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Google claims better Web video with new VP8

The Bali release of Google's video encoding technology does a better job creating videos, and the upcoming Cayuga release has more in store.

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Google's VP8 technology for encoding Web video just got a notch better at creating video, the Net giant says, and another round of improvements are set for a sequel due next quarter.

Yesterday, Google released its "Bali" version of VP8 software then announced a new Cayuga version set to ship late in the second quarter of 2011. The software doesn't change the VP8 technology, a codec that defines a method of encoding and decoding video, but works faster and does a better job than the preceding public version of VP8, called Aylesbury and released in November.

When encoding video with VP8's best quality setting on a computer with an x86 processor, "Bali runs 4.5x as fast than our initial release and 1.35x faster than Aylesbury," said John Luther, WebM product manager, in a blog post yesterday. A lesser improvement comes with the good quality setting. The new version also works better on ARM chips, particularly multicore ARM chips. That's important given the growing use of video telephony and the dominance of ARM processors in smartphones and tablets.

VP8, along with the Vorbis audio codec, form Google's royalty-free, open-source WebM technology. It's not clear yet exactly how patent-free WebM will be, though; a patent licensing group called MPEG LA is actively soliciting patent holders to come forward if they have patented technology they believe is required to implement WebM.

In the grand scheme of things, the new Bali and Cayuga versions don't drastically change the fate of VP8, a technology Google is hoping will usher in a royalty-free online video future not possible with today's dominant but patent-encumbered H.264 codec. But Bali and Cayuga do show that Google is continuing to invest significantly in a technology it clearly deems a high priority for its vision of the Net's future. Google Chrome 10, released yesterday, dropped built-in support for H.264 for showing videos built into Web pages with the new HTML5 standard.

Aylesbury focused on faster decoding, and Bali focused on faster encoding. "We will continue to focus on encoder speed in Cayuga," Luther said in blog post. "There are more speed improvements to be had. As always, we'll continue to improve video quality in the encoder."

Faster encoding is important for companies--and for Google's massive YouTube operation--that are considering encoding Web video with WebM as well as other technology.