New Firefox AV1 support for Encrypted Media Extensions

Andy Francis
. 2 min read
Firefox AV1 support - Bitmovin

This post covers some recent updates, focusing on the new Firefox AV1 support in Encrypted Media Extensions. Bitmovin has been supporting and advocating for use of the AV1 codec for several years, even though there have been gaps in playback support preventing adoption for some workflows. Slowly but surely, those gaps are being filled and the reasons not to use AV1 are going away. Keep reading to learn more.

Firefox 125 adds support for encrypted AV1

A couple of years ago, Bitmovin began testing several different combinations of AV1 encoding, muxing and DRM support across browsers and playback devices. We were somewhat surprised to learn that even though Firefox was the first major browser to support AV1 playback, they had not implemented support for encrypted AV1 as they had for other codecs. We found there was actually an open bug/request filed 5 years ago. 

Shortly after we began watching closely, there was an update…

Screenshot of update to bug report about lack of AV1 Widevine support in Firefox. Since then, Firefox AV1 support has improved with support for encrypted media extensions in version 125.

Ouch. Once the ticket got reassigned, Bitmovin got involved and gave our feedback that for premium/studio content, this support would be needed soon. We also provided a Widevine-protected sample for them to use in testing. Fast-forward to this spring, we saw some action on the ticket and support for AV1 with Encrypted Media Extensions was officially added to Firefox 125!

This means premium content workflows can now use AV1 on all of the major desktop browsers. Apple added support to Safari last fall, including with FairPlay Streaming, but for now it’s limited to devices with AV1 hardware decoders (iPhone 15 Pro, iPad Pro, new Macs with M3 processors).

Previous Bitmovin and Firefox AV1 collaboration

Way back in 2017, before the AV1 spec was finalized, Bitmovin and Firefox collaborated on the first HTML5 AV1 playback. Because the bitstream was still under development and subject to change, Bitmovin and Mozilla agreed on a common codec string to ensure compatibility between the version in the Bitmovin encoder and the decoder in Mozilla Firefox. It was made available in Mozilla’s experimental development version, Firefox Nightly, for users to manually enable. 

Even earlier in 2017, Bitmovin demonstrated the first broadcast quality AV1 live stream at NAB, winning a Best of Show award from Streaming Media Magazine. 

Other recent AV1 playback updates

Android adds dav1d decoder

In March 2024, VideoLAN’s “dav1d” became available to all Android devices running Android 12 or higher. Apps need to opt-in to using AV1 for now, but according to Google, most devices can at least keep up with software decoding of 720p 30fps video. YouTube initially opted to begin using dav1d on devices without a hardware decoder, but may have reverted that decision, likely due to battery concerns on phones. For plug-in Android devices, dav1d is still a great option and a welcome addition to the ecosystem.

iPad Pro gets AV1 playback support with M4 processor

In early May 2024, Apple continued their march toward full AV1 support with the announcement of their new M4 chip, which will power the new iPad Pro. The Media Engine of M4 is the most advanced to come to iPad, supporting several popular video codecs, like H.264, HEVC, and ProRes, in addition to AV1.

Ready to get started with AV1?

Bitmovin has added AV1 codec support to our Per-Title and 3-pass encoding optimizations and made AV1 encoding available in our dashboard UI, so now you can perform your first AV1 encode without any code, API calls, or configuration necessary! Bitmovin’s AV1 encoding has supported DASH streaming together with Widevine content protection for a long time, but we’ve now also added support for fMP4 in HLS playlists together with FairPlay content protection to take advantage of Apple AV1 support for premium content. It’s also available in our free trial, so there’s never been a better time to check it out and begin taking advantage of the bandwidth savings and quality improvements that AV1 can provide.

Firefox AV1 support - Bitmovin

Website: Bitmovin’s AV1 hub   

Blog: State of AV1 Playback Support

Blog: Everything you need to know about Apple’s AV1 Support

Blog: 4K video at SD bitrates with AV1

Andy Francis

Andy Francis

Technical Content Lead

Andy Francis is an A/V nerd at heart who has spent the last 15+ years sending audio and video over the internet. He has extensive experience working with everything from video conferencing to live event streaming to large-scale OTT platforms and is passionate about spreading knowledge and access to streaming technologies.

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