Are we going back to the battlefields of the video codec?
If you thought that the WebRTC MTI video codec battle is about to be settled, think again because the seeds for a new battle have been planted at the last IETF meeting.
The idea is to follow the footsteps of Opus and the 2 main benefits it offers:
- High quality codec
- Patent and royalty free… no real essential patent claims
With video, current status is problematic.
Based on a compromise reached in IETF meeting 91, there are 2 codecs browsers supporting WebRTC should implement: VP8 and H.264. This is not the current state in all browsers (only Firefox supports both) and only the future will tell if the current state will change. It will also be interesting to see what Microsoft will choose to support once they release WebRTC in Explorer or Spartan.
While VP8 is apparently “safer” to use from a patent claims perspective and on any platform (HW/SW), there were claims from Nokia with regards to VP8.
For H.264 Cisco offers a royalty free binary that can be used for PC applications but that doesn’t support all platforms and doesn’t cover the future codec, H.265.
The target IETF has set forth is to create a new video codec that will bring the 2 benefits of Opus detailed above, quality and patent free.
Since the video codec battle wasn’t so much about technology but more about business it is unclear that NETVC will solve the business problems of large players trying to require support for their codec of interest, but time will tell.
Impact on my application
Nothing in the foreseeable future.
Just formed the Working Group.
At the last IETF meeting there was a Birds of Feather (BoF) session on NETVC. This is essentially a meeting where the people interested in creating a Working Group for a topic put down their claims why this topic deserves a dedicated Working Group.
Decision was to open the NETVC Working Group.
To give some hope that it is possible to create a codec that meets the IPR and quality requirements, the proponents presented recent work on Daala (https://www.xiph.org/daala/), an in-progress codec whose designers are endeavoring to bypass the patent minefield that is the current state of video codec work. As expected, the most significant concerns, and discussion, were about intellectual property.
The charter of the NETVC working group is to come up with a new codec that will meet the following conditions:
- A codec that is competitive with current video codecs in widespread use
- A codec that is designed for real-time communication and supports capabilities such as:
- Works well in public, best effort internet conditions
- Congestion control
- Rate adaptation
- Error resilience
- And many more as detailed in these slides
- Have IPR terms that allow it to be widely distributed without worrying about royalties and patent claims
- Can be implemented and distributed in any form: Open source, Closed source and dedicated HW implementations
As this initiative is still at a very stage there is no immediate impact on applications. We will surely hear more about NETVC as work progresses.
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