Why we are supporting VP9 (and AV1)

NGCodec has started to port our H.265/HEVC FPGA encoder to VP9. About ⅓ of our source code will not change (look ahead, rate control, adaptive quantization), ⅓ has minor changes, and ⅓ is new.

With the premium segment - led by Apple - now supporting H.265/HEVC, it is time content distributors leverage the massive user experience advantages of next generation compression (H.264/AVC was ratified back in 2003). Using ABR on congested networks an H.265/HEVC or VP9 stream can deliver HD whereas an H.264/AVC stream would be limited to SD. Of course this also saves bandwidth/CDN and storage costs.

The mass market segment lead by Google has decided not to support H.265/HEVC, but instead supports VP9. Despite lots of propaganda, VP9 can performs almost as well as H.265/HEVC (unlike most companies, we have built both encoders). So, post the 2003 H.264/AVC codec, both codecs will be required. Due to commercial and political reasons, both camps will not align around one next generation codec. In fact on a low cost Android phone priced under $100, it is impossble for the OEM to enable H.265/HEVC and have to pay royalties, since this would remove most of their profits. They will only enable VP9.

As of September 2017 here is the browser support for different video codecs on Desktop and Mobile as well as the estimated use by each.


Connected TVs (latest versions) also have a high level of next generation codec support:


In fact the installed base for VP9 is currently almost 2x the size of H.265/HEVC given the market share of Chrome and Android. Also if you want YouTube in 4K today you have to support VP9.


We also expect desktop/laptops using Chrome, Firefox and Edge Browser to add software decoding of AV1 in 2018 with hardware decoding coming to mobile/tablets and connected TVs in 2019. (The Nightly version for Firefox already supports AV1). We are a member of AOM and will support AV1 in the future.

In summary, despite the extra complexity, we believe consumers will demand all three codecs: H.264/AVC for legacy old devices, H.265/HEVC for premium, and VP9 for mass market support. The use experience benefits of HD vs SD on congested networks are compelling. The installed base of 4K capable devices is also rapidly growing, meaning next generation codecs will have to be supported. NGCodec with its Cloud FPGA encoders can help you reduce costs as you move to next generation codecs.

Sources of Data:

Browser Video Codec support

Browser Market Share

1.4B PC/Laptop Installed Base

3B Mobile/Tablet Installed Base (page 8)

US Connected TV devices by Device

646M Worldwide Connected TV in 2016

AOM, AV1, Blog, VP9Oliver Gunasekara