Oct 31, 2013

Why did Cisco suddenly open-source H.264 codec, and what will the impact be for real time video?

Cisco just announced that they are making H.264 open source and free for developers to implement. Will this likely have a positive or negative impact of implementation of WebRTC?

Cisco: We'll open-source our H.264 video code AND foot licensing bill

"his situation has been a stumbling block for WebRTC, the Worldwide Web Consortium's new standard for two-way real-time audio and video communications, because obviously getting two browsers to talk to each other requires them both to speak the same language.

According to Mozilla Foundation CTO Brendan Eich, Cisco's move should soon make it possible for any application to decode H.264 video without worrying about licensing implications and without paying any additional royalties to MPEG LA.

"We are grateful for Cisco's contribution, and we will add support for Cisco's OpenH264 binary modules to Firefox soon," Eich wrote on Wednesday. "These modules will be usable by downstream distributions of Firefox, as well as by any other project. In addition, we will work with Cisco to put the OpenH264 project on a sound footing and to ensure that it is governed well."
This helps Cisco control development of the WebRTC standard, and pretty much makes it impossible for Google to ditch H.264 in Chrome. It should help make development of WebRTC, in which Cisco is heavily invested, more predictable and “Cisco friendly”. In one fell swoop, Cisco has pretty much guaranteed that H.264 will continue to be widely used for many years. It may be somewhat self serving, but in this case I think it is a win for everyone. There is a pretty good write up on GigaOM about this.

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