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Google speeds its new Web video software

The "Aylesbury" release of Google's streaming video technology decodes WebM video faster and encodes it better, the company says. Coming by March: "Bali."

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Google has released the first significant update to its WebM video software, bringing better performance and adding a duck-related code name.

The new software, called Aylesbury after the domesticated duck breed, is better at both encoding and faster at decoding WebM videos, said John Luther, Google's WebM product manager, in a blog post last week. Luther plans to detail Aylesbury this week at the Streaming Media West conference, which will include a detailed status report and a discussion of how it fits into the new HTML5 standard for Web pages.

More specifically, Aylesbury is between 20 percent and 40 percent faster at decoding video, when measured in terms of frames per second, Luther said. That comes from better usage of single and multiple processing cores, better memory usage, and support for SSE3 processor instructions for audio and video chores.

And for those who have to produce WebM video, encoding produces higher quality as measured by lower visibility of compression artifacts, he said.

WebM uses a video codec called VP8 to encode and decode the video, combined with the Ogg Vorbis codec for handling audio. With its open-source, royalty-free WebM technology, Google hopes to invigorate Web video with a standard that doesn't come with the licensing barriers of today's widely used H.264 AVC technology.

Aylesbury the name for the first incarnation of software called libvpx, the software library used to handle VP8 video. Google released the first version of WebM technology in May.

The next version, named Bali after another duck, is due in the first quarter of 2011 and will emphasize faster encoding, Luther said.

"We like ducks, so we plan to use duck-related names for each major libvpx release, in alphabetical order. Our goal is to have one named release of libvpx per calendar quarter, each with a theme," Luther said.

Separately, Google is trying to encourage adoption of a compressed still image format called WebP that's derived from WebM. It's starting with its own software, apparently: Google programmer Pascal Massimino has added WebP support to WebKit, the open-source browser engine used in Google's Chrome, Apple's Safari, and many mobile browsers. A feature's inclusion in WebKit is a very useful step toward inclusion in WebKit browsers, but not enough to guarantee it will actually appear in those browsers.