The WebM is a free and open media file format sponsored by Google. It is actually a video compression format based on a profile of Matroska, and it consists of VP8 video and Vorbis audio streams.
The Vorbis (also known as Ogg Vorbis) is a free open source. And the VP8 is a technology developed by ON2, which was acquired by Google, who then went on to make VP8 an open and free technology.
The patent-encumbered H.264 video codec is the dominant method at present. MPEG LA, the rights holder for H.264 technology and its licensing agent for the Internet Broadcast AVC Video portfolio, recently said it will not charge royalties for the use of H.264 encoding in video that’s delivered free — specifically, for any video for which the creators or servers are not compensated — at least until the end of 2015.
Since the H.264 is patented and needs to be licensed, it is only suitable for commercial applications. Google needs an alternative that could be offered free of charge and with open source – WebM.
Now the Mozilla Firefox 4, Opera 10.6, and Google Chrome have supported the WebM natively. But third-party WebM software for Internet Explorer 9 and a third-party plug-in for Safari are required for the two browsers to support WebM.
In January 2011, Google announced that the WebM Project Team will release plug-ins for Internet Explorer and Safari to allow playback of WebM files through the standard HTML5 <video> tag. As of April 1, 2011, a public preview version of this plug-in is available for Internet Explorer 9.
According to the YouTube blog, all new uploads are transcoded to WebM now. Google’s James Zern writes, “Transcoding all new video uploads into WebM is an important first step, and we’re also working to transcode our entire video catalog to WebM. Given the massive size of our catalog — nearly 6 years of video is uploaded to YouTube every day — this is quite the undertaking. So far we’ve already transcoded videos that make up 99% of views on the site or nearly 30% of all videos into WebM. We’re focusing first on the most viewed videos on the site, and we’ve made great progress here through our cloud-based video processing infrastructure that maximizes the efficiency of processing and transcoding without stopping. It works like this: at busy upload times, our processing power is dedicated to new uploads, and at less busy times, our cloud will automatically switch some of our processing to encode older videos into WebM. As we continue to transcode the remaining inventory, we’ll keep you posted on our progress.”