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Media Zone: WebM: A Game Changer for Online Video

17 Sep, 2010 By: Timothy R. Hawthorne Response

A look at the impact Google’s new open source, royalty-free video format will have on the online video.

Online video is just plain hot. Marketers from all corners of the business world are combining clips with online venues like YouTube, Hulu and corporate Web sites to get moving pictures into the hands of existing and future customers. In May, Google heated up the online video space even more when it released its new open source, royalty-free video format known as “WebM.” Google’s newest addition is an outgrowth of its acquisition of On2, creator of the open-source format, which will soon be a part of Google’s popular online video service, YouTube.

Corey Lopardi, producer-director with Pardiman Productions in Olympia, Wash., says marketers will benefit from WebM’s release on several fronts. Lower production costs, ease of use, improved video quality and increased control over how videos are downloaded and viewed are just a few of the key benefits that companies could see. “This is definitely something that anyone wishing to market themselves online should be thinking about right now,” says Lopardi.

If you’re still not convinced of WebM’s impact, check out these five ways that the new format will alter the online video space:

Producing and Uploading Video Will Get Cheaper

YouTube aside, most online video hosts charge “a considerable amount of money to upload clips and have them converted into a viewable format,” says Lopardi. Google WebM will work a little differently, while still retaining the quality and ease of use that marketers demand. This is good news for firms that are working on tight budgets. Even better, the format also makes better use of Internet bandwidth, decreasing costs for content producers.

Handles More than Video

WebM also supports embedded (and selectable) text, as well as Web fonts. These features will be useful to companies that want to enhance their online clips to include more than just moving pictures. This will bring online video to a new level, and will allow firms to incorporate new elements into their Web-based advertising and marketing.

Open Source Will Break Down ‘Ownership’ Walls

The video format most commonly used today is H.264. It’s an innovation whose patent is held by MPEG LA. The product is currently licensed for free, “but at the end of the day, someone else still owns it,” says Dave Otten, CEO at LongTail Video, the New York-based creator of the JW open source video player. WebM, on the other hand, is open source (computer software for which the source code is freely available) and royalty-free. “Users can encode their video using WebM, knowing that they won’t ever have to deal with licensing or patent issues,” Otten says.

Getting Key Players Onboard = Broad Adoption

Google may be one of the Web’s 300-pound gorillas, but it still needs the support of technology giants to ensure users have access to its products. For WebM, Google has enlisted “launch partners” like Qualcomm, Oracle, Adobe and Android. On the browser side, Firefox, Chrome and Opera are all in the midst of test builds that may result in WebM compatibility, and Internet Explorer 9 will support the new format.

Format Will Inspire More Innovation

Whenever Google throws its hat into a new ring, it inspires healthy competition that often leads to even more technological innovation. This time is no different, according to Otten, who expects to see high definition options come to market, followed by higher content quality and an overall better user experience than what’s currently online.

Google hasn’t worked out all of the kinks with its new WebM video format yet, and there are other questions to be answered before the format becomes ubiquitous for cybersurfers. Still, Google’s introduction of WebM proves that there is positive momentum in the popular online video space, and opportunities for marketers to get in on the ground floor of a promising new development.

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