Google has nearly completed its work on its VP9 video technology and is keen on seeing its application being picked up quickly. At its Google I/O conference on Wednesday, company employees spoke about the technology being a higher-quality alternative to the dominant video codec, H.264.
According to the company, the move to VP9, which is now available in testing on both Chrome and YouTube, will help save user bandwidth costs. While the VP9 specification will be finalised by June 17, developers can now access the same through Chrome's about:flags mechanism and access YouTube’s VP9 channel.
Apart from the cost saving benefits of VP9, an additional feature that can become its main USP is the lack of royalty payments. Google defended this decision by stating that it wanted to facilitate the video projects that start-ups, programmers, schools and others may want to launch.
The newest open-source technology, VP9
There are a few problems with this announcement, though. The first problem is that Google is trying to do too much, too fast. Web browsers on a software level can be updated quickly. However, it takes a lot longer for hardware to come up with the needed support and chips so as to decode the videos without killing the battery life. With the VP8 – around in the market for the last three years – still proving a task to decode for most of the industry, the VP9 may prove more of burden than a blessing.
The other problem that VP9 may face is competition. It not only needs to match up to H.264, a codec that has been around for the last 10 years, but also needs to face the competition in the form of HEVC a.k.a H.265, which has all the potential to become as popular as the H.264. An additional factor that Google needs to keep in mind is that HEVC/H.265 will also be free, once the licensing organisation MPEG LA finishes up its patent royalty plans.
The main reason why Google is keen on VP8 and VP9 being picked up by users is the amount of videos that are streamed on Youtube. With billions of hours of videos being streamed each month, according to Google, if a codec like VP9 is picked up, it will help increase the amount of bandwidth a user can get off the Internet.
Google has now said that it will shift to performance optimisation after finishing its work on the VP9 bitstream specification as well as focusing on improvements on applications like video conferencing. It is now up to chipmakers to try to keep up with its hardware support, and that may be more of a task than Google previously estimated.