Mozilla Celebrates Release of Free, High-Quality Video Compression Technology AV1 in Firefox 65

Blame cord cutters. Or cell phones. Or the rise of great original content. Whatever the reason, people now have an obvious and insatiable hunger for streaming online video and that demand is only increasing.

Whether it’s their favorite Netflix shows or must-see live sports, people want to watch more video. They want it now, on all their devices — computer, laptop, tablet and mobile — and they want it to be high quality. But what you might not know is that there’s been a battle going on behind the scenes over who is allowed to use the technology needed to bring video to the people.

For the past several years companies and creators have had to pay millions of dollars in licensing fees to use the technology that helps deliver videos to consumers. This makes it difficult or even impossible for creators to innovate on new platforms that deliver high-quality video.

We’ve been working hard to change all that, and today’s release of Firefox 65 marks another important milestone in that revolution. The Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia), a consortium featuring some of the biggest names in content creation, software, hardware, video conferencing and web technologies including Amazon, Apple, ARM, Cisco, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Netflix and NVIDIA, has developed and standardized a next-generation royalty-free video compression technology called AV1. In short, this will allow producers and consumers of content to access the best in video compression technology that was, until now, prohibitively expensive. Firefox 65 includes support for AV1 so any of that content can be freely enjoyed by all.

We think someone’s ability to participate in online video shouldn’t be dependent on the size of their checkbook.

It’s something we’re passionate about at Mozilla. Our engineers working on the Daala project spent years studying how we could create a better way to compress videos, and in the spirit of Mozilla that better way had to be open source so anyone could have access. To succeed however, we would also need all parties to ensure there would be no royalty fees. In 2015 we helped launch AOMedia to ensure that video compression technology becomes a public resource, open and accessible to all.

For this to work, it wasn’t good enough for the technology to be royalty-free. It also had to be superior to today’s royalty-encumbered alternatives and offer better quality for a large number of use cases. We worked with our partners to make sure that what we settled on creating could stand up against and surpass the existing alternatives.

AOM and AV1 were able to get to this point because this initiative isn’t just about software makers. We’ve also had hardware manufacturers on board, which means you’ll see the technology in cell phones, computers and TVs. The diversity of interests assures we have a wide enough market representation to push for this adoption and the follow through to actually implement it.

An open source and royalty free video codec is needed for video to thrive on the internet. If licensing fees become a relic of the past then the expensive barrier to entry for new content creators and streaming platforms will be eliminated. They’ll no longer have to fear the threat of patent lawsuits, and can move forward unleashed.

If this barrier to entry for online video services is removed, that’s a victory for consumers. Consumers get more choices as more start-ups will enter the marketplace with an ability to compete with the big companies who, until now, were the only ones with pockets deep enough to afford the fees to deliver high quality video online.

The AV1 format is already 30% percent better than competing formats such as HEVC and VP9, and we’re not done yet. We’ve only just scratched the surface of what is possible. The fact that this technology is free will push open the doors of innovation and supports our mission of building an Internet that is open and accessible to all.

So creators, grab your cameras and consumers, get ready to take your binge-watching to the next level, because streaming video on the Internet is about to get a whole lot better.