November 20, 2013

Google Migrates YouTube to HTML5 and Its Own 4K Compression

Google (News Alert) is, by virtue of its sheer scale, a tastemaker of sorts. When it throws its weight behind something, it usually has broader market ramifications. Recently, it said that it is eyeing HTML5 as a rich media standard for Web content that could be a viable replacement for Flash and Silverlight, and said that YouTube (NewsAlert) was migrating to the technology almost wholesale.

It also threw its weight behind its own VP9 compression standard for ushering in the next generation of video resolution—eschewing the more widely considered HEVC encoding technology.

When it comes to HTML5, YouTube is embracing it in a big way.  “We are quickly coming to an era where all YouTube video will be HTML5 video,” said Google’s head of strategy and partnerships for Chrome, Matt Frost, speaking at the OTTtv World Summit. Non-monetized videos viewed in Chrome and Internet Explorer 11 is HTML5 video, he said.

HTML5 is emerging as the new standard for Web content and digital advertising because it’s more flexible than Flash, being supported on every browser and device (i.e., Apple (News Alert) likes it). That helps bridge many of the issues presented by device fragmentation, in theory. But today, HTML isn’t being implemented with any real degree of consistency, Frost said, making it difficult for content and application developers to achieve cross-platform/browser compatibility that suppliers and consumers alike would like.

“The goal when you put forward a standard is to have people implement it in a standardized way,” said Frost. “Unfortunately that’s not always the case…With HTML5, you’re looking at creating a mosaic solution across all of these browsers.”

Meanwhile, 4K UltraHD video—which takes high-end 1080p HD resolution for TV and quadruples it—is starting to make inroads to the market as more TVs ship that are capable of showing the better picture quality. But all of those extra pixels come with significant overhead: specifically, delivering 4K streams requires eight times the bandwidth of normal HD content, thus challenging pay-TV operators, broadcasters and over-the-top (OTT) providers to find ways to ensure Quality of Service while maintaining a cost-effective delivery structure.

Compression standards are widely seen as one key to the castle. And while HEVC is perhaps the most well-known codec for shrinking down bandwidth requirements for fat streams, Google is opting to instead embrace its own V9 compression standard, which it says offers the “best path to 4K video,” according to Frost. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee


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