A group of major tech companies that are often seen as competitors have announced that they’re all working together on at least one project: an effort to create open source, royalty-free media formats and codecs.

If there’s one thing Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Netflix all have in common, it’s that none of them want to have to rely on existing video codecs such as H.265 that are associated with a company that charges royalty fees for its use.

alliance for open media

The companies have created a new organization called the Alliance for Open Media.

Some of the companies involved have already developed their own media software, including Google’s VP9 and VP10 and Mozilla’s Daala technology. The goal is for the companies to contribute their expertise to create a new, open, and royalty-free interoperable codec that supports adaptive streaming for high-quality video streaming and encryption for copyright-protected video delivery.

There’s no telling how long it will take to deliver that new codec, but the launch announcement says more information “will be available later this year.”

via TechCrunch

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12 replies on “Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Netflix working together on next-gen, open source media codecs”

  1. Does this mean an end to proprietary GPU binary blobs for fear of Patent law suits? Or maybe it means the beginning of endless Patent law suits regardless. Hmmm…

  2. Hardware decoding is important to me. Better phone and tablet battery life, and smooth raspberry pi playback. If they can define they new format in MMAL operations then it should work fine in existing devices.

  3. Obviously this is some usage of the word open other than Webster’s. To make the DRM work will require secrets and locks. So open as in the normal way of Google, open for them and their partners but the end users are the enemy.

    1. So, by that measure, GPG and TrueCrypt aren’t open… See, DRM just means encryption. So, a DRM-able codec’s source code can be open. The only thing that needs to be “secret” is the DRM encryption and decryption keys.

      1. You aren’t nearly cynical enough. GPG keeps secrets between you and me, so long as we both trust it there is no problem. DRM is about control and trust between Hollywood and your hardware vendor that they will lock YOU out and have the crypto to prove it. Big difference.

        The standard will be royalty free and source available which are all that is required to serve THEIR needs. They never said it would be Free, which would be serving OUR needs.

        They will hold patents, they said so. All they said is the patents will be licensed freely when used to implement the standard. Is the DRM part of it and will it be optional? Too early to say. If it is embedded in the standard you can’t be inside the patent safe harbor without implementing it. If that requires a signed certificate from a standards/licensing body who requires your implementation be provably secure (read Trusted Computing) that pretty much leaves Free Software outside looking in, yet again. RedHat gets to ship it, nobody else does.

        Hollywood wants to end the ‘piracy’ problem once and for all, a Final Solution, if you will. They won’t stop pushing until the computing industry gives it to them. Microsoft would love to do it if it also means they too end piracy and lock the PC platform down into an XBox. Every product with Google’s name on it has used locked bootloaders, crypto locks and other DRM measures, even if for now they usually include an unlock…. but they have accomplished their objective to get everyone to accept locks as the normal default case.

        1. Nope, it’s you who are being too cynical. Patent ownership of an open format is important because it prevents patent trolls from screwing everything up, and believe me, they would try. Defensive patent filings are a common way for companies to protect themselves from future lawsuits and penalties, and this is no different.

          Nobody is claiming that they’re doing this out of the goodness of their heart. A new unencumbered codec solves a problem they all share, and making it an open format prevents future legal complications should relationships sour. But open source format and implementation is far better than the alternatives.

          According to Mozilla, the project will operate under the Apache 2.0 license, which would seem to obviate you concerns on how locked down the code will be. They will not be able to enforce the adherence to the standard other than refusing to certify an implementation that doesn’t meet the standard in full. There will be nothing to stop others from creating their own branches that do not adhere to the standard for their own use. They just won’t receive industry certification.

          As for DRM, are you kidding? Of course it will be in the new standard, it would be DOA without it. However, while I haven’t seen a definitive statement, it is ridiculous to believe that DRM will be enforced on all content providers who use this format, and it’s also almost certainly true that support for DRM will be optional for video player developers too, though of course, they would not be able to play DRM encumbered streams.

          As for the rest of your comment — well, it’s true whether or not a new open source format is created. Content providers who spend billions on producing their content will always want to protect it. Many of the legitimate complaints of yesteryear about how expensive it was to access new media content are becoming moot as new online services are greatly reducing the barrier for entry. You can now buy hundreds of top quality video games for less than $20 each on Steam, you can binge watch the entirety of HBO’s award winning back catalog for just $15, and consume hundreds of hours of music a month for a pittance on services like Spotify.

          Someone waking up from a 20 year coma would be astonished at how much cheaper and more accessible media content is today. Your dark utterances about how DRM is going to ruin everything would seem to be completely misplaced, The trend has been strongly in the other direction, and the boot has been on the foot of the tech industry for the last decade at least.

    1. Apple has QuickTime, lol. Apple, “open”, and “royalty-free” are words that do not belong together.

    1. Probably won’t be an issue — at least not for home broadband. If and when 4K becomes popular enough, any ISPs who are still trying to implement punitive bandwidth caps on their customers will likely come under enough commercial (Google Fiber) and public (FCC + public outcry) pressure to kill them or at least raise them to the point where the majority of users will be happy enough.

      4K on a phone would seem to be overkill…

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