Google on VP8: 'We hope to start an arms race'

TechRadar talks to Google co-founder Sergei Brin

Google on VP8 We hope to start an arms race

Google's new open source VP8 video codec can't do DRM, so YouTube will still use Flash to play protected content (and to insert ads).

In fact, says Google engineering VP Linus Upson, "DRM is fundamentally in conflict with open source and open standards because to do DRM you need secrets".

DRM doesn't actually stop piracy, Google co-founder Sergei Brin told TechRadar. "As a practical matter if you've seen DRM secretly encrypting files… all the videos come out before they're ever released in any digital form. I don't think as a practical matter those things are going to keep them safe."

What's the alternative? "Techniques of watermarking and attribution have perhaps been successful in terms of discouraging people – and watermarking and so forth are all still possible with any codec."

Just how good is VP8 and why did Google buy it and open source it?

Brin calls it a codec designed "with web scenarios in mind; we think it serves as a really good foundation for what the optimal web codec should be. That said, what you're seeing now is still just a developer preview. We have the capability to take it further with the power of the open web."

Partners who've already looked at VP8 in the short time since Google took it over have come up with great ideas and great improvements.

That's part of the power of open source. "We had this experience several times before", says Brin.

"When we open sourced the JavaScript engine behind Chrome… There has been such a rapid pace of innovation in all browsers; every browser has got a much faster JavaScript engine now. We hope that what we are doing here gets us a much faster video codec. We hope - in a good sense - to start an arms race."

Although Google checked out VP8 to see if it infringed any codecs and believes that it doesn't, the company isn't offering a patent indemnity to the many partners signing up to use it.

Android and patent infringement

The same goes for Android, says Brin; "I do not believe we have plans to indemnify- that said we have worked closely with a number of partners to help them with their legal cases."

Brin also points out: "I would disagree with the premise that Android infringes [any patents]. We have tried in Android to create something that stands upon its own rights."

And the handset manufacturers may not need an indemnification to protect them; "Many partners - not just one or two - have now implemented it. I think the members of the Open Handset Alliance have a very strong patent portfolio of their own, combined and individually."

Brin also disagrees with the whole idea of 'submarine' patents on principle. "This notion of submarine patents… the general trade that is made, in my mind, with patents is that in exchange for bringing an idea to the world that it would not otherwise have had, the inventor gets some degree, some period of exclusivity. I think that's reasonable.

"But I think if you consider some of these cases where the patent is not known about… Another company does this work independently - so it's not work the world would not have known about otherwise - and then it tries to stop other people using it. That invalidates the basic idea. I do think there are issues with the patent system as it appears today."

Google still uses native code for speed and to get the best user experience in apps like Google Maps on Android today; do we ever get a point when all we need is the web?

Brin seems to think so. "You saw some of the amazing capabilities arising in the HTML5 world. Frankly the HTML model - which is now starting to include offline, is starting to provide richer graphics- does start to look similar to some of these app frameworks.

"There are other benefits [to web apps]. The lack of installation, the security model; just because you go to the web site doesn't mean you have to worry about the action… It's headed in a very positive direction, but these are fairly recent developments. That said, I think these models are likely to converge in the future - the not so distant future."


Liked this? Then check out Flash 10.1 on Android 2.2: release date and how to get it

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