I’ve been hearing it ever since last August:
Google owns On2. They are going to open source all of On2′s codecs.
Well, no. Google does not own On2. They made a bid for the company last August, sweetened the offer somewhere along the line, and saw the offer accepted 2 days ago. From all of my reading, the deal is still not closed (though many reports are optimistic that today is the big day; and what do you know? As I was proofreading this entry, today turned out to be that big day.).
Whatever. Google is going to own On2 soon and then they’re going to open source all of On2′s codecs.
What on earth makes you think that they would do that?
Everyone is saying that Google is going to open source all of On2′s codecs.
Take a good look at this lengthy list of companies that Google has acquired. Can you name 3 instances where Google acquired a company with proprietary software technology and promptly released said technology as open source? I guess Etherpad counts as 1. That’s not exactly a trend.
Google is going to open source VP6, VP7, and VP8, all of which come from the lineage of VP3 (the name indicates that, so it must be the case), which is what Theora is based on, which has been indisputably shown to be better than H.264, the current web standard. Therefore, these later codecs are going to be even more awesome than Theora, which is already more awesome than H.264.
Okay, it helps to understand how misleading those alleged benchmarks were. The distilled thesis that Theora is better than H.264… you know what? Go ahead and believe that Theora is technically superior to H.264 if you wish. It doesn’t matter. People who matter (i.e., decision-makers) know better.
Google is going to open source On2′s codecs and that’s going to kill Adobe Flash Player.
Every week, there’s something else that’s supposedly going to be the final nail in the coffin of what I work on at my day job. This week, the buzz was all about On2 (at least among people who grasp what a video codec is). Anyway, what makes you think that the open sourcing of said codecs would kill Flash Player?
People only use Flash Player to watch video on the web, and the only site that serves video on the web is YouTube, and Google owns YouTube.
You’re welcome to extrapolate general usage models based on your own perception and behavior while ignoring research from outfits who study these trends all day. I want to get back to this core assumption that Google is interested in On2 so that they can open source On2′s video codecs.
Due to the magical power of open source, as soon as Google open sources all of On2′s codecs, the open source community will embrace the code and integrate it into every relevant piece of software everywhere.
Okay, this is where I must issue a dire warning: Be careful what you wish for. You’re salivating at the prospect of being able to read and hack around with On2′s code? You can get a taste of On2′s code here: Download their VpVision product from back in the day. It includes VP3 (adapted to become Theora) as well as VP1 and VP2 (née Duck TrueMotion 1 and 2) along with 2 ADPCM audio codecs. Go ahead and try to make it compile. Some very talented multimedia hackers have studied it for 8 years and still haven’t figured out everything about those codecs in that code.
In summary: I don’t think Google is buying On2 so that they can open source On2′s codecs. I have absolutely no insight into why Google cares about On2. But then, neither does anyone else commenting on the matter. I’m just a codec nerd who has been watching On2/Duck for nearly as long as they have existed. Most people claiming that Google is going to open source On2′s codecs only seem to be citing as evidence their own wishes as well as those of their fellow bloggers/tweeters. But, hey, that’s the internet for you.