While the infrastructure, and arguably the consumer interest, in 4K is still in its very early stages, YouTube confirmed today that they will debut their 4K video streaming capabilities using their very own VP9 video codec at CES in Las Vegas next week. YouTube is already streaming some content in 4K, but using Flash rather than their own codec, VP9.
VP9 is a royalty-free video codec that Google created as an alternative to H.265, a format that many other providers are already utilizing for 4K video. Alongside the 4K support, Google claims that VP9 will also be highly beneficial to HD video streaming, reducing the amount of data necessary to stream regular HD videos by about 50%. Hopefully, that also means a lot less of the spinning wheel of death on YouTube.
VP9 is Google's second major attempt at establishing a royalty-free codec. In 2010, they released VP8 as the go-to plugin-free video streaming software but a lack of industry support meant it never quite got off the ground. At the CES 2014 show, LG, Sony, and Panasonic will demonstrate 4K streaming using VP9, while YouTube confirmed to GigaOm that another 19 technology giants including Intel, Toshiba, Samsung, and Sharp have agreed to support the codec. Google are quick to point out that YouTube's use of the VP9 format isn't about to start a war of the codecs though. Francisco Varela, Global Director of Platform Partnerships at YouTube, stated that they were still open about H.265 support.
Although the big guns like Google and Netflix are putting their considerable weight behind 4K, consumers of online video won't feel the benefit unless they have a fantastically reliable high-speed internet connection and a 4K-ready TV.