Google forms patent licensing initiative for WebMBy Emil Protalinski
Google has moved to encourage adoption of its WebM video format by announcing the WebM Community Cross-License (CCL) initiative. The coalition members have all agreed to license any patents that are essential to WebM to other CCL participants.
The CCL initiative has 17 founding members: AMD, Cisco Systems, Google, HiSilicon Technologies (for itself and its parent, Huawei), LG Electronics, Logitech, Matroska, MIPS Technologies, Mozilla Corporation, Opera Software, Pantech, Quanta Computer, Samsung Electronics, STMicroelectronics (for itself and its 50/50 joint venture, ST-Ericsson), Texas Instruments, Verisilicon Holdings, and Xiph.org Foundation. It's worth noting that a few big names are missing, including Apple, Intel, Microsoft, Philips, and Sony.
WebM was initially released on May 19, 2010. Three months ago, Google announced that it would be dropping support for H.264 in Chrome and would only support WebM going forward. Days later, the search giant promised to offer WebM plug-ins for Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 and Apple's Safari and has since released a WebM plug-in for IE9 but not yet for Safari. The company has even started converting YouTube videos to WebM.
Microsoft and Apple are betting on H.264 since it is much more widely adopted and because it has many hardware decoders, which allows mobile devices to get long battery life and smooth performance for video playback. Google developed WebM as an alternative, and it has managed to get Mozilla and Opera on board because the platform is more open and is free. Microsoft has said that IE9 would only support H.264, but that it would make an exception for WebM, as long as the user installs the corresponding plug-in. Apple has so far stayed silent and is sticking solely with H.264.
Google continues to insist that H.264 is "patent encumbered," even though the terms of licensing the video compression standard are well-defined. The search giant is hoping the CCL will encourage more developers to adopt the technology and is also aiming to deflect a legal attack from MPEG LA, the organization that licenses H.264 technology. MPEG LA is looking to create a patent pool surrounding WebM and VP8, the core technology underneath WebM, which could scare off companies wary of adopting WebM for fear of being sued for patent infringement.