In some technology circles, you’d think Google was proposing throwing cats into a wood-chipper from the way some people are reacting to Google’s announcement that it was focusing its support on its own open VP8/WebM and Theora video codecs, and dropping support for H.264. This is not a step back for openness; any kind of new road-block for HTML5; nor is it going to ruin the Chrome browser. It’s just another chapter in the Web’s video standard wars.
Let’s start from the top: How can Google’s move be a step back for openness when both WebM and Theora are the only video codecs that actually are open source? H.264 while extremely popular is a proprietary format and its encumbered by patents held by MPEG LA, a patent holding company. Historically, MPEG LA hasn’t charged much for the use of H.264, but who’s to say that MPEG LA is always going to stay that generous?
Ed Bott thinks that Google may be moving into possible patent troubles by relying VP8/WebM. He’s right. Of course, they are. Welcome to technology post Bilski.
Today, as the patent lawsuit madness surrounding smartphones shows, technology innovation is starting to take a backseat to patent litigation. Even the open-source favorite Theora isn’t completely clear of patent issues.