Google’s VP8 encoder has really taken off in HTML5, as Google took care to ensure cross-browser support, and the support a major video streaming website – Google’s own YouTube – right as it launched. Since then Google has been working on improving both the speed and the quality of the VP8 codec.
VP8 is now supported natively on three of the five major browsers Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Opera, and is supported via a codec installation, on Internet Explorer as well. Safari is the only standout. Google has also released hardware designs that can be used to provide hardware acceleration for encoding and decoding, which are resource-intensive operations.
Since the VP8 format itself is fixed, the improvements come from changes and optimizations in the codec itself.
The previous major release, Bali, was released in March this year. It brought major improvements to the encoder’s speed and quality, and now the trend continues with third named VP8 SDK release "Cayuga” – named after a breed of duck as usual.
This release improves the performance over the previous “Bali” release, with as much as 22.5 speed improvement in “Real-time” mode, which is useful in telecommunications. Compared to the first release the “Real-time” mode performance has gone up by as much as 52%.
Google has also worked on improving the speed on ARM platforms, which will be useful for VP8 implementation on mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.
A recently released version of Skype also uses VP8 for video calling, one-on-one or for group calls. This codec support has been added in Skype 5.5, and earlier versions of Skype used the proprietary VP7 codec. This means better quality and lower bandwidth requirements. Of course both (or all) participants on the conversation need to be using a version of Skype that supports VP8, i.e. version 5.5 or higher.