Google is buying On2 Technologies, a video technology company. Although On2 is not a household name, it is well-known to Adobe Flash developers since its codec is used in Flash Player 8; it is also in JavaFX. Flash has since moved to H.264 for high definition though the older codec is still supported.
Why does Google want a video compression company? This is from the press release:
Today video is an essential part of the web experience, and we believe high-quality video compression technology should be a part of the web platform," said Sundar Pichai, Vice President, Product Management, Google.
That could mean any number of things; but it does imply that Google does not intend to rely on Flash for its video content. The acquisition will re-open the debate about the video element in HTML 5, which has been left without a codec because of lack of consensus about what might be suitable and affordable. See Ian Hickson’s post from June 2009:
After an inordinate amount of discussions, both in public and privately, on the situation regarding codecs for <video> and <audio> in HTML5, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that there is no suitable codec that all vendors are willing to implement and ship.
Could Google now establish its own codec as the standard in HTML 5?
I’m guessing Google is also keen to integrate On2 technology with its communication products.