It’s an alliance forged in the hellfire of competitive tech giants, with revolutionary implications: Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix have announced a new partnership, specifically to reform our video experience online.
Together, they form the Alliance for Open Media, with the sole aim of creating a new, royalty-free open source video format. It’s practically unheard of for rival companies to unify in the altruistic spirit of driving technological advancement, but the joint effort will undoubtedly enable a new generation of content maneuverability as major web players to close the door on Adobe Flash. Surprisingly, Apple – which develops its own Safari web browser – is absent from the group, as are leading industry names Facebook and Qualcomm – though more partners are expected to join the mission in the future.
“Google launched the WebM Project in 2010 in the belief that web video innovation was too slow and too closed, and that broad collaboration — in the open — would fix both problems. The Alliance for Open Media is a big leap forward for these core philosophies, and we’re gratified that our AOMedia partners share this vision. Our combined strength, resources and expertise will drive the next generation of web media experiences much further and faster than WebM can do alone,” said Matt Frost, Head of Strategy and Partnerships, Chrome Media.
With a royalty-free format, any company can build software for creating or converting video without paying licensing fees. According to a blog post from Mozilla, the plan is to release the standard under the Apache License 2.0, which waives royalties for both codec implementation and patents on the codec itself.
“Customer expectations for media delivery continue to grow, and fulfilling their expectations requires the concerted energy of the entire ecosystem,” said Gabe Frost, the Alliance for Open Media’s Executive Director. “The Alliance for Open Media brings together the leading experts in the entire video stack to work together in pursuit of open, royalty-free and interoperable solutions for the next generation of video delivery.”
With luck, the format splinters of the past will be streamlined into a singular source. Google has a format called VP10, Mozilla has one called Daala, and Cisco has its own in Thor. But the true pivot point here is whether Apple will get on board to allow for Safari compatibility, particularly on iPhones and iPads. With the company working on its own Netflix competitor, concerns arise that Apple’s own frustrating QuickTime format will block the tech giant’s integration into the fold.
The big question is whether the alliance can get Apple on board to make the format available in Safari on iPhones and iPads. The company is rumored to be working on its own Netflix competitor and has long preferred its own QuickTime format to other open source options. If Apple bites, the massive partnership would spell a new era of media unification online – a major convenience benefit to us all.