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Google, Microsoft, and other tech giants team up to create next-gen video codec

Optimizing for a better tomorrow

In a rare moment of cooperation, seven of the technology industry's most prominent software makers have banded together to create a next-generation standard for encoding and decoding video streams. The Alliance for Open Media consists of Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel Corporation, Microsoft, Mozilla, and Netflix, and it's working to deliver next-generation tools it says will be royalty-free and open source.

Companies like Netflix and Amazon can pay millions of dollars a year to license codecs, which allow streaming media files to be transmitted and displayed on our devices. But competing formats, a lack of standards, and battles over patents have created headaches for companies that would rather organize — and optimize — around a single codec. The Alliance for Open Media was likely driven in part by demands for royalties from the industry group HEVC Advance, which is making patent claims on a successor to the popular H.264 codec that is capable of transmitting 4K video at half the current bandwidth.

One codec to rule them all

"The new Alliance is committing its collective technology and expertise to meet growing internet demand for top-quality video, audio, imagery, and streaming across devices of all kinds and for users worldwide," the organization said in a press release. The main goal right now is to develop a next-gen video codec in the next two years that will incorporate all the latest work from Cisco's Thor project, Google's VP9 and VP10 codec work, and Mozilla's Daala initiative. That way, there will be a single technology created by those responsible for much of the backbone of modern Web traffic, along with help from some of the biggest web video providers. The alliance expects to add more members starting next to year to bolster its position against competing codecs in the marketplace.