YouTube: 2014 is the year of the high-def stream

With all the quality of high-definition, 4K video streams at half the bandwidth, thanks to a Google video format.

Seen side by side, a 4K TV (left) and a 1080-pixel TV (right). YouTube will support 4K-quality streams in 2014. Sarah Tew/CNET

YouTube has announced that it will be demonstrating high-definition video streams at the Consumer Electronics Show next week, thanks to the relatively new Google video codec VP9.

The new format is advantageous for YouTube and other video streaming sites because it allows them to transmit high-definition, 4K quality streams without slowing down your network. One anticipated effect is that you'll experience a lot less buffering while watching online video.

Google is working hard to ensure that VP9 enjoys broad adoption, and the demo partners include Sony, Panasonic, and LG, who will show off the the high-def streams on 4K televisions at their CES booths. But Google also has enlisted a variety of hardware and software partners to commit to VP9 early, including ARM, Broadcom, Samsung, Nvidia, Mozilla, Qualcomm, Marvell, and Toshiba.

Francisco Varela, YouTube's platform partnership director, told GigaOm that Google was not ruling out support for other next-generation video codecs, including H.265, VP9's biggest competitor .

VP9 is a big deal for the Internet, and YouTube's support of it is both an in-house quid pro quo and beneficial for the Internet at large. Matt Frost, a senior business product manager for Google Chrome's Web Media team, said at Google I/O 2013 that the royalty-free VP9 will save organizations such as schools, startups, and programmers who want to create video projects millions of dollars.

But he also noted that VP9 helps Google itself, since saving bandwidth benefits Google's bottom line.

"With a codec as good as VP9, we can significantly increase the size of the Internet," Frost said. "We can significantly increase the speed of the Internet."

 

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