Chrome gets Google's new video tech

The developer's build of the browser now includes WebM, the open-source, royalty-free video tech that lets browsers use cutting-edge streaming-video features without publishers paying a dime.

The developer's build of Google's Chrome browser now includes WebM, the open-source and royalty-free video technology that allows browsers to use cutting-edge streaming-video features without publishers paying a dime.

In the new Chrome dev released Thursday for Windows, Mac, and Linux, Google has baked in support for the VP8- and Ogg Vorbis-powered, next-generation WebM codec.

Which is better at compressing video, H.264 or VP8? Some sites such as Quavlive offer comparisons. (Credit: Screenshot of Quavlive by Stephen Shankland/CNET)

The developer's build of Chrome is now the third major browser to support WebM, along with versions of Firefox and Opera that are still in development. Chromium, the open-source fountainhead of Chrome, added rudimentary support in mid-May. Google has yet to indicate when WebM support will be made available in the beta version.

Google acquired the VP8 codec when it purchased On2 Technologies in February. The successor to the VP6 codec, which gained wide distribution when Adobe included it in its Flash Player, VP8's biggest claim to fame so far is that Google is releasing it royalty-free. Unlike fees tied to the H.264 codec, which is owned by the MPEG LA consortium of 26 companies that charge for the codec's use, Google will spare VP8's users such as Mozilla steep royalty fees.

Several other companies have begun to incorporate WebM into their products, including Logitech, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments. Some believe WebM has the potential to become the standard audio and video codec for HTML5, although that debate is far from settled.

While the WebM news is big, there were also other changes made to Chrome dev. Google says it has fixed a bug that caused the browser to crash when changing networks or waking from sleep mode across all platforms. Mac users specifically should see several minor bug fixes, including the repair of a crash that occurred when downloading a file with no tabs open. Also, there's now a preference on Macs for the tab key to cycle through only form fields, or form fields and links, too.

Google also published an update to the beta channel Thursday that addresses multiple bugs that negatively affected stability for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The full changelog can be read here for the developer's channel and here for the beta channel.

Related: WebM and Google's Web-video plan (FAQ) and Google tackles VP8 video quality question