What is the H.264 video codec?

You already know H.264. It is a video codec used in YouTube videos, Blu-ray and lots of other videos with very good quality / compression ratio.

But did you know that such standard created by the MPEG group is not free? Yes, H.264 usages aren't free, as it is a patented software algorithm.

So H.264 has changed from being a great video codec to being one of the obstacles which make difficult having a good, common open source video standard as part of the HTML 5 standard, so that it could be used throughout all web browsers free of additional charge.

The On2 codec alternative

More than 5 years ago, Flash video achieved an extremely good quality / compression ratio using a new proprietary video codec called Sorenson Spark. Thanks to it, some small videos started appearing on our web pages.

But the days of glory of Sorenson quickly ended when the On2 codec (specially, its On2Vp6 version) was released. This is the video codec that has been used on most Flash videos that you can see out there. The amazing part is that On2 allows nearly full screen high quality videos that load in nearly real time using just an average ADSL connection.

Google could make On2 free and open source

The interesting part is that On2 was purchased by Google. And Google owns YouTube, the biggest video site in the world. So Google has a golden chance of making the last version of the On2 codec (On2Vp8) an open source codec. And it could start using it through all its YouTube videos, making it a de facto standard in a blink.

If Google did such open source effort, it would be removing the need to use proprietary technologies from the web video landscape (Flash Player still contains some proprietary pieces of code, and remember that the H.264 codec is not free as it is patented till 2028). That would really lead to a new open video standard. And that would be progress.