At its Google I/O conference Wednesday, company employees made the case for the royalty-free, open-source technology as a higher-quality alternative to today's dominant video codec, H.264. Moving to VP9 -- available now in testing on Chrome and YouTube -- will save bandwidth costs.
One problem is that Google is moving very fast. Software such as Web browsers on PCs can be updated rapidly, but it's harder and slower work to build hardware support into chips so mobile phones can decode video without crushing battery life. The industry barely has started coping with VP9's predecessor, VP8, which has been on the market for three years.
Another big issue is that VP9 isn't competing only against H.264, a codec that's about a decade old. It also must reckon with HEVC, aka H.265, a standard that's now complete and that has the potential to spread as widely as H.264.
But there's another big part of the VP9 sales pitch: no royalty payments. VP9 is free to use, unlike H.264. HEVC/H.265 also will be free to use once the licensing organization MPEG LA finishes up its patent royalty plans. Google sees that as an unacceptable financial burden for startups, programmers, schools, and others who might want to launch a video project on the Internet
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the group that orchestrates the development of Web standards, has today published a Working Draft for Encrypted Media Extensions (EME), a framework that will allow the delivery of DRM-protected media through the browser without the use of plugins such as Flash or Silverlight.
Further, the groups argue that the Web is moving away from proprietary, DRM-capable plugins. The EFF writes that "HTML5 was supposed to be better than Flash, and excluding DRM is exactly what would make it better," and the petition claims that "Flash and Silverlight are finally dying off."
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