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VP8, VP9, AV1 Encoding Standards and WebM

VP8 is an open file format created by On2 Technologies as a successor to VP7. In February 2010 Google acquired On2 Technologies for $124.6 million. On2 Technologies VP8 technology became the core of Google WebM audiovisual media format.

VP8 specification was released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license which enabled any 3rd party developers to use VP8 without paying any license fees. This started Google’s foray into media standards market.

In December 2012 VP9 was released as a successor to VP8. While VP8 competed with H.264 MPEG standard, VP9 targeted specifically H.265 standard. Initially VP9 was used only by YouTube but with introduction of AV1 (next iteration of VP9) its popularity grew within 3rd party development community. At this moment VP9 via WebM is supported by 80% percent of browsers with only exceptions being Internet Explorer (older versions prior to Edge) and Safari.

When testing in comparison with H.265, VP9 required twice the bitrate for similar quality. With certain encoder optimizations VP9 could achieve bitrates close to H.265 but at the expense of encoder performance. Netflix found in its tests that AV1 was about 20% more efficient than VP9. And Google tests showed that AV1 was 30-35% more efficient. H.264 and VP9 are Netflix’s primary codecs for desktop computers and mobile. HEVC/H.265 is used by Netflix for HDR content on Smart TVs. Facebook also plans to gradually roll out AV1 when most of the browsers will support it.

AV1 is targeted to become a video standard for the web being the best in class and also completely royalty free. Each feature of the AV1 standard is being thoroughly checked to make sure that no patents were infringed.

AV1 provides support of encoding of up to 7680×4320@120fps resolution at 160Mbit/s. Files in AV1 encoding could be reproduced by Google Chrome, Firefox, VLC media player, GStream, ffmpeg, mpv, MKVToolNix, MediaInfo, Bitmovin encoding.

ISO Base Format, Matroska, WebM could be used as containers for AV1 format.

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