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Commentary: What does Google want with On2?

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 06 Aug 2009 2:52 User comments (8)

Commentary: What does Google want with On2? When Google announced their plans to buy On2 Technologies there weren't a lot of people who knew immediately what they were buying. On2 is pretty well known among digital video enthusiasts, but not even a blip on the radar in the wider world.
If you don't already know who they are, On2 Technologies has been developing video software for more than a decade. Past products include the codec on which the open source OGG Theora is based.

On2 specializes in web and mobile phone video solutions, like the tools they make for Adobe Flash authoring.

Obviously Google already has a significant presence in the web video world just with their ownership of YouTube. With the introduction of their Chrome OS and Chrome Browser it's an obvious time for them to want more input into streaming video delivery.

Many tech analysts are suggesting this is a move primarily intended to reduce costs assocaited with YouTube. But their Chrome browser and netbook OS may explain it even better.

If they can successfully promote one or more of their codecs as an alternative to H.264 (MPEG-4 AVC) they could benefit greatly from having On2 developers available to help with browser integration.

If, as some have suggested, they also decide to release one or more On2 codec as open source it could become very popular very quickly.

As much as Google likes open source, On2's existing business model would seem to get in the way right now. On2 currently sells their technologies for products like Adobe Flash Player and Skype.

It might be reasonably easy to release just the TrueMotion VP7 and VP8 codecs as open source and leave the more common VP6 codec proprietary for now.

Making On2's codecs open source might sound like a strange idea since it would mean not collecting royalties they would otherwise be entitled to. Of course On2 hasn't been making all that much on royalties so it's not like they'd be slaughtering a real cash cow.

And it might provide a solution for the lack of a standard format for HTML 5's <video> tag. Rigt now disputes over royalties have gotten in the way of specifying standard codecs for HTML 5. A high quality open source video codec could arguably solve all the problems with adopting OGG Vorbis or H.264.

Of course that would still require the support of Apple, Microsoft, Opera Software, and Mozilla.

Buying On2 looks like an attempt by Google to establish a web video standard, both on the service side for sites like YouTube and on the client side for Google Chrome or even the Android mobile phone OS.

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8 user comments

16.8.2009 6:10

Well really.. I can understand most of this.. but adopting h.264 is a little stupid if they decide to go that way.. x.264 maybe as it's already open source (it is.. believe) and OGG/theora is about as close as you will get without their particular version being available (yes.. I have heard of this business).. it's very well documented and free for most uses... unlike that M$ thing h.264

Too many times good ideas are hampered by blinkered managment and techs sticking to what they think they know.. take mp3.. it's a crap format and locked down solid by patents held by people who didn't even invent it... Restriction all round.. yet there are open source codecs offering the same kinds of compression and the same end quality.. but for some reason manufacturers of devices would rather pay royalties to some shyster business than use one of the free open alternatives.. This I really don't understand.
Chipods are another case in point.. they use asf files instead of mp4 .. ok I hear you say, what's the big deal.. The majority of avi and mp4 (same thing really) codecs are established and well known .. most are at least free to use.. then you hit asf formats and immediately hit on the big problem.. proprietary secretive undocumented codecs.. m2s4.. M$ codec.. try finding out anything about how it works or how to make or decode it.. There are weays, but because of patent infringement problems (again) developers have to hide the functionality away in "undocumented" features.. ffmpeg will handle these type of codecs, it's just a matter of working out that it will by trial and error.

I really hope google do buy these hopeful codecs and formats.. they have been used for a long time in the non-M$ computer and media community (guess we have done 7-0% of the actual development and evolution of them for free.. and on2 have tried to take the profits.. which obviously doesn't work because we won't pay to buy our work back from nobody.... It's about time they were open sourced so we can all have a bite of this pie and break the apple/M$/thomson monopoly on media formats..

Closed source proprietary codecs are a bad thing.. they hinder progress and interoperability.. stifling developers and users alike. If google want to do ONE THING for the world they should buy up everything they can and open source it... Then in 30 years they will be remembered for something worthwhile instead of just being some bunch of shysters who harvest your data and sell it to the highest bidder.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 06 Aug 2009 @ 6:11

26.8.2009 7:06

You forgot the big one: DivX is still being sold! It is terribly outdated, and would be a forgotten codec only usefull for viewing old files that were encoded with it. However, it is still being bought for no reason other than the DivX sticker that goes on the front of the player.

