The latest test version of Firefox adds support for the new AV1 codec, a codec that claims to be 25% more efficient than the industry standard HEVC.
AV1, short for AOMedia Video 1, is the product of the Alliance for Open Media, a group founded by some of the Internet's biggest names including Google, Cisco and Firefox maker, Mozilla.
The purpose of creating the AV1 codec was to present an open source, royalty free alternative to the widely accepted HEVC (H.265) codec. HEVC has found acceptance as the de facto codec for streaming applications, as well as for use in Ultra HD Blu-ray. The increased efficiency of HEVC compared to its predecessor AVC/H.264, has made it much easier to distribute 4K content, whether online or via physical media.
Previous efforts to displace HEVC, such as Google's VP9 codec, has met with failure due to the lack of hardware support, as well as the less efficient nature of these codecs. AV1, the spiritual successor to VP9, wants to go the other way and not only match HEVC but beat it in the quality and efficiency stakes. Early tests show that AV1 has the potential to do just this.
Already, Google has signaled it is ready to switch to AV1 for YouTube, and Netflix has revealed it will be one of the first users of the coced. Both, along with Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, are members of the Alliance for Open Media.
Hardware support for AV1 is still thin on the ground at the moment, and the lack of hardware encoding support means that producing AV1 content is a painful and time consuming process at the moment. The lack of hardware decoding means that playing AV1 content on mobile devices will quickly drain the device of available battery.
The current version of AV1 support for Firefox is still experimental. You can read more about Firefox's AV1 support here.