H.265 Video Codec Approved, Here Comes the Second Web Video War

H.265 may have a harder time becoming ubiquitous like H.264

With the H.264 video codec already dominating the web and consumer electronics, the industry group behind the popular codec is now pushing its successor, aptly named H.265.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU – yes, those guys) has announced that its members have reached an agreement over the upcoming video standard.

"The new codec will considerably ease the burden on global networks where, by some estimates, video accounts for more than half of bandwidth use," the ITU explained.

"The new standard, known informally as 'High Efficiency Video Coding' (HEVC) will need only half the bit rate of its predecessor, ITU-T H.264 / MPEG-4 Part 10 'Advanced Video Coding' (AVC), which currently accounts for over 80 per cent of all web video. HEVC will unleash a new phase of innovation in video production spanning the whole ICT spectrum, from mobile devices through to Ultra-High Definition TV," it added.

Obviously, claims like only needing half the bitrate of its predecessor are meaningless on their own. Presumably, that's for the same quality presets, but video quality, at its core, is still subjective. Even if it weren't, comparisons between codecs depend hugely on the videos used.

Still, it's safe to say that the new codec will use much less bandwidth while streaming, a major improvement since, as the ITU notes, video traffic now makes up a huge portion of Internet traffic; you can thank Netflix, YouTube and all the rest for that.

It will be a while before H.265 is used in the wild; there are still some portions of the standard that need to be developed. But it's going to be interesting to see whether H.265 will spur the same type of fight as H.264 did when used in HTML5.

H.264 and H.265 are free to use, but they are patent-encumbered and you need a license if you're a big enough organization.

This prevented H.264 from being included in the HTML5 standard and led to a prolonged war between H.264 and patent-free codecs, particularly Google's VP8, part of WebM. H.264 won handily, but it had a huge lead by the time VP8 came along. H.265 may not find it so easy.

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