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19 April 2010

Google Focusing on Online Video Future

OggTheora-200x133As you should remember, Goggle has purchased On2, the video codec company, not so long ago. This made many open source proponents hope that Google is going to release On2’s technology to the public as patent-free and open source. That was determined by the fact that On2 had earlier donated the code from another codec to Ogg Theora, which is a video open source project, and possibly could do that again.
Another thing is that On2 purchase was made exactly in time of the discussion of switching from Flash to HTML5 in the web. There are many proponents of free online standards which would be happy to see web video being delivered via the simple <video> element in HTML5. As Google owns YouTube, everything it does regarding video is going important to the public, and such a move could make video distribution online absolutely free, as opposed to Adobe’s Flash, for example. There is an alternative presented by H.264, which is now becoming an open source standard, but it won’t be free forever, because MPEG-LA promised to keep it royalty free only till 2015.

                 So when Google leaked its decision to launch VP8 free of charge and YouTube made more moves to HTML5, it looked quite like a revolution in digital video. However, the reason for it remains unclear – why would Google go to such costs and effort to change the present situation with online video? H.264 is now a good choice for many, and YouTube has seemed happy with Flash even in its earlier days. Probably, the real incentive for the search giant’s HTML5 and VP8 is simply about advertising. That’s not a surprise for those who understand where Google earns its revenue. By stealing the control over video delivery from H.264 and Flash, Google would be able to reinforce its own role in video ads on YouTube, and therefore hinder Microsoft to interfere with IE and Silverlight (or whatever Apple was planning when built video advertising upon Safari). When Mozilla decided to choose H.264 support, Microsoft and Apple have got an opportunity to push their browsers and probably advertising schemes on compelling video material. So when Google will do the same, switching YouTube to VP8/HTML5, the other browsers will give it a commanding position.
             It turns out that decisions on browser plug-ins and codecs can have a great affect on the very shape of the web. Google, having already spent millions of dollars on this front, should clearly understand the importance of video strategy.