VP9 is an open video compression format currently in development by WebM in partnership with Google. Work on the VP9 codec started at the end of 2011 and it is the next generation development of Google's previous video compression format VP8. WebM is a project sponsored by Google with the key aim of providing Web based video solutions that are free of royalty fees. This in turn is one of the major features of VP9. The VP9 codec has been beta tested successfully for a few weeks and looks set to be a commercial success.
In order to fully understand the VP9 codec, it is first necessary to define a few key elements of video compression.
The word codec is used to denote a video encoder or decoder. More specifically, a video codec is the software or algorithm that is used to encode video files into a bitstream before then decoding that bitstream into an alternative video format. Video codecs are needed to organize and contain the vast amounts of data that make up a video file. All videos are made up of a sequence of frames and most contain more than 25 frames per second. Codecs minimize the size of the video, mainly by encoding it into a bitstream. There are currently a huge number of video codecs in use on the internet, but Google hopes that in time, the VP9 codec will become a standard format due to its effective design and lack of royalties.
Compression is of great use when dealing with files containing as much data as video files. Video compression refers to the process of reducing the size of these files. In many cases, certain elements of the file can be represented in a different way using a smaller amount of information. It is important to be able to recreate or recover the exact original data so the latest formats for video compression, such as a VP9 encoder, decode and encode files without any reduction in quality visible to the naked human eye. By the way, a VP9 encoder is simply a device or piece of software capable of encoding or decoding a video file to the VP9 codec.
VP9 transmits video significantly more efficiently than the VP8 codec and is a major turning point for Google. One of the biggest advantages of the VP9 codec is that it is royalty-free. Its main competitor, HEVC - High Efficiency Video Coding or H.265, still charges patent royalties to its customers and so Google hopes that VP9 will lead to better alliances with other Web-video providers.
H.265 is a codec currently in development and has made vast improvements on its predecessor H.264. With regards to the VP9 encoder, Google aims to provide the same, if not better, video transmission quality as H.265 but without the royalty charges.
VP9 encoder software will be soon available to enable users to easily encode video material to the desired format. VP9 is designed to be a format standard for the future and so there will be an increasing number of companies offering VP9 encoder solutions in the coming months. As a recent development, VP9 will feature heavily in cloud computing developments and various VP9 encoder devices will be designed to be used with this next generation technology.
It has been reported that YouTube, one of the biggest video sites on the internet, will use the VP9 codec as standard. Google finished defining the codec on June 17 2013 which was the date that the company was able to start using the next generation codec on YouTube and in the Chrome web browser.
It is relatively easy for software and devices such as web browsers to install the VP9 encoder successfully but it will take more time for the VP9 codec to be rolled out on to mobile devices and software as currently, new untested formats drain the battery life of these devices quite substantially.