[2], looking to really push what is possible with open video and the latest generation of web technologies. The JavaScript library, Popcorn.js[3], that made it possible is downloadable though I cannot find an explicit license to figure out what obligations, if any, you incur by forking (as the github page openly invites everyone to do) and making changes.

I had to reload the demo once or twice to get the features to work, once they did, wow. It is a little overwhelming but an effective demo. I used the latest beta of Firefox 4.

The video in question is well worth watching in its own right. It and Web Made Videos a project made under the auspices of Mozilla’s Drumbeat initiative. Drumbeat specifically aims to pull in all kinds of people, not just techies, to build on and highlight what is possible with the open standards of the web. The film maker responsible for the demo page is Brett Gaylor, one of my favorites for his “RIP: A Remix Manifesto” documentary.


1. WebM Semantic Video Demo, WebM project blog
2. Web Made Movies
3. Mozilla’s Popcorn.js, Github

feeds | grep links > Mobile Cloud, Name Changes and Reputation, Joke Patents at Sun, and More

  • Building a cloud out of smart phones
    Advancing beyond theory, a group of international researchers have cobbled together a proof of concept out of a dozen or so cell phones and a dedicated router. As Technology Review explains, this mobile phone based cloud is capable of driving one fairly typical distributed algorithm, map/reduce. I have to agree with the article that the rational for this, beyond the obvious clever hack value, is a bit lacking, even the possibility of moving computing back towards data, potentially cutting down on message passing. If there is a killer use for the idea, I’m sure someone will find it.
  • danah boyd criticizes Schmidt’s name change idea
    She makes good points on both deflating the implied ease of changing your name and on how reputation is likely to persist through a simple discontinuity such as tweaking the label on all your personal data online. She acknowledges that it is hard to make predictions about how reputation will evolve in practice and how much we may be able to affect it. Mostly she questions what it isn’t we don’t know about Schmidt’s recently expressed opinions both here and on the end of privacy. I like that she gives him the benefit of the doubt, suggesting there might be some puzzle piece we don’t have that could complete a rational synthesis of his opinions.
  • Sun engineers held a contest for goofiest patents
  • Vimeo releases new embeddable HTML5 player
  • Pirate Party strikes hosting deal with Wikileaks
  • All electrical data storage could deliver eight fold improvement in density