Google puts pressure on Apple to adopt the VP9 video format

27 Jan 2017 | Rasmus Larsen |

Google will no longer let users of the Safari web browser enjoy YouTube in 4K quality, according to StreamingMedia. In the future, 4K will require support for Google’s VP9 format, which Apple has so far refused to back.

Next-gen video formats

For a decade, content providers have used MPEG4 (and its sub-classes such as AVC / H.264) to deliver content to consumers. With the transition to 4K new formats have emerged. HEVC is created by the same group who created MPEG4, and Google has developed the VP9 format.

VP9 is royalty-free whereas MPEG and HEVC are not. Google is trying to position VP9 as the de facto standard by using it for its own services such as YouTube. However, YouTube is also using MPEG4 to be able reach Apple users and PC users with legacy browsers.

YouTube in 4K and 60fps


In the past, YouTube has served 4K videos in both MPEG4 and VP9. This has allowed Safari users to watch 4K but that will no longer be possible as YouTube is switching to serving 4K via VP9 exclusively.

- ”[We will focus on] delivering the best 4K experience exclusively through VP9.” said Mariana De Felice, Global Communications at YouTube, to Streamingmedia.com.

VP9 is supported by browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Edge.


Alliance for Open Media


Apple users can use Chrome

The change means that owners of iMac 4K and iMac 5K will have to switch to using Google Chrome in order to watch YouTube in 4K in the future. To be clear, videos that were already uploaded in 4K before the switch, will continue to be available in 4K, but all future videos uploaded to YouTube will use VP9 for 4K.

The feud goes back many years to when Steve Jobs was alive.
Apple has so far refused to back Google’s VP9 format as well as the predecessor VP8. The feud goes back many years to when Steve Jobs was alive. He once indicated that VP8 infringed on patents in MPEG4. Apple is invested in HEVC but has yet to employ it widely, which may have something to do with 4K movies still being absent from iTunes.

Google knows that transitions such as the current one to 4K are critical when trying to get a foot in the door. If Apple adopts VP9 on Safari for Mac the route to iPhone, iPad and Apple TV is relatively short.

An alliance consisting of Amazon, AMD, ARM, Cisco, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Nvidia, Mozilla, and Netflix is working on creating a next-generation video format. Apple is not currently listed as a member of the alliance – at least not on the public list.

- Source: Streamingmedia.com



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