Seven large technology companies, including Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, Mozilla and Netflix, announced that they have formed the "Alliance for Open Media" to create a next-generation video codec that's unencumbered by patents and royalty-free.
Three of those companies (Mozilla, Google, and Cisco) have already been working on their own open royalty-free open source video codecs. Mozilla and Xiph, the non-profit behind other open source codecs such as Theora, FLAC and Opus, have been working on Daala. Google has continued to improve on its VP8, then VP9, and now VP10 codecs. And Cisco has recently announced its Thor video codec project.
The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the group that is usually responsible for defining standards for Internet protocols, has also gotten involved and wants to create a single patent-unencumbered codec that can be used by everyone. However, the IETF wants them all to come together and create the best possible codec, which it can then use to release the NETVC standard.
This seems to be happening now with the Alliance for Open Media, which isn't focused only on creating a next-generation video codec, but also one that won't be legally vulnerable and one that could also see fast adoption.
For starters, YouTube and Netflix adopting NETVC would almost guarantee that all hardware makers have to support the standard (especially if it costs them nothing in royalties). But if that doesn't do it, Intel, with its near-monopoly in the PC market and now a strong player in the GPU market as well, should also offer great encouragement for everyone else to adopt the new codec in their chips.
The Alliance's specified main objectives for the new codec require it to be:
Interoperable and openOptimized for the WebScalable to any modern device at any bandwidthDesigned with a low computational footprint and optimized for hardwareCapable of consistent, highest-quality, real-time video deliveryFlexible for both commercial and non-commercial content, including user-generated content
The six goals seem to cover all the bases, ensuring that the codec will not just be highly efficient on all types of hardware, but will also be suitable for use for everyone from hobbyists to commercial video services.
The Alliance will operate under the W3C patent rules and will use the Apache 2.0 license for the new codec. This means all the Alliance participants will be waiving their rights over the implementation or other related patents, which is a necessary step to ensure everyone will be able to use the codec free of charge and with no limitations.