Google wants the world to use their new VP9 codec, but even they admit h.265 is better

It goes without saying that video files are huge. Thankfully, computers get more and more powerful each and every year, so they can handle decoding increasingly complex video codecs. Anyone who has ever downloaded a 1080p video off YouTube for storage purposes can tell you that it takes up about a gigabyte and hour.

Compare that to the good old DVD, which held nearly 5 GB, yet only stored a two hour movie.

Tomorrow’s next generation video codecs are even more efficient. One such codec, called h.265, delivers the same video quality as h.264 at half the file size. You can only imagine how important that’ll be once 4K video becomes mainstream. Google though, they want to push their own codec called VP9. Ronald Bultje, a Googler speaking at I/O this year (pictured above), says h.265 delivers slightly better video quality than VP9, 1% better, but VP9 is “better” because it’s “royalty free”.

Like with everything that’s “free” in the world, there are always strings attached. Android is “free”, but you have to pay Microsoft to license some of their patents. The same thing is likely going to end up happening with VP9. Nokia owns some patents related to VP9 that they refuse to let Google use, for example.

But more importantly, the world is moving to mobile, and chip makers typically put dedicated silicon on their processor dies that decode video without breaking a sweat. It’s up to the chip makers to decide whether or not they want to put hardware accelerated h.265 decode/encode blocks on their chips or VP9 de/en blocks, and my guts tells me the latter is going to lose out.

I’ll be pleasantly surprised if VP9 actually goes anywhere. Actually, I’ll be shocked.