Why is H.265 not the future? The past, present and future of internet video compression

person working as video editor

H.264 aka AVC (Advanced Video Coding) and H.265 aka HEVC ( High Efficiency Video Coding) are both video compression standards, which are used to reduce the bandwidth and storage space requirement for streaming and video storage. 

Video compression achieves this by taking advantage of redundancies and perceptual limitations in video data. For example, if parts of an image don’t change from one frame to the next, a video codec can just encode the differences rather than encoding each frame in full. 

Similarly, if there are details that the human eye can’t easily perceive, the codec can encode those details with lower fidelity to save data. Through techniques like these, video codecs can achieve substantial reductions in data usage while still delivering good visual quality.

The Past

There were many proprietary codecs before H.264, from RealVideo, Intel, Microsoft and MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group). MPEG2 compression was popular during storage in the DVD age. MPEG 4 became widely used as internet streaming and usage of p2p video sharing became more popular. Remember Divx?

The H.264/AVC project was started by the ITU-T Video Coding Experts Group (VCEG) in conjunction with the MPEG. The goal was to create a standard that provided good video quality at substantially lower bit rates than previous standards (such as MPEG-2), without increasing the complexity of design so much that it would be impractical or excessively expensive to implement.

The development of H.265/HEVC was a collaboration between the ITU-T and the MPEG. The goal was to create a new standard that could provide significantly improved compression efficiency over earlier standards, particularly for higher resolution video content such as 1080p and 4K.


The initial version of the H.264 was released in May 2003 by the Joint Video Team (JVT), VCEG and MPEG. It provides good video quality and efficient compression, which has made it a popular choice for a wide range of applications, from streaming video on the web to HD broadcasts on cable and satellite TV. 

The first version of H.265 was completed in April 2013. This was known as HEVC Version 1 and covered video resolutions up to 8K UHD offers more efficient compression than H.264. 

One of its main advantages of H.264 today is its broad compatibility; almost all modern devices and browsers support H.264. H.265 can deliver similar video quality at about half the bitrate, or significantly better quality at the same bitrate compared to H.264. 

This makes it a great choice for 4K video and other high-resolution formats. However, it also requires more processing power to encode and decode, which means it is not widely supported by older devices due to computing and power trade offs. 


Over the years, H.264 has been widely adopted in a range of applications. It is used in Blu-ray Discs, internet video streaming platforms (like YouTube and Netflix), web software such as the Adobe Flash Player and Microsoft Silverlight, broadcast and satellite television services, and in video conferencing solutions.

H.265/HEVC has been adopted in various applications where its increased coding efficiency can provide substantial benefits. These include 4K UHD video services, video streaming platforms like Netflix, digital storage media like Ultra HD Blu-Ray, and video conferencing tools. However, its adoption has been somewhat hampered by patent licensing issues, with different entities owning parts of the patent pool.

Browser Support

AVC (H.264)HEVC (H.265)

Source https://caniuse.com/hevc


MPEG LA’s AVC Patent Portfolio License does not charge royalties for AVC video that is sold to end-users for a fee as digital content that is downloaded (either permanently or temporarily), streamed, or otherwise delivered. For Internet broadcast of AVC video that is free to end-users (e.g., YouTube, streaming websites), the license is also royalty-free. 

HEVC incurs patent licensing fees, which can be a concern for some use cases. Firefox still does not support it for this reason. Apple however has been pushing for HEVC all the way in both Mac and mobile devices such as iPhone and iPads.


Using Handbrake we re-encoded a 20 second long video sample file originally encoded with MJPEG. 

Most professional cameras use MJEPG to compress each frame to save space while retaining high fidelity video for further processing. The result is pretty conclusive.

Input file:
Stream 0
Codec: H264 – MPEG-4 AVC (part 10) (avc1)
Video resolution: 1920×1080
Frame rate: 24
Color space: ITU-R BT.709 Range

FilenameSizeCodecSpace SavingsTime

Can you notice any difference in visual picture quality? Although there is not much motion between frames in this video.


The Future

Work has been ongoing on further video coding standards, like H.266/Versatile Video Coding (VVC), which was finalized in 2020 and aims to again substantially improve coding efficiency.

Meet AV1

As an alternative AV1 “AOMedia Video 1”, it is being developed by the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia), a consortium of Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Netflix, Amazon, Intel, and Cisco. It is an open, royalty-free video coding format designed for video transmissions over the Internet. 

The main objective of AV1 is to be efficient and flexible for use over a wide range of applications on the internet, including both low and high bit rates, low and high latency, as well as still and moving images. It is especially well-suited for streaming video content over the internet due to its efficient compression algorithms, which can deliver high-quality video with lower data usage.

Compared to its contemporary, H.265/HEVC, AV1 aims to provide similar if not better levels of compression efficiency, but without the associated patent licensing costs that come with H.265. This has been a major selling point for the adoption of AV1.

However Apple Devices do not support AV1 codec despite Apple being a member of the alliance. This is a major barrier for adoption of AV1. Microsoft, the contender, follows Apple’s suit with their Google Chrome forked browser called Edge.

H.265/HEVC is offering advantages over H.264 in terms of compression efficiency, especially for high-resolution content. If compatibility and reach are most important, H.264 may be the better choice. If maximizing video quality while minimizing bandwidth usage is the goal, and the target devices and platforms support it, then H.265 may be preferable. It’s also worth noting that there are other codecs like VP9 and AV1 to consider, each with its own advantages and trade-offs.

At CircleHD Enterprise Video Platform, we encode all videos with H.264 for wider compatibility across devices and browsers. We do support H.265 for specific use cases and optimizations but not solely depend on it yet. We are hopeful as standards evolve AV1 or AV2 might become one open standard free from royalties to move the industry forward.

CircleHD has been a pioneer in transforming corporate communications using a powerful video content management system and deploying user friendly Company TV. You can also check out this related article which gives information on calculating video file size accurately. If you’d like to learn more about how CircleHD’s Enterprise Video Learning platform can help improve your company’s productivity,  we’d love to chat