Google I/O 2013
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Google says its new video codec, VP9, uses half as much bandwidth as current-generation technology to stream the same quality of video. Widespread adoption of the codec would greatly relieve network congestion online, according to Google, as more than 51 percent of Internet traffic came from streaming video in 2011, a number that is on the rise.

Google engineer Ronald Bultje stressed the “tremendous advantages” of the VP9 codec over its previous version (VP8) Wednesday, at the company’s annual I/O conference in San Francisco. VP9 also takes half the bandwidth to stream a video of the current standard, H.264, which is seen on everything from HDTV broadcasts to Blu-ray discs and YouTube videos.

More efficient video codecs allow for a higher level of video resolution at the same amount of bandwidth, and may lead to the adoption of higher-than-HD resolution video formats like 4k. But VP9 will also have to compete with H.265, a new standard released to succeed the wildly successful H.264 that is just as efficient, if not moreso than Google's offering.

YouTube, which is owned by Google, supports the VP9 codec, which may help in more widespread adoption. The major benefit to VP9 over others is that Google says it will offer the codec for free, without any need for organizations that use it to pay any royalty. There are a long list of competitors to Google, including Apple and Microsoft, who helped develop and now see revenue from H.264 and H.265 licensing fees.

This is not the first time, however, that Google has attempted to introduce free licenses for its alternative video codec. After unveiling VP8 at I/O 2010, Google ran into a number of patent issues, with pending court cases against Nokia that may challenge its status as royalty-free.