From the developer's standpoint, this is a sad thing. To see your mind's child become stagnant and hated must be horrible.
From the owner's standpoint, it is wonderful. A small initial investment makes lots of money in return, over as long a period as possible with no regard for ramifications.
From the consumer standpoint, it is worse of all. They waist money on useless codecs built into their electronic devices, and suffer through lower quality video, yet cannot use these devices with quality codecs, as the DivX contracts prohibit the inclusion of more modern codecs.

Google wants to build a monopoly, and they are well on the way. They now have a web browser, operating system, search engine system, video service, map service, and a hundred other ventures that seem to exist just to gain market share. It won't be long before google is bribing the antitrust commitee members...or just ignoring their rulings like Microsoft does.

36.8.2009 7:55

Yup.. I'm waiting for that.. luckily nobody seems to want to trust their spyware browser.. and their OS will probably vanish down the same black hole... I think it's like the GOS linux rubbish that was put on that sadly failed little elonex netbook.. nice machine.. benefitted from puppy rather bthan their attempt at proprietary linux.. We have seen all this before.. linspire/winnux/lindows etc.. epic fail.

Anybody notice java has changed homes recently to No more not for java. Still waiting to see if sun being bought is a good thing or not. Opinions are mixed..

I commented back at some idiot in another topic who was whining about there being no free stuff any more.. I don't know where these winduhz apologists get their ideas.. I have 3,000+ applications installed on this machine.. all 100% legal, 100% free and 100% open source.

We need to be increasingly questioning these monopolies and the people who insist they are good for us. Since when has a monopoly ever been a good thing for anybody except the monopoly? We are heading towards globalcorp at a frightening pace.. and unfortunately globalcorp has the stink of American monopoly, greed and corruption all over it. I don't trust google.. that's why I want to see them do more.. a lot more.. towards opening things up so we can see what is going on. Being open source based and opening everything up didn't hurt sun.. whet hurt them was the targeting of business by M$ through school and university bribery and direct lobbying of governments to buy M$ software. I run solaris and it's a nice stable and above all secure unix platform.. well suited to huge networks. I can't hack it, yet it takes me 30 seconds to get into the local councils windoze server 2003 network and escalate myself an admin account... I use their "secure" machines in the library to do it too.... and all because they have stupid web filters in place.. I'm an adult.. I pay my tax.. I'm allowed to look at anything that is legal that I damn well choose thanks.. hahahaha

now where were we.. oh yes.. proprietary codecs and corruption.

46.8.2009 12:42

Stupid Q are not alot of the free codecs only free for the non profiting end user?

56.8.2009 14:38

Stupid Q are not alot of the free codecs only free for the non profiting end user?
Some formats, such as OGG/Theora are completely free.

But, some formats, such as MP3, MPEG-2, AC-3, AAC, are covered by patents. So a royalty is supposed to be paid, even if the program (the CODEC) is released as open source.

You can find "free" unlicensed CODECs for most formats, but the person distributing the CODEC is often taking a risk. In this case, it's not the programmer asking for a royalty, it's the patent holder.

People (and companies) have been sued for distributing free MP3 encoders. If you go to the official LAME website, you can download the source code, but not the compiled (working) program. The LAME website says it's "for educational purposes". And, it's why you have to download LAME separately from programs like EAC or Audacity. (The EAC & Audacity guys don't want to be sued!)

I've never heard of an individual user being sued.

If you pay the royalty (to Thomson), you can legally distribute the working LAME CODEC (lame_enc.dll). When you buy Winamp Pro, or dBpoweramp, a royalty is passed-along to Thomson.
This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 06 Aug 2009 @ 14:49

66.8.2009 15:27

Commentary: What does Google want with On2?


77.8.2009 1:02

Monopolies are always bad...but the government loves them because they are just like the government.

87.8.2009 9:55

Originally posted by KillerBug:
Monopolies are always bad...but the government loves them because they are just like the government.

But where would government get all of its money needs monopolies to help keep the sheep in line!!!111

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