Open Source VP9 Video Codec Now Supported in Microsoft Edge Browser

Microsoft announced today that it will add support in its Edge browser for the open source VP9 video codec fostered by Google and its WebM coalition.

In addition, Microsoft announced last week that it has joined the Alliance for Open Media, an industry coalition focused on creating an "open royalty-free video codec specification based on the contributions of members." The Alliance for Open Media's founding members include Amazon, Cisco, Google, Intel, Mozilla and Netflix, in addition to Microsoft.

It's not clear when the Alliance for Open Media will roll out this new video codec. The aim of the group is to create a video codec in an open Web-based format that can work across any device and provide support for both commercial and noncommercial content.

Google's WebM Project apparently will coexist alongside the Alliance for Open Media's efforts, even though the goals of the two organizations seem similar.

"Google launched the WebM Project in 2010 in the belief that web video innovation was too slow and too closed, and that broad collaboration -- in the open -- would fix both problems," explained Matt Frost, head of strategy and partnerships for Google Chrome media. "The Alliance for Open Media is a big leap forward for these core philosophies, and we're gratified that our AOMedia partners share this vision."

The WebM Project initially consisted of support for Google's open source VP8 video codec along with the open source Vorbis audio codec and the open source Matroska media container. It was backed by Google, Mozilla and Opera at launch. Microsoft at that time supported VP8 in Internet Explorer 9, but only if it was installed by end users.

Microsoft and Apple both favored the proprietary H.264 video codec for their browsers, which bears royalty costs for the application developers using the codec. Mozilla dropped Firefox browser support for H.264 for that reason, and Google later dropped H.264 codec support in its Chrome browser.

HTML5 was supposed to have solved the issue with a Web-based open source video codec. However, it seems the standards process went too slowly, or agreement wasn't reached.

Currently VP9 isn't supported in Internet Explorer, according to a table of video codec support maintained by Wikipedia. Apple's Safari browser also does not support VP9.

Microsoft plans to add VP9 video codec support in its Edge browser in a future Windows Insider test release, according to an announcement, although the timing wasn't specified by Microsoft. VP9 support will be available as an experimental feature under Edge's "about:flags" menu selection. Microsoft also plans to add other video technologies, such as Thor and Daala, to Edge as part of its future integration work. The open source OGG, Opus and Vorbis formats are being evaluated for Edge, too, by Microsoft.

In other Edge news, Microsoft announced earlier this month that it will end its support for the RC4 cipher in Edge and IE 11, starting in "early 2016." The Internet Engineering Task Force has banned the use of RC4 with the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol because RC4 security can be broken.

RC4 isn't used very much. However, if it's used by a Web service, Microsoft recommends enabling TLS 1.2 and removing support for RC4.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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