Chrome and Firefox Add Support for AV1 Videos to Development Versions

Recently both Google and Mozilla added AV1 support into the development versions of the Chrome and Firefox browsers respectively. The new functionality is expected to make its way into release versions of both browsers in the near future and eventually make its way to Android mobile devices sometime after that.

The addition of AV1 support to major web browsers is significant as it ties in to Phase 2 of its adoption roadmap. At the same time Facebook and YouTube are expected to steadily increase the number of videos served using AV1, and Netflix will follow suit as well.

The rapid adoption of AV1 by tech giants is partially due to the fact that the companies are all part of the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) consortium that developed AV1. Other big names that are also a part of the consortium include Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon.

Per its announcement in 2015, AV1 was developed to be an open-source and royalty-free successor to Google’s VP9, and to replace the HEVC video standard. Officially AV1 was released in late March this year, and is expected to be adopted gradually over the course of the next 2 years.

Initial tests of the AV1 format have been positive, showing that it is able to use lower bitrates than HEVC for the same video quality and reduce the file size of videos by 25% or more. However the same tests have also found that AV1 encodes videos more slowly than HEVC, and much slower than if users were to convert MKV to AVI with Movavi Video Converter, for example.

Considering the first version of AV1 was just recently released, it is likely to undergo several improvements before its adoption hits critical mass. Hardware support for AV1 is only expected to start in Phase 3 of its adoption roadmap, and is slated to reach most consumer-level devices by 2020.

The fact that the AOMedia consortium’s members include hardware designers such as Intel, AMD, Broadcom, NVIDIA and Apple should smooth its adoption. The first consumer devices with AV1 support could be seen as early as 2019, assuming its rollout proceeds on schedule.

While it is too early to determine whether AV1 will successfully supplant HEVC, its chances look good. The licensing and fees of HEVC continue to cause complications for many tech companies, including those that are members of AOMedia as well as outside.

The true test of AV1’s viability will be if HEVC lowers its costs or streamlines its licensing structure. As of right now there is no indication that it is prepared to do that, but as AV1 continues to be adopted it may very well decide that is its best option.

Another challenge that AV1 may face is from the successor to HEVC – FVC. It is expected to be released in 2021, but it is unknown how it will compare to AV1.

Without the backing of tech companies however, FVC’s adoption is likely to be slow as was the case with HEVC. Originally HEVC was released in 2013, and it has taken this long for the format to gain traction.

To add to that, AV1 is designed to be future-proof to a large degree, with support for 8K, VR, and other emerging tech built into the format. That could dull the challenge that FVC represents, unless it is able to dramatically improve compression rates or provide some other distinct advantage.

From a consumer standpoint innovations in video formats and compression technology will enable better quality videos to be delivered while consuming less data. As AV1 continues to roll out that is the main benefit that it will provide to average users, but its implications to the tech industry as a whole will be much larger.

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