Microsoft's Edge browser will natively support WebM video

Streaming video encoded with Google's VP9 codec will be possible in future Windows 10 build

Microsoft continues to embrace open source software, announcing Tuesday that its new Edge browser will support the VP9 video codec for playing WebM video.

The codec, which was developed by Google, is one of many designed to support natively playing video in a browser without a need for technology like Microsoft Silverlight or Adobe Flash. At first, Edge will support using software to decode video encoded with VP9, and will support hardware decoding if a device is capable of it.

Edge will first gain VP9 support in an upcoming beta build released through the Windows Insider Program, though Microsoft didn't say when the build is slated for release to the public. To enable that functionality, users will have to dig into the bowels of Edge's settings and toggle on an experimental flag.

VP9 competes with the High Efficiency Video Codec (HEVC), the next-generation video codec pushed by the MPEG LA patent licensing organization. Unlike VP9, HEVC is a closed-source codec that requires companies to license a suite of patents in order to use it. 

VP9 isn't the only new codec getting the nod from Redmond. Microsoft is also considering other media formats, including Ogg and Opus. Developers and users who want to track Microsoft's plans for adding features to its browser can read through the Platform Status website that the company operates. 

Adding support for VP9 to Edge is a good sign for the video standard, which is already supported natively inside Chrome, Firefox and Opera. With this announcement, Microsoft has left Apple out in the cold as the only browser maker that hasn't announced support for Google's codec. Apple holding back its support is hardly surprising, considering that the company owns some of the patents that underpin HEVC, while none of the other players in the browser business do.  

The news comes a week after Microsoft announced it was forming the Alliance for Open Media with other players in the tech industry like Amazon, Google and Facebook to develop a new, royalty-free video specification. Notably absent from that group is Apple, which is one of the companies that has patents included in the HEVC standard. 

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Blair Hanley Frank

IDG News Service
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