Google, On2, and Onward for <video>

Google’s recently announced acquisition of On2 paves the way for the possibility of a Flash-free future (F-cubed?).

With Adobe’s desire to push all of its most annoying technologies into Flash (witness the recent vulnerabilities caused by the interplay between PDF and Flash), the unpleasantness of Flash and the need to have it in order to play FLV video streams, and the way FLV is presented to the browser (as a URL to a SWF file along with completely arbitrary information telling that SWF file where to find the FLV), are all enough to give anyone trying to present videos nicely in a browser something of a stomach ache.

But now, Google owns On2 who, in turn, own VP6 (the most popular Flash video codec).

Ideally, this means that Google might release an FLV plugin for popular browsers that allows them to play Flash video directly without the need for a SWF player, or — better yet — simply release open source playback code for VP6 (if necessary providing the glue code for Webkit and Mozilla to play FLVs encoded with VP6 inside <video> tags). Without an enormous amount of effort, the need for Flash to play FLV video could be hugely reduced. Most FLV video is played using YouTube or JWPlayer and similar products. It wouldn’t be hard to infer the FLV url and ignore the player (certainly, it would be an easy thing to do as a Firefox Plugin).

Now, if Flash isn’t necessary to play video, exactly why would we want it? Oh, right, banner ads and games.