Apple Finally Joins Alliance For Royalty-Free AV1 Video CODEC That Could Ease Load On Data Plans

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The Alliance for Open Media was formed a little over two years ago in an effort to push a royalty-free video technology called AV1. It is backed by some pretty big names in tech, all of which are focused on reducing the storage footprint of online video through fancy compression technologies. Though several tech titans have thrown their weight behind the project, Apple has been noticeably absent, at least until now.

Apple now shows up on the site as a founding member, joining the likes of Amazon, ARM, Cisco, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, and NVIDIA. The company's previous absence was notable because pushing a standard is a lot more difficult if everyone isn't on board. Apple is obviously a major force in the mobile market, with its iPhone devices and iOS accounting for a major chunk of mobile market share.

"It's definitely a pretty significant development and a sign of how times change and persistence pays off," Matt Frost, head of media strategy and partnerships for Google's Chrome team, told CNET.

Frost previously served as chief executive of On2 Technologies, a video compression company that Google bought in 2010 for $123 million. That led to VP8 and later VP9, both of which are open source codecs. Apple, meanwhile, was throwing its weight behind H.264 (or AVC), and more recently its successor, H.265 (or HEVC). Both have been hobbled by patent claims, however, paving the way for Apple to pursue AV1.

AV1 is still being fleshed out, with the first version likely to be finalized sometime in February. Mozilla previously claimed that AV1 can reduce file sizes by up to 35 percent, compared to HEVC and VP9. The only downside is that better compression typically takes longer to process. There's also the concern that companies will come out of the woodwork and claim to own patents on AV1 technologies.

"There are a lot of companies that have patents tied to video compression and playback technology," said Frost & Sullivan analyst Dan Rayburn. "AV1 is still in the very early stages, but there is no guarantee that some technology companies won't try to enforce patents around it."

Should that come to pass, however, we suspect that the founding members of the Alliance would pool their legal resources to protect AV1 against such claims.