Google may start delivering UltraHD content on YouTube this year, possibly using a proprietary codec technology it plans to unveil next week at CES.
Google’s VP9 codec is an alternative to H.265 (aka HEVC). Both promise to drop compression rates by about half.
Many companies working with H.265 are reporting they are now consistently cutting file sizes by an average of 35 percent or better compared to H.264, giving them confidence that a 50 percent reduction is achievable.
Google has tried to establish its own codecs as standard issue before, most recently with its VP8 codec. VP8 gained little traction outside of Google. So far, neither has VP9, which the company began incorporating in its own Chrome web browser a little over a year ago. Last month, Mozilla announced forthcoming support in FireFox, scheduled for implementation in March.
Google has secured support from several technology partners for VP9, however, including many of the major semiconductor companies that have chipsets used to deliver video. The list includes ARM, Broadcom, Samsung, Nvidia, Qualcomm, Marvell, and Toshiba. Google has said that VP9 can be deployed in software, but says it works best when implemented in hardware.
That Google is offering VP9 on a royalty-free basis makes it easier for other companies to support demonstrations. In fact, since the promised compression improvement is about the same as that promised for H.265, the major difference between the two is that VP9 is available royalty-free.
In multiple interviews with other media outlets, Google has said that it is not ruling out support of H.265.
Demonstration partners at CES include LG, Panasonic, and Sony. These demos will include UltraHD/4K content, but little UltraHD content is going to be available through the rest of the year, and certainly not much of it will be available through YouTube.
Going forward, Google expects that the use of VP9 will significantly reduce the frequency of buffering interruptions on YouTube, which should certainly be the case if it is used to deliver current SD and HD content.