Firefox will efficiently play AV1 video—if you have a brand-new GPU

Firefox will efficiently play AV1 video—if you have a brand-new GPU

Support arrives in May 2022.

Firefox is finally gaining proper AV1 support. Neowin noticed that Mozilla has closed a two-year-old bug report asking for the feature, with AV1 hardware decoding scheduled for the release of Firefox 100 in May 2022.

Firefox added software decoding of the AV1 codec back in 2019. Software decoding is slow and uses a ton of power, but it’s better than not being able to see a video at all. Hardware decoding makes AV1 playback a first-class citizen on Firefox, allowing for faster, more power-efficient playback powered by your GPU (provided you have recent hardware). For GPU accelerated AV1 playback, you will need an Nvidia GeForce RTX 30 series card, an AMD Radeon RX 6000 series, or an 11th-gen Intel CPU with Iris Xe graphics.

AV1 is the Internet’s next big video codec. While some tests show that the newer AV1 codec compresses video 30 percent more efficiently than the competing H.265 standard, what really matters for adoption is that AV1 is free while H.265 has licensing fees. AV1 can trace its roots back to Google; the codec is the successor to Google’s VP8 and VP9 codecs, but development is now done under the “Alliance for Open Media.” The Alliance is made up of most major tech companies, including Amazon, Apple, ARM, Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, Nvidia, and Samsung. Chrome and Edge already support AV1 hardware decoding, with Safari being the main holdout (even though Apple is in the alliance).

With this kind of corporate backing, most video sites are working on AV1 support, though PC and browser playback is probably the slowest area of adoption. YouTube is betting big on AV1, building custom video transcoding hardware for data centers and requiring support for the codec from smart TV licensees like Roku and Android TV. Netflix is a big promoter of AV1 and serves AV1 content to smart TVs and set-top boxes (but not browsers yet, from what we can tell). Vimeo added support for AV1 in 2019, while Facebook rolled out codec support in 2018.

Because all of these companies stand to save money with AV1 through lower bandwidth costs and/or reduced licensing fees, AV1 will—eventually—be everywhere.

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