Open Internet software specialist Mozilla has explained its support for the AV1 video codec, suggesting that the royalty-free codec can help keep high-quality video affordable for everyone.
In a Blog Post, Mozilla notes that it costs money to watch video online, even on free sites such as YouTube. “That’s because about four in five videos on the web today rely on a patented technology called the H.264 video codec,” explains writer Judy DeMocker.
“A codec is a piece of software that lets engineers shrink large media files and transmit them quickly over the Internet. In browsers, a codec decodes video files so we can play them on our phones, tablets, computers, and TVs. As web users, we take this performance for granted. But the truth is, companies pay millions of dollars in licensing fees to bring us free video,” she says.
“It took years for companies to put this complex, global set of legal and business agreements in place, so H.264 web video works everywhere. Now, as the industry shifts to using more efficient video codecs, those businesses are picking and choosing which next-generation technologies they will support. The fragmentation in the market is raising concerns about whether our favourite web past-time, watching videos, will continue to be accessible and affordable to all,” she advises.
Mozilla says it is driven by a mission to make the web platform more capable, safe, and performant for all users. With that in mind, the company has been supporting work at the Xiph.org Foundation to create royalty-free codecs that anyone can use to compress and decode media files in hardware, software, and web pages.
Over the last decade, several companies started building viable alternatives to patented video codecs. Mozilla worked on the Daala Project, Google released VP9, and Cisco created Thor for low-complexity videoconferencing. All these efforts had the same goal: to create a next-generation video compression technology that would make sharing high-quality video over the internet faster, easier, and cheaper.
In 2015, Mozilla, Google, Cisco, and others joined with Amazon and Netflix and hardware vendors AMD, ARM, Intel, and NVIDIA to form AOMedia. As AOMedia grew, efforts to create an open video format coalesced around a new codec: AV1. AV1 is based largely on Google’s VP9 code and incorporates tools and technologies from Daala, Thor, and VP10.
Mozilla says that it loves AV1 for two reasons: AV1 is royalty-free, so anyone can use it free of charge. Software companies can use it to build video streaming into their applications. Web developers can build their own video players for their sites. It can open up business opportunities, and remove barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, artists, and regular people. Most importantly, a royalty-free codec can help keep high-quality video affordable for everyone, it suggests.
“The second reason we love AV1 is that it delivers even better compression technology than HEVC/H.265 – about 30 per cent better, according to a Moscow State University study,” says Mozilla. “For companies, that translates to smaller video files that are faster and cheaper to transmit and take up less storage space in their data centres. For the rest of us, we’ll have access to gorgeous, high-definition video through the sites and services we already know and love,” it adds.