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    Thursday, April 15, 2021

    Chrome 90 Rolling Out With AV1 Codec for Optimised Video Conferencing

    Chrome 90 update gets AV1 Codec for optimised video conferencing, HTTPS as default protocol, among others.

    With Chrome OS turning 10 as the Chrome 89 upgrade cycle hit last month, tons of new features and additions showed up to be a part of the celebration. With those extra bits and pieces all arriving in the last update, it is par for the course to see a less feature-packed upgrade this time around. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t important changes to consider, and the new AV1 encoder for WebRTC is probably the biggest one.

    What are WebRTC and AV1 and why should you care?

    Again, this Chrome update has a lot going on under the hood that end users will benefit from but likely not need to know about. This AV1 encoder appear that way to many users glancing over the latest changes, but I promise the impact will be felt by just about everyone that uses Chrome. In order to understand why, you need to have a basic understanding of WebRTC and what it does. Here is an explanation from webrtc.org:

    With WebRTC, you can add real-time communication capabilities to your application that works on top of an open standard. It supports video, voice, and generic data to be sent between peers, allowing developers to build powerful voice- and video-communication solutions. The technology is available on all modern browsers as well as on native clients for all major platforms. The technologies behind WebRTC are implemented as an open web standard and available as regular JavaScript APIs in all major browsers. For native clients, like Android and iOS applications, a library is available that provides the same functionality. The WebRTC project is open-source and supported by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Mozilla, amongst others. This page is maintained by the Google WebRTC team.
    via WebRTC.or

    Now, we need to understand a bit about AV1 in order to understand the importance of the the AV1 encoder that is included in Chrome 90. AV1 is simply a video format built with the transmission of web video in mind. If data compression is the goal, AV1 is the solution at this point. 

    With more and more streaming video for standard content, video calls, and live events, we need smooth, low-bandwidth video now more than ever. AV1 – introduced in 2018 – is becoming quite widely available and is already in use (or in the pipeline) by services like YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Twitch, and Vimeo. 

    Simply put, AV1 is becoming the go-to standard for online, streaming video. Putting the two together (AV1 + WebRTC), you start to see where this new feature in Chrome will come in very handy. From the Chromium Blog:

    An AV1 encoder is shipping in Chrome desktop that is specifically optimized for video conferencing with WebRTC integration. The benefits of AV1 include:

    • Better compression efficiency than other types of video encoding, reducing bandwidth consumption and improve visual quality
    • Enabling video for users on very low bandwidth networks (offering video at 30kbps and lower)
    • Significant screen sharing efficiency improvements over VP9 and other codecs.

    With better handling of video compression coupled with optimization for low bandwidth connections, this new AV1 encoder should make a very big difference in the overall quality of video calls in services like Duo, Meet and Cisco Webex. 

    These services request AV1 over webRTC already, so now that Chrome can deliver it, they should take advantage of it. Obviously you’ll need two users both on Chrome OS 90 to take advantage, but I’d assume the difference in low-bandwidth situations should be quite noticeable once most users update to the latest stable build. 

    As more and more of us spend time in virtual meetings and calls, this is a technical upgrade to Chrome that should have far-reaching effect on the end user experience for the better.

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