From the 1st June, we will offer a new encoding format to our users: WebM
What is WebM?
WebM is an open, royalty-free, media file format designed for the web.
WebM defines the file container structure, video and audio formats. WebM files consist of video streams compressed with the VP8 video codec and audio streams compressed with the Vorbis audio codec. The WebM file structure is based on the Matroska container.
Benefits of WebM
Openness and innovation. A key factor in the web’s success is that its core technologies such as HTML, HTTP, and TCP/IP are open for anyone to implement and improve. With video being core to the web experience, a high-quality, open video format choice is needed. WebM is 100% free, and open-sourced under a BSD-style license.
Optimized for the web. Serving video on the web is different from traditional broadcast and offline mediums. Existing video formats were designed to serve the needs of these mediums and do it very well. WebM is focused on addressing the unique needs of serving video on the web.
- Low computational footprint to enable playback on any device, including low-power netbooks, handhelds, tablets, etc.*
- Simple container format
- Highest quality real-time video delivery
- Click and encode. Minimal codec profiles, sub-options; when possible, let the encoder make the tough choices.
Is WebM an open standard?
- WebM is a technology with a specification, not a standard. However, Google has granted anyone the right to use it, and makes no claims about patents to restrict its royalty-free use. This means that WebM is actually a good candidate for being turned into a proper open web standard.
- H.264 is a patent-encumbered and therefore “closed” standard. It is incompatible with the W3C patent policy for an open web. Therefore, promoting H.264 as the primary format for HTML5 video is the opposite of promoting openness.
- On the other hand, WebM is very much in the spirit of the W3C patent policy. Google grants anyone royalty-free access to the technology. Since WebM is open, it promotes an open web.
Will WebM replace H.264 as the primary video format?
The answer will depend on the industry to pick up on WebM as a standard for all devices. This diffusion will not depend on licensing issue only.
The elements of diffusion for such new technology are derived from Everett M. Rogers Diffusion of innovations theory using a communications-type approach. Rogers proposes that there are five main attributes of innovative technologies which influence acceptance. These are relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability.
- Relative advantage may be economic or non-economic, and is the degree to which an innovation is seen as superior to prior innovations fulfilling the same needs. It is positively related to acceptance (i.e., the higher the relative advantage, the higher the adoption level, and vice versa). In this case WebM does not offer relative advantage to H.264 but for economical reason (licensing issue for publishers)
- Compatibility is the degree to which an innovation appears consistent with existing values, past experiences, habits and needs to the potential adopter; a low level of compatibility will slow acceptance. WebM does offer a high compatibility level, this level will be ever higher if html5 becomes accepted as the industry standard for new applications on all devices.
- Complexity is the degree to which an innovation appears difficult to understand and use; the more complex an innovation, the slower its acceptance. WebM does not offer an higher degree of complexity as H.264. The complexity is getting minor due to the support from the WebM project (Google as the main operator).
- Trialability is the perceived degree to which an innovation may be tried on a limited basis, and is positively related to acceptance. Trialability can accelerate acceptance because small-scale testing reduces risk. Same remark as above
- Observability is the perceived degree to which results of innovating are visible to others and is positively related to acceptance. Same remark as above
In conclusion the acceptance of WebM as an industry standard for video will be linked to HTML5 as the new industry standard for creating application on any device. At the moment the main issue for any company trying to have a space on any devices is the cost of development for porting their brand or services to these devices. As a company you will need to develop an iPhone, Android, web or even TV apps. Furthermore you will need to follow on the device OS changes to make sure that your application is still compatible.
This is similar to the first step of the web in the later 90′s and early 00′s when development was made on browsers with very few compatibilities. The issue was resolved partially by having industry standard applying to HTML and client side script. The same will happen to the current situation by either creating a common platform for application development and/or by having common standard for developing these applications. HTML5 is a good candidate for such standard, as WebM for videos.
What’s next from Preview Networks?
As explained above, WebM as a technology is strongly related to HTML5 technology. That is we are currently developing two new applications using this technology.
The first application is a full HTML5 player. This player should be able to play in any devices, using the right player technology based on the device. By default this player will always select Flash if possible. This behavior can be modified by using a parameter to always used html5 as the default player technology.
The next application will be our new CMS. This CMS will allow any end of user to create and publish short preview video (less than 5 mns) to our network. This video will not have to be movies or DVD related.
Furthermore the new CMS is developed as a modular application. As an example our encoding service is becoming a service used by our CMS. This means that any clients applications could use this encoding as a standalone service. A new strategy to consider.
About Preview Networks
Preview Networks is Europe’s largest preview distribution network. We serve websites, social networks, mobile apps and internet TV. Our content is available on MSN, MTV, Brightcove, IMDB, iTunes, The Times, MySpace, The Guardian, El Pais, El Mundo, Le Monde and more than 2,300 other online media. We work with more than 300 entertainment companies including Sony, Fox, Disney, Warner, Universal, and Paramount. Learn more on previewnetworks.com
* Note: The initial developer preview releases of browsers supporting WebM are not yet fully optimized and therefore have a higher computational footprint for screen rendering than we expect for the general releases. The computational efficiencies of WebM are more accurately measured today using the development tools in the VP8 SDKs. Optimizations of the browser implementations are forthcoming.
For more information about WebM, see the FAQ.