YouTube is announcing this afternoon that all videos uploaded to the site are now saved in WebM format, as well as other supported formats including Adobe Flash. 30% of the YouTube archives, making up 99% of the views, is now available in WebM as well and the full archives are being put in the new format as we speak.
WebM is a format that many different companies have been working on, in an effort to create a way to show and view videos that is better suited for the web than Flash and is royalty free. Firefox added support for the format last month and Internet Explorer announced a plug-in that would add WebM support. Google and Opera also offer browser support for WebM. Where's Safari? Google added WebM support to Android's Gingerbread version in December.
Performance improvements may not be readily apparent, however. The WebM project site says that "playback performance and rendering is not yet fully optimized in the browsers that support WebM but improvements are forthcoming."
Frederic Lardinois explained WebM here at ReadWriteWeb last June, when support for it was added to Chrome:
Google introduced WebM at its annual developers conference last month...The WebM project aims to provide online video providers with a royalty free alternative to the H.264 video codec. H.264 has become the de facto standard for high-quality online video and Apple uses it to display videos on the iPad and iPhone. Adobe supports it in its Flash player. As online video continues to move away from Flash and towards HTML5, however, developers need a free and open alternative to H.264. H.264 is currently available for free and owned by the MPEG LA consortium, but this group will likely start to charge royalty fees in the near future.
To counter this threat, Google acquired On2 Technologies last year. On2's VP8 codec forms the basis of the WebM project.
Hopefully this whole experiment will work out and browsers will be optimized to support it. I paid good money for this Macbook Pro I'm running Chrome on, and I'd love to be able to use it to watch videos.