Timeline of Audio-Visual Codecs since 1991

A codec is short for "Coding-Decoding" a digital data stream, and has been used as a computer word since the 1970s. Can also be thought of as "Compressing-Decompressing" from a speed perspective, as streaming gets smarter.

YearCodecWho byContainer file extensionComments
also .qt
Launched by Apple
1992Video for WindowsMicrosoft.avi
also .mp4
Launched by Microsoft as AVI using audio-video interleave
1993MPEG-1MPEG.mpg, .mpegLaunched by the Moving Pictures Expert Group
Audio Layer III
1996MPEG-2MPEG.mpg, .mpeg, .m2vStandard for DVDs and early digital television
1997Adobe FlashAdobe.flvTo be no longer supported after 2020
1999MPEG-4MPEG.mp4Standard for Blu-Ray discs, later released in 2006
1999WMV based on MPEG-4 Part 2Microsoft.wmvLaunched by Microsoft as part of Windows
AVC MPEG-4 Part 10
MPEG.mp4Popular with Blu-Ray, HD TV, Netflix, Youtube streaming
2012VP9Google.webmYoutube, also popular with Netflix streaming
MPEG.mp4Upgraded version of H.264

In June 2020, MPEG "was closed" with its working groups becoming part of SC29 in Japan. Ultra HD (Ultra High Definition Television i.e. 4K and 8K) was initially proposed by NHK Science & Technology Research Laboratories in Tokyo. It was later defined and approved by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), note, 4K and 8K can use multiple file extensions.

Windows Media Player, now Media Player, comes standard with Windows 10 and 11. Another popular player on PCs is VLC Media Player which downloads Codecs as necessary.

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