Oh. Oh my. After a decade of the MPEG LA saying they were coming to destroy the FOSS codec movement, with none other than the late Steve Jobs himself chiming in, today the Licensing Authority announced what we already knew.
They got nothing. There will be no Theora patent pool. There will be no VP8 patent pool. There will be no VPnext patent pool.
We knew that of course, we always did. It's just that I never, in a million years, expected them to put it in writing and walk away. The wording suggests Google paid some money to grease this along, and the agreement wording is interesting [and instructive] but make no mistake: Google won. Full stop.
This is not an unconditional win for FOSS, of course, the LA narrowed the scope of the agreement as much as they could in return for agreeing to stop being a pissy, anti-competetive brat. But this is still huge. We can work with this.
For at least the immediate future, I shall have to think some uncharacteristically nice things about the MPEG LA.*
And now... Discuss!
*Apologies to Rep. Barney Frank
The title is mostly due to having seen three or four other blog posts simultaneously making this joke. It had popped into my mind too :-)
In case folks hadn't seen yet, Google (as everyone had expected with bated breath) announced the open sourcing of VP8 today as part of the WebM project. WebM combines a Vorbis audio stream and a VP8 video stream into a Matroska container for use in web video. Then there are a whole lot of other tiny project details like garnering industry support.
Yes, we've actually known for a little while this would be happening. Google is moving quite fast after having their On2 purchase plans delayed several months. We'll have a press release up soon expressing support in drier language, though it's mostly an exercise in formality since everyone already knows our position.
Now that I'm actually allowed to talk about it, the important bits to take away are:
Of *course* we (Xiph) support WebM. This is great news for open source, open media, and our own plans at Xiph count on WebM succeeding. How good the WebM news turns out to be depends on what we make it.
Vorbis is part of WebM and will probably see a new uptick in active development. WebM doesn't immediately affect Theora (development of Theora continues along with VP8), but that's vaguely irrelevant. The good of unencumbered media is the point, not Theora or Vorbis or Ogg or any specific piece of software. We're after a fundamental change to the business and social environment. Software and software advocacy happens to be the tool Xiph uses to effect change.
Open media is obviously philosophically 'clean' and good for the public and good for social transparency. It's even better for business. Business makes good money on the Web using Open technologies. In fact, these are the only technologies that have seen sustained success online. We fully expect that pattern to hold.
Xiph has been locked in a political battle with a large monopoly power for years now, and a political fight is not what Xiph.Org is good at or built for. We're built to research and develop media software. This announcement gives us breathing room to get back our primary long term goal: leapfrogging the proprietary competition. We don't want to be as good, we always want to be better.
...so there's some officialness for you all :-)
P.S. I put the Xiph logo first because it's my blog and all.