Future of open Web video may change with Google acquisition of On2

Google announced today that it will be acquiring video compression company On2 Technologies for an estimated $106.5 million, pending stockholder approval and regulatory consent.

"Today video is an essential part of the Web experience, and we believe high-quality video compression technology should be a part of the Web platform," Sundar Pichai, Google's vice president for product management, said this morning. "We are committed to innovation in video quality on the Web, and we believe that On2's team and technology will help us further that goal."

The Ogg Theora video codec is based upon On2's patented VP3 codec, which the company open-sourced in 2001 and turned over to Xiph.org in 2002. The first stable version of the codec was only released last year but was included in draft versions of HTML 5. Theora was originally used in HTML 5 for its embedded <VIDEO> element, but its selection was recently suspended in favor of format agnosticism.

"I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that there is no suitable codec that all vendors are willing to implement and ship," HTML 5 author Ian Hickson wrote last month. "I have therefore removed the two subsections in the HTML 5 spec in which codecs would have been required, and have instead left the matter undefined."

However, the Theora <VIDEO> tag has received support from Mozilla in Firefox 3.5, and also by video site DailyMotion, The Internet Archive (Archive.org), and Wikipedia.

If enough weight is thrown behind Ogg Theora, it could become the Web's de facto open video platform, abolishing the need for proprietary plug-ins like Apple's QuickTime or Adobe's Flash. Google -- which arguably owns Web video with YouTube -- could seriously change the progress of HTML 5 and the evolution of open video, if it decides to throw its weight behind Theora.

Betanews has sent inquiries to Google today to see what their plans are for On2's technology, and we'll update you when we receive a response.

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