YouTube 4K streaming coming at CES with new VP9 codec

January 2, 2014
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At CES next week  YouTube will show off 4K streaming using a new open-source codec that will make videos load faster and require less bandwidth.

The new codec Google will introduce is called VP9, the follow-up to the failed VP8 codec introduced back in 2010. This time is different, though, because VP9 will have hardware partners at launch unlike its predecessor. On the first day of CES Google will show off 4K streaming using the new codec at the LG, Panasonic, and Sony booths. The list of other partners includes ARM, Samsung, Intel, Broadcom, Marvell, Toshiba, and Sharp. Basically, it includes most major companies that produce smartphones and PCs and the parts that go in them.

Google’s VP9 is supposed to be the open-source alternative to H.265, the current standard for 4K video. The goal is to make videos easier to stream with VP9 by cutting the requires bandwidth in half. YouTube also hopes it will help do away with buffering, which would be very nice.

YouTube may support H.265 in the future if there is enough demand for it, but for now the focus looks to be on VP9.

The new codec will bring 4K video streaming to PCs and smartphones first, with Smart TV support coming sometime in 2015. There are no smartphones that have 4K displays yet, and the few 4K PC monitors are very expensive. So for most of us, the new codec will hopefully mean better streaming, but any higher resolution videos will probably have to wait.

Of course, we’ll also have to wait for 4K cameras to be more affordable before we see any YouTube videos at that high resolution. Right now only professionals and the affluent can afford 4K cameras, which means that approximately 99.9% of YouTube content creators can’t shoot in 4K yet. Luckily for us, 4K video recording support is already supported by some Android devices.

Are you excited about YouTube’s new 4K streaming plans, even if you might not have a 4K screen?

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