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.

Click here for the difference between .avi and .mp4, the two most widely used container file extensions when opening files, depending on the device. The codec is then employed to translate the data into a video and audio stream.

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. First released in 2000
1999WMV based on MPEG-4 Part 2Microsoft.wmvLaunched by Microsoft as part of Windows
MPEG-4 Part 10 AVC
MPEG.mp4Popular with Blu-Ray, HD TV, Netflix, Youtube streaming
2012VP9Google.webmYoutube, also popular with Netflix streaming

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

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