YouTube has started to test transcoding some videos into the new AV1 format. Due to its high efficiency (it compresses up to 40% better than the HEVC/H.265 and 30% better than the VP9 codec often used by YouTube) YouTube wants to reduce the amount of transmitted video data significantly and thus save costs.
But also for the users the use of AV1 would have the advantage of a lower data consumption - especially when watching YouTube videos on the move a nice bonus. AV1 will be supported by Google&s Chrome Browser from the next version 70 on and soon also by Firefox. In the future, it will also be supported by devices such as TVs and smartphone chipsets.
Those whose browser supports AV1 (Chrome Beta 70 or a current Firefox Nightly) can already try out some deputy videos encoded with AV1 as an en and decoder test. For this you have to set the flags "about:config?filter=media.av1.enabled" and "media.mediasource.experimental.enabled" in Firefox and then activate AV1 in the Testtube Settings. A playlist with 14 AV1 videos can be found at here.
Whether the AV1 codec is actually used or not can be determined with the "Stats for Nerds" from Youtube, which appear by right-clicking on a video stream and also reveal other interesting information such as the number of dropped frames or the current connection speed. If "av01" appears as codec, the AV1 codec is used.
The whole thing is only a first text from YouTube: since AV1 is very computation intensive and is not yet supported by GPUs, the AV1 videos are only available in low resolutions below 480p, versions with higher resolution are still streamed with VP9. In addition, no lower bandwidth can be expected, because these transcodes are currently still encoded with a very high bit rate to test the performance of the decoder.
The open source AV1 codec is being developed by the Alliance for Open Media, which includes major companies such as Amazon, Apple, ARM, Cisco, Facebook, Google, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix and Nvidia. It is intended to be a free and more effective alternative to the H.264 and H.265/HEVC codecs that are subject to license fees.
If you want to try AV1 for yourself and encode your own videos with it, you can do so via ffMPEG or rav1e - but some programming knowledge is still required - but soon more user-friendly tools will be developed.