Recently Jean-Baptiste Kempf, the President of VideoLAN, announced the release of dav1d 0.1.0, the first usable version of its AV1 decoder. It was first announced in October that the VideoLAN, VLC, and FFmpeg communities would be working on the decoder, under the sponsorship of the Alliance of Open Media (AOMedia) that developed the AV1 format.

In the initial release of dav1d all AV1 features are already supported, as is 8, 10, and 12 bit chroma subsampling, and all the AV1 files that were shared with the community. Initial tests show that the decoder is very fast on modern desktops when compared against other decoders.

The speed of dav1d is one of its main goals, in addition to keeping the binary size small, cross-platform, correctly threaded, and open-source. The first release seems to show promise in fulfilling those goals, but is still best viewed as a starting point.

The speed of dav1d and other AV1 decoders is especially critical as hardware support will not be available until the latter half of 2019. Based on AOMedia’s AV1 roadmap, it is expected that modern devices will mostly feature AV1 hardware support by 2020.

Other platforms have started to add support for AV1 or beta versions of AV1 decoders of their own in recent months, with varied performance levels. Both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have beta AV1 support on their browsers, while Microsoft has an AV1 Video Extension Beta for Windows 10.

Aside from decoders, several AV1 encoders have also been released such as rav1e that is being billed as the ‘fastest and safest’. It will be some time before video converter software begins to support the encoders or decoders however, but in time it may be as easy as using Online Video Converter to convert MOV to MP4 online, for example.

As things stand AV1’s adoption seems to be proceeding on schedule based on its roadmap, which was expected. The fact that it has the backing of AOMedia members that include some of the largest tech companies certainly does help, and Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, Facebook, Apple, IBM and many others are all part of the consortium.

Additionally a lot of other non-members are interested in AV1’s adoption due to the fact that it seems to be shaping up to be a viable alternative to HEVC (H.265). Early tests of AV1 have demonstrated that it is capable of compressing video files 20% more efficiently than HEVC.

Although HEVC was expected to eventually replace H.264 as the standard for web-based videos, it now seems more and more likely that AV1 will fill that role – barring any issues. The fact that it is royalty-free and does not have the complex licensing structure that held back HEVC is one of its main advantages.

With dav1d and other decoders being released it will enable AV1 to be played on more devices in the not too distant future, and should tide users over until hardware support becomes available for the format in a few years.