The DVD, more technically accurately known as the Digital Versatile Disc, was already unofficially being referred to as the Digital Video Disc while being developed and up to launch but received the former name to reflect the non-video capabilities. Even by that point people were just using DVD as probably everybody does nowadays. Some people like to say that it's just DVD with no proper name but they're not fooling anybody. Like a Compact Disc, but it uses more sophisticated hardwarenote and different media compression that is able to store more data. (In addition, the terminology is slightly different; unlike how CD-ROM only referred to data CDs, DVD-ROM refers to all DVDs that aren't recordable or rewritable, regardless of what is stored on them.) Single-layer DVDs hold about 4.7 gigabytes, while double-layer and double-sided discs can hold up to 9.4 gigabytes, and double-layer double sided discs can hold about 18 gigabytes.
Conventional CD players cannot play DVDs, but DVD players can play CDs. Drives designed to read and write both CDs and DVDs are common and inexpensive; as of early 2009, most new personal computers have DVD writers fitted (though these are being phased out as time goes on; luckily, USB DVD players aren't too hard to find), and dual writers are generally easier to find than plain DVD-ROM or DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drives. In addition, both the competing DVD-R(W) (developed by the DVD Forum itself as with DVD-ROM) and DVD+R(W) (developed by the DVD+RW Alliance note ) formats are generally supported by modern DVD writers.
DVDs are now common media, and it provides reasonable quality video to the end user, especially when compared to VHS, the leap in quality is pretty astonishing. DVD more or less replaced LaserDisc as the opposing format to VHS until 2007. The format was used by video game companies the world over (PlayStation 2 games, Xbox games, Wii games and Xbox 360 games, until Blu-Ray's higher storage capacity made it the format choice for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One). DVD is also a major standard for video players; the first models came out in Japan in 1996, and in North America in 1997, and DVD players of all shapes and sizes are still readily available today (sometimes for as little as US $20-30 for a small set-top player.) While Blu-ray was expected to replace it eventually, DVD's reach has been so great and so vast for the past 29 years that this idea hasn't really happened for a variety of factors; a price premium of 33% compared to DVDs (DVD of a film would normally be $10, Blu-ray would be $14-17), a format war with HD-DVD leading to even early adopters taking a "wait-and-see" stance, the Great Recession's effect on discretionary income, and the rise and convenience of online video sales and online streaming sites leading to a stifling of any consumer demand for yet another physical media format to keep track of.
The remaining consumer base for DVD (and physical media in general) consists mainly of collectors who like having physical copies of movies, people who want to watch titles that are unavailable on streaming, families with children using them on portable DVD players in cars, and people who lack access to decent broadband internet and are unable to use streaming services. On the plus side it helps that, unlike the switch from VHS to DVD, even the cheapest Blu-ray players can play a standard DVD thanks to players being made intentionally backwards-compatible.
The continuing popularity of DVD even as it loses ground to streaming and the lower uptake of Blu-ray has caused studios to favor "combo packs" for physical releases containing a DVD and Blu-ray copy of a film, often with a coupon code for a digital version to cover all the bases as well.
Nintendo's GameCube and Wii optical formats are DVDs that use constant angular velocity, meaning they always spin at the same speed from center to rim; the GameCube uses a variant on the 8 cm DVD, while Wii discs are at the same 12 cm size as conventional optical discs. The use of CAV-based playback lowers their capacity slightly, and is an attempt to curtail piracy. note
The high capacity of a DVD (about six-and-a-half times that of conventional compact disc) also offers an advantage in terms of computer gaming and software distribution. Computer games and other software that use up a lot of space can be loaded on just one or two DVDs, instead of multiple CDs. As an example, compare Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 and Microsoft Flight Simulator X. The former takes up something like 1.5-3 gigabytes of space and has to be installed using four CDs. The latter takes up 15 gigabytes, but is installed using only two DVDs.
DVDs were also experimented with as an outlet for music. DVD-Audio was developed as a method of providing music in surround sound and at a higher resolution than a CD, but unlike its main competitor, Super Audio CD, it lacked support for backwards compatibility. The music industry attempted to rectify this with DualDisc and DVDplus, a double-sided disc with CD and DVD sides. The DVD side usually included a high-resolution surround version of the CD side's audio, plus video content such as music videos and documentaries. However, both formats were incompatible with many CD players — DualDisc because the CD side was slightly too thin, and DVDplus because the more conventionally-sized CD side made the disc too thick. Combined with the rise of digital downloads, the inability to actually hear the difference in resolution, the cumbersome nature of upgrading to a surround sound setup, and the format war with SACD, DVD-Audio and its variants fizzled out, despite attracting a cult following along with SACD among digital audiophiles. DVD-Audio remains in use for the occasional Boxed Set, but DualDisc and DVDplus have firmly gone the way of the dodo, being discontinued in 2009.
For fun fact's sake, the first four major films ever released on DVD in 1996 were The Fugitive, Eraser, Assassins, and Blade Runner: The Director's Cut, all from the Warner Bros. library.note As this four-title batch didn't come out until over a month after the first DVD players debuted, most DVD titles until then were limited to music video releases; no documentation seems to exist regarding what the first actual title released on DVD was. In the United States, the DVD format debuted with the aforementioned Blade Runner: The Director's Cut as well as the then-recent Twister.
Unlike CDs, DVDs allow for Region Coding, something movie studios use to control their copyright and licensing (and, in turn, screws over fans of a show or movie if a disc turns out to be a No Export for You case.) Generally, this has resulted in law violations in certain countries and in turn resulted in the appearance of Region-Free DVD players. Even many brand name DVD players sold in the market today contain a key sequence one could enter to disable or change region as needed. Granted, the studios, ignoring the potential government lawsuits of these countries, attempted to counter the release of such devices by introducing an enhanced region-locking scheme. However, this scheme was so badly thought out that it not only didn't work with most of these region-free players, but these enhanced discs would also refuse to work on some region-locked players of the correct region. Sadly these companies continue to push this enhanced scheme, screwing over anyone who had bought a player that is affected but is otherwise still working fine.