Cisco plans to open-source H.264 code, widen support for web-based video chat

WebRTC promises plugin-free video chat in our browsers, but it has been stuck in limbo due to format squabbles -- some companies want royalty-free standards like VP8, while others insist on the wider support of H.264. Today, Cisco is proposing a truce between the two camps. It's planning to open-source its H.264 codec without passing on the royalties it pays to MPEG-LA, effectively making the standard free when used in web conversations. Mozilla is endorsing the strategy; although it still prefers open video technologies like VP8 and Daala, it believes that Cisco's move would let both Firefox clients and Firefox OS use H.264 for more tasks. Nothing is set in stone at this point, however. Industry members will pick WebRTC's video standard on November 7th, and there's no guarantee that their choice will dovetail with Cisco's plans. If all goes well, though, we won't have to fret much over the apps and devices we use for our video discussions.