Video codecs continue to be a problem for the Web standards community.

The H.264 standard continues to be the dominant option for streaming video, both via Flash and using HTML5’s <video> tag, but it has outstanding patent issues that make free and open source implementations problematic. H.264 codec implementers must license the patents that cover the specification, and that requires payment of royalties. Though most browser developers—including Mozilla—have acknowledged that H.264 is non-negotiable for <video>, due to its abundant use and widespread hardware support, the codec question continues to be a live one.

The WebRTC specification for plugin-free real-time audio and video chat from within the browser also needs video codecs. Once again, H.264 has widespread industry usage, but its patent problems remain. Cisco, actively involved in the development of WebRTC, has stepped forward with a possible solution.

The company is releasing an open source, BSD-licensed implementation of the H.264 specification. It’s also releasing a compiled, freely downloadable binary version of that same source code. Cisco will pay the license fees for that binary module, and won’t pass that fee on to end users.     

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