Google Urged To Support Open Video Formats

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Search giant Google should use YouTube and its purchase of On2 to promote open video formats, according to free software campaigners

Free software campaigners have called on Google to use its purchase of video specialist On2 to break the hold of propreitary video formats such as Flash.

In an open letter published late last week, the Free Software Foundation said the search giant should release On2’s high performance video format – VP8 – under a royalty-free license and distribute it via YouTube. This would end the dependence on proprietary formats and software such ad Adobe’s Flash.

“You have the leverage to make such free formats a global standard,” the letter states. “YouTube is the world’s largest video site, home to nearly every digital video ever made. If YouTube merely offered a free format as an option, that alone would bring support from a slew of device makers and applications.”

Google agreed to buy video compression software maker On2 Technologies for $106.5 million (£90m) in stock on 5 August 2009. Speaking at the time, TechCrunch’s Robin Wauters said Google could open source On2’s VP7 and VP8 video compression codecs as alternatives to the H.264 codecs. This would make sense, given Google’s consistent approach in releasing technologies, such as its Android mobile operating system and Chrome web browser, as open-source software.

FSF also stated in the letter that Google could build on Apple’s decision to not support Flash as a way promote more video formats. “Apple has had the mettle to ditch Flash on the iPhone and the iPad – albeit for suspect reasons and using abhorrent methods (DRM) – and this has pushed web developers to make Flash-free alternatives of their pages. You could do the same with YouTube, for better reasons, and it would be a death-blow to Flash’s dominance in web video,” the letter states.

Last week, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs was reported to have had a meeting with the Wall Street Journal in which he apparently dismissed Flash as buggy, a “CPU hog,” an entry way for security issues and a technology that has seen its day.

However, in a 10 February report note, Jeffries & Co. analyst Ross MacMillian wrote that Flash has nothing to fear from Apple. “Apple’s exclusion of Flash from the iPhone/iPad and Google’s YouTube beta that uses an HTML5 video tag are recent events that have caused investors to raise concern over the future of Flash (which is today’s leading Internet rich media/video container),” MacMillan wrote in the research note. “We think Flash will remain a leading (but not the only) rich media platform, and, more importantly, this has almost zero bearing on numbers over the next 18 months.”


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