WebRTC Video Harmony at Last?


Story by Irwin Lazar

The decision by the IETF’s RTCWeb working group to mandate inclusion of H.264 and VP8 codecs should put an end to video interoperability woes… for now.

At this month’s IETF meetings in Honolulu, the RTCWeb working group again took up the issue of how to deliver interoperable video conferencing within the WebRTC specification — and finally made a decision that should satisfy, at least temporarily, developers.

It’s been a long haul. Past discussions have largely stalled due to debate between those who favored H.264 for its ability to integrate with existing video conferencing equipment and those who favored Google’s VP8 because it is a royalty free codec. Last year Cisco even attempted to swing momentum behind H.264 by offering to pay all royalties for those wishing to use a binary it would make available. But this gesture fell flat in the open source community where developers wanted the freedom to modify and recompile the binary to meet their individual application needs.

Lurking behind the scenes is the market dynamic. Google is driving VP8, while Microsoft and Cisco were largely seen as the forces behind H.264. It stands to reason that Microsoft and Cisco (and presumably Apple) would have little interest in adopting what is perceived as a “Google codec,” whereas Google would have little interest in giving up its efforts to develop VP8.

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