Leading Companies Collaborate to Avoid Codec Fees

Seven companies have come together to form the Alliance for Open Media: a body that intends to ‘address marketplace demand for an open standard for video compression and delivery over the Internet’.

The founding members of AOMedia are Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix. They will work together to develop next-generation media formats, codecs and technologies that meet the demand for high-quality video, audio, imagery and streaming across multiple devices, worldwide.

Initially, AOMedia plans to deliver a video format that is:

  • Interoperable and open;
  • Optimised for the web;
  • Scalable to any modern device at any bandwidth;
  • Designed with a low computational footprint and optimised for hardware;
  • Capable of consistent, high-quality, real-time video delivery; and
  • Flexible for both commercial and non-commercial content, including user-generated content.

The project intends to develop a royalty-free video codec specification, based on members’ contributions. Additionally, there will be binding specifications for media format, content encryption and adaptive streaming.

“Customer expectations for media delivery continue to grow, and fulfilling their expectations requires the concerted energy of the entire ecosystem”, said Gabe Frost, Executive Director of the Alliance. “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”.

Additional information on AOMedia, including how to join, will be available later this year.

Analyst Comment

Recent weeks have seen several disputes around licensing of the HEVC codec, with the patent pool split between the established MPEG LA and new body, HEVC Advance (HEVC Advance Accepts Patents) – mostly revolving around fees and royalties. Any new codecs developed by AOMedia will be royalty-free, which will help to drive innovation.

Google, Cisco and Mozilla have already worked extensively in codecs, with the likes of VP9/VP10, Thor (Cisco Brings Down the Hammer on Codec Fees) and Daala. It should also be noted that all of the companies involved are ones that deliver software and services (or hardware to run them) – they don’t need the licensed royalty model that codecs have used in the past. However, the Alliance will need to have a firm plan in place to deal with non-member companies claiming that any new codec infringes their patents, which hampered Google’s VP8 and Microsoft’s VC-1 in the past.

Speaking of Google’s codec family, sources have said that VP9 is likely to be the platform of choice for the new group. A hint is found in a development site for the Microsoft Edge browser, which now lists VP9 as being ‘in development’ for Edge. (TA)