Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft Release AV1 Compression

AV1 compression is finally here with a release from the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) and its industry partners who are dominant players across the codec development, video encoding, delivery and playback ecosystem, including Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. AOMedia is a project of the Joint Development Foundation.

In its press release, AOMedia said it was “proud to announce the public release of AOMedia Video Codec 1.0 (AV1) specification, which delivers cross-platform, 4K UHD or higher online video, royalty-free – all while lowering data usage”. It also released an unoptimized software encoder and decoder.

The goal of the three-year partnership has been to develop a higher quality Internet video technology that offers more users access to the potential offered by 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video and beyond.

The release of AV1 specifically includes:

  • Bitstream specification to permit the next-generation of silicon
  • Unoptimized, experimental software decoder and encoder to generate and consume the bitstream
  • Reference streams for product validation
  • Binding specifications to enable content creation and streaming tools for user-generated and commercial video

Compression is critical to high quality streaming video. Good compression will radically improve video performance and sometimes even allow an upgrade to higher-resolution video without needing to expand your broadband.

According to Cisco, 82% of the world’s Internet traffic will be video by 2021. AOMedia has been working to develop AV1 specifically designed for the Internet video-era that more and more consumers are demanding.

“Nearly three years after launching AOMedia, the AV1 codec addresses real bottlenecks for unleashing the highest-quality video for the entire ecosystem, allowing for better viewing experiences across all screens and data networks,” said AOMedia Executive Director Gabe Frost. “By listening to the industry’s feedback in an open and collaborative manner and bringing together leading experts to develop AV1, an entire ecosystem can begin creating video products and experiences that customers love.”

The release of AV1 as an open-source codec is a milestone for the Alliance for Open Media in fulfilling its mission to deliver a next-generation video format that is open, optimized for the Internet, interoperable and scalable to any contemporary device at any bandwidth. It will also arguably leave behind a long-standing video patent system that has likely held back the speed boosts that HEVC might have delivered.

The specs for AV1 are available to download here. AV1 decode is expected to arrive in several browsers, including content from member companies over the next several months, with hardware implementations due in around a year.

The involvement of so many major industry players in the development of AV1 will undoubtedly hasten its adoption in all major markets.

There has been industry speculation about the challenges for AOM to ship a codec that doesn’t infringe upon existing IP that is used in the H.264 and HEVC codecs. However, AOM has stressed its development approach and attempts to ensure that AV1 did not impinge upon existing IP, and the fact that its technology was vetted via a rigorous patent review process prior to integration into the final spec.

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