4K is one of those formats that seem to totter on the verge of acceptance, but never quite get there. Still, it may be getting a major boost next week… and from an unlikely place. YouTube might be out to beat video streaming services by getting 4K video to market first.
Why? Because Google wants your YouTube videos to start instantly, according to GigaOm:
The Google-owned video service will be showing off ultra high-definition streaming based on VP9, a new royalty-free codec that Google has been developing as an alternative to the H.265 video codec that’s at the core of many other 4K implementations. This isn’t the first time Google has tried to establish an open and royalty-free alternative to a commercial video format. …but those plans were thwarted by a lack of hardware support and fierce opposition from some companies with vested interest in established commercial video formats.
Google is claiming it can stream 4K video at half the data rate of other streaming solutions, an impressive claim if true. The good news for those of us who don’t want to sell our children for a TV is that VP9 will also be applied to lower resolution YouTube videos, so buffering will become a lot rarer and video will eat up less of your data.
Of course, Google also likely doesn’t want to keep shelling out for royalty payments. This isn’t the place to get into the video codec wars, which are boring even to nerds, but essentially, everything you use that involves streaming, shooting, or recording video pays a royalty to the owners of H.264. That doesn’t include YouTube, since YouTube is free to the end user, but it does include Google’s movie selling arm.
Still, anything that makes video streaming faster and cheaper is a good thing. The question remains, however, whether it’s really worth selling a child to watch Fred in 4K.