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21 January 2011, 20:34

Google submits documentation for VP8 video codec to the IETF

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Shortly before announcing its decision to remove H.264 support for HTML5 video from Chrome, Google's codec developers submitted an Internet Draft (I-D) of its VP8 Data Format and Decoding Guide to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) with a request for comments. The document provides a detailed description of the bitstream format and the decoding mechanism used for the VP8 video codec, developed by On2 Technologies. Google took over the codec-lab just under a year ago and released the codec under an open source license as part of its Web Open Media Project (WebM) shortly thereafter.

As much as Google's decision was welcomed, the company remains under fire from some quarters for having too strong a hand on the codec's tiller. Although the algorithm is (now) available under a genuine open source license, Google has not taken the trouble to have the format registered as a standard. To date the only specification has been the source code.

By releasing the VP8 Data Format and Decoding Guide, Google is now providing a written specification, though it notes that the source code remains definitive. Where the source code differs from the IETF document, which is published as a request for comments (RFC), the code has precedence.

Anyone hoping that this is the first step towards standardising the video algorithm is likely to be disappointed. Google explicitly points out that publication of the IETF document is not part of a standardisation process. Google's motivation is more about creating recognised documentation for the codec and making it available to a wider audience of programmers.


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