Google has been utilizing a codec called AOMedia Video 1, or AV1 for a few years now in order to reduce the bandwidth needed to stream video content from their services so that users with less bandwidth can benefit from them without reduced picture quality. AV1 has already been built into Youtube, Google Duo, Chrome, and Android and it provides a 30% improvement to compression over their previously used VP9 standard.
The same codec has been adopted by other companies like Netflix and Facebook in order to give customers better streaming experiences, particularly on mobile data connections. In a recent discussion at IBC, Google’s director of product management, Matt Frost, revealed that the company would soon be using AV1 in even more of its popular video-based applications and services like Stadia, Meet, Photos, and TV!
Because the details of the codec are a lot more advanced than I could possibly explain, you can read all of the finer details over on XDA Developers rundown of it, but basically, the benefits could be substantial! AV1’s improvements may mean better live streaming, video calling via RTC, reduced sizes for offline files, and maybe even 4k HDR video content playing over a mobile network, especially when 5G matures! For Stadia, this means that Google’s vision for cloud gaming over a data connection may finally be viable, especially for those who suffer from evil data caps. I can’t help but think about how this may further the potential of progressive web apps as a whole in the near future as well.
What makes the codec even more special is that it’s completely royalty-free, which means that anyone, even Google can use it without paying licensing fees, so long as they do so within the confines of their agreement. This means that many companies have started to adopt AV1 and support for it is already growing substantially. In fact, The Alliance for Open Media is comprised of many of these companies, and because they’re putting their weight behind it, it’s likely to succeed, and quickly!
That support isn’t just coming from Google either. The Alliance for Open Media includes everyone from processor designers (AMD, ARM, Broadcom, Chips&Media, Intel, Nvidia, etc.) to browser developers (Google, Microsoft, and Mozilla) to streaming and videoconferencing services (Adobe, Amazon, BBC R&D, Cisco, Netflix, Youtube, etc.). Those companies are expected to bring their substantial strength to play in rolling out AV1 support, with the first streaming services expected to be ready within just 6 months after the bitstream format is finalized, and the first hardware decoders are expected to ready within 12 months. That alone will bring substantial hardware support for AV1 fairly quickly, however if everything lines up, we may even see partial hardware acceleration backported to some already existing hardware, like what happened with VP9, which would be a huge boost for compatibility.XDA Developers on the creation of the Alliance for Open Media
The path for AV1 isn’t clear though – Before it can be fully adopted, it may first have to fight some legal battles. Popular next-gen codecs like HEVC and VP9 are threatening to pursue litigation and to have its code reviewed to make sure they’re not infringing on any patents, but the Alliance is doing its best to make sure that they come up clean and it may not even be an issue when everything is said and done.
What excites me the most is streaming Stadia wherever I go without worrying about my data limit, improvements to casting my memories from Google Photos to my TV, and the new Chromecast with Google TV becoming even more awesome while traveling. While I hardly have a data limit on Google Fi, and I’m certainly not traveling at this time, so I needn’t fear crappy hotel WiFi, I still worry about these things and can’t wait to benefit from AV1’s superior compression algorithms when the time comes!