The Case for VP9

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HEVC (H.265) might be getting more attention, but Google's VP9 appears to match H.265 in quality and might play a bigger role in the transition from Flash to HTML5. VP9 is an open and royalty free video coding format being developed by Google to succeed H.264 and be competitive with HEVC, as part of its WebM project. HEVC has already made inroads into commercial hardware and software, following on the heels of the already widespread MPEG-4/AVC rollout. Intel, NVIDIA, ARM, Broadcom, LG, Philips, Samsung, and Realtek are among the many hardware vendors that have agreed to incorporate VP9 codec support. While VP9 may play only a minor role in broadcast markets, mobile, or OTT (although a handful of LG & Samsung 4K TVs already support it), it may never-the-less be an essential component for reaching the traditional desktop/notebook market.

VP9 delivers similar quality to H.264 at 50-60% of the data rate, and ultimately it may be the only UHD codec that plays on Firefox and Opera. Today, Firefox, Opera, and Chrome-which together comprise about 60% of browser share-all play VP9, while no browsers play HEVC. Adobe has not announced support for HEVC decode in Flash Player, and it's very unlikely that Firefox, with 17% of overall browser market share, will ever license HEVC. YouTube currently offers several resolutions of VP9 video, with Opus audio in the WebM file format, with adaptive bit-rate streaming, including 720p and 1080p, and will be using VP9 for 4K resolution content. Given that it's now pretty much the default on system configurations that support it, Google says YouTube users watched 25 billion hours of VP9 video in the last year.
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