What do you mean by open source and royalty free? It means any developer can work on and enhance the code and share it with the rest of the world. Royalty free means anyone using the codec for a video project or in a device, would not have to pay royalties, as is the case with codecs like H264.
WebM VP8 Development
The WebM VP8 codec development started after Google bought On2, the VP8 codec maker for $106 million in 2009.
Google had hoped to rival H264 with the VP8 codec, but then H264 had already become the industry standard.
Popular Browser Support
Currently, the WebM VP8 codec is supported by such web browsers as Chrome, Chromium, Firefox and Opera under the HTML5 video tag.
Higher Compression Efficiency
The VP8 codec offers higher compression efficiency to its strongest competitor, H264.
As such, it was popularly used in Google Hangouts. Low bitrate videos appeared like high quality videos.
VirtualDub is till using the VP8 codec.
Although VP9 has been introduced, the WebM VP8 codec is still relevant for many users.
VP8 vs H264 : Which is Superior?
Both the VP8 and H264 are lossy codecs. Howver, when it comes to complexity of decoding, VP8 fares far better than the V7 and H264 codecs.
Still then, VP8 can’t be said to be a said to be a superior codec compared to H264. H264 has many different profiles. VP8 can’t match the Main and High profiles of H264.
However, on the lowest quality profile of H264, VP8 can stand on par.
All said and done, the VP8 video quality is good-enough quality. Just like JPEG is good enough for images and MP3 is good enough for music files.
With H264, web browsers and device manufacturers have to fork out millions of dollars to use the H264 codec.
The WebM VP8 codec on the other hand is open source and is provided royalty free, saving a huge sum of money for web browser companies.
WebM VP9 Codec