Google open-sources VP8 & choses Matroska

Today Google announced something that’s great on many levels: for the OpenSource community in general, for Matroska in particular, even for every internet user. First they’re open-sourcing the VP8 video codec they’ve acquired recently as part of the WebM project. VP8 is said to achieve similar encoding efficiency as the AVC/h.264 video codec while keeping quality on a comparable level. Not only are they open-sourcing it, they’re also making sure that you can use it any way you want without ever having to pay royalties or acquire licenses. It’s free in each and every sense of the word.

Second they’ve chosen Matroska format as the basis for the WebM file format as the native container for VP8 video tracks. WebM files are nothing but a stricter version of the Matroska container with fewer features and a fixed set of codecs — VP8 as the video codec and the well-known OpenSource audio codec Vorbis. Google and On2, creators of VP8, have worked behind the scenes with the Matroska developers (myself included) in order to create a specification that is easy to implement for everyone. The goal is to create a free standard for movie content that’s as easy to use for end-users as JPEGs or PNGs are when it comes to pictures. That’s where the limitations come from.

What’s even better is that Google has worked with the teams behind the web browsers Chrome/Chromium, Firefox and Opera. All three teams stand firmly behind the new format and have already integrated playback capabilities into preview versions of their respective browsers. As for content Google has started streaming Web Media files on YouTube with its HTML5 interface.

In a future post I’ll dive deeper into the technical differences between Matroska and WebM files. Suffice to say for now that they’re so few that adjusting existing playback software so that they can play Web Media files is done in a few hours tops. I’ve already created a build of MKVToolNix that supports Web Media files — both as input files and as output files (source code only for now for Linux/Mac/BSD users). If you want to create a Web Media file either add the command line parameter “--webm” anywhere or simply use “.webm” as the file name’s extension of your output file.

9 thoughts on “Google open-sources VP8 & choses Matroska

  1. Eraser

    They’re going to continue these relationships after the announcement of the new format? Will the development of Matroska and WebM related?
    I am afraid that Matroska can break into a hundred different versions, with low mutual compatibility.

    1. mosu Post author

      They sure will continue the relationship. For example, they’re open to other audio codecs. One use case would be lossless compression, e.g. with FLAC as the codec.

      Communication will most likely be centered at the WebM project itself — its mailing list etc.

      I’m not particularly afraid of ending up with a multitude of different Matroska specs. Matroska is over seven years old, and until now there hasn’t been a single fork. Now there’s WebM, and that one was created conjointly. Also Matroska itself is very, very open to what you can store in it, and we’re willing to expand the Matroska spec for new use cases if the need arises.

      1. Eraser

        Okay, I like the idea, but would like to see a clearer link between the parent and fork. For example, if a standard extension for WebM files would be “.mkw”, this would be nice.
        Your hard work on this container deserves more than a brief mention on the page of a new project.

  2. Felipe LIma

    I pray for the day which lossless will come part of game.

    Well, until that don’t occurs, kick some apple and MS intentions make the things more dolce to hold on.

    More than good job, well done, congratulations.

    1. mosu Post author

      The 3.4.0 does not yet support it, but support has been introduced in my Git repository with revisions leading up to 28926d5e from May 27. The upcoming release will contain that support, and my pre-builds for Windows contain that support since build 255.

  3. FS

    I would also find it better if VP8 uses the .mkv extension since it is nearly the same. But anyway I like the MKV Container and I am happy to see it is spreading more and more.

  4. Puja

    How do I get VP8 file from a container file (.webM)? I’m looking for only video stream of vp8. Pls suggest me any extractor so that I’ll be able to extract VP8 files.

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