WebRTC Update – Still No Consensus On A MTI Video Codec
The IETF held a meeting in Vancouver this past week to decide on the MTI (mandatory to implement) video codec for WebRTC. The debate pitted H.264 vs VP8 as potential candidates to be the default video codec for WebRTC. Representatives from both sides presented their arguments for each respective codec. Google (Harald Alvestrand) presented their arguments for VP8 while Jonathan Rosenberg of Cisco presented arguments for the H.264 codec.
WebRTC Video Codec Arguments
The arguments still came down to licensing and interoperability. Google’s stance was that Cisco’s announcement didn’t change anything and the issues with H.264 is still about licensing and who owns it. Therefore, VP8 is still royalty free and the better choice. The opposing side in favor of H.264 contends that interoperability is the key issue here with rounding support already in place for the H.264 codec. While there were no variations from the core arguments, it was interesting to see the Cisco announcement to open source its implementation of H.264 have no immediate impact on the WebRTC video codec debate.
WebRTC Video Codec Voting
When it came time for the vote, the majority of participants that were present at the meeting voted for H.264 while the majority of those who attended the meeting remotely favored the VP8 codec. After the vote, it was decided that a consensus could not be reached on the MTI video codec for WebRTC. The battle for the default WebRTC video codec still rages on!
As we reviewed the reports from the IETF meeting, it was very interesting to see the dynamics of those who actually attended in person versus those who attended remotely. Those who were physically present at the meeting represent major players and stakeholders in the WebRTC debate. Clearly major stakeholders have the resources to send representatives in person. Therefore the voting results that showed the majority of those physically present at the meeting supporting H.264 is not surprising. Those who didn’t have the financial stake in H.264 as larger players, seemed to favor VP8.We believe this sets the stage for the next generation video codecs, H.265 and VP9 to be pivotal in continuing the battle to be the default video codec for WebRTC (see The Codec Wars: H.265 and VP9 Signal a Big Jump in Video).
WebRTC is a promising protocol for real-time communications in web browsers. Communications in a web based world brings disruption to the traditional telecommunications industry. Most major communications and collaboration vendors have WebRTC on their technology roadmaps. Also most telecommunications service providers and startups have plans for WebRTC. While WebRTC is a potential game changer, one of the main challenges for telcos is figuring out how they will monetize it. It is this monetization issue that has many smaller players, startups and supporters of VP8 crying foul about large vendors who are not browser developers, trying to control the fate of WebRTC by pushing royalty based video codecs.
While this no-decision from the IETF meeting is not a huge surprise, we expect the WebRTC video codec battle to intensify even more.