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November 11, 2013

No Decision on Video Codec for WebRTC from IETF

After Cisco announced plans to open source H.264 at the end of October, many believed the move would make the codec a more attractive choice to become the default WebRTC video standard. On the other hand, Google is a strong supporter of VP8, which it claims solves a lot of the problems with licensing that H.264 brings. It was set to be a topic of discussion at last week’s Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) meeting, but no consensus was reached.

The primary use cases for WebRTC are for real-time communications over browser for audio and video calling. While audio is easy to transcode, video isn’t as simple. So this is where the split on two video codecs comes in; mainly between VP8 and H.264.

Erik Lagerway liveblogged the meeting, which covered codec risks, deployment options, benefits and challenges.

According to Cisco’s Jonathan Rosenberg and Ericsson’s Bo Burman’s presentation, “Selecting VP8 will turn away the existing players due to interop and financial risk and introduces a real financial risk for the small players, likely causing WebRTC to fail to reach critical mass.”

"The standards are there to facilitate interoperability," said Rosenberg. "We've been strong supporters of WebRTC. We were one of the folks that initiated this effort. It's core to what we believe in. We feel that the technology that should be built in a way that it works in a way it exists today. The Internet is full of H.264. There is a lot of that on the Internet."

So, what does a lack of a default video codec standard mean for WebRTC?

With no decision on a default codec, it means now that the open market is going to be the deciding place and makes session controllers right to build in WebRTC support. By leaving the standard open, some solutions will be closed and only available on specific networks.

For now, everyone is free to do what they want.

This topic will definitely be discussed at next week’s WebRTC Conference & Expo, including in sessions, “WebRTC Tutorials & Training,” “IETF and W3C Standards Reports” and “Standards Overview & Regulatory Issues.” These sessions will cover the progress of standards efforts, which will be critical in helping understand when and how to start your WebRTC development and release.


Want to learn more about the latest in WebRTC? Be sure to attend WebRTC Conference & Expo, Nov. 19-21 in Santa Clara, Calif. Stay in touch with everything happening at WebRTC Conference & Expo. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker
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