Getting Wired: The wizards of Ogg versus MP3

RealNetworks' Helix project spreads support for the Ogg Vorbis compression standard.

Last week I expressed doubts about the long-term benefit to RealNetworks of its Helix project, which is making some of its code available as open source. But that does not mean the move is not significant. Indeed, it has already had one result that could have important longer-term implications. For as the explains, the forthcoming Helix DNA Client - the software that sits on the user's computer - will now come with the Ogg Vorbis audio codec as standard. That is, anyone who uses a player based on the Helix client will automatically have support for the Ogg Vorbis compression standard. This is important because hitherto Ogg Vorbis has been an interesting free software project to come up with a non-proprietary, open, patent and royalty-free alternative to the MP3 standard, but one with little hope of achieving much market share. Thanks to Helix, though, there will be potentially millions of players that support the Ogg Vorbis standard, which will make it much more popular with musicians, for example, who are looking for an encoding format. Ogg Vorbis is a creation of the . More about the and the can be found online. With fine timing, the has just released version 1.0 of its software. Ogg Vorbis also has its own , a and an interesting demo page8 that allows you to compare the quality of Ogg Vorbis 1.0 with that of other encoding technologies such as MP3 and Microsoft's . There are already a number of tools available for all the major platforms: , , and the . Ogg Vorbis is part of a broader multimedia suite of open standards. There is also , a multimedia project that combines the Ogg Vorbis audio codec with the open source from . There is a press release about the and a . As the FAQ points out, since Theora will be entirely royalty-free, it possesses a key advantage over the new MPeg-4 standard, which for all its technological advances is still hamstrung by a costly licensing scheme. Not content with these major projects, is also working in a number of other areas. For example, its is an open source audio streaming solution that is compatible with the similar software from the creators of the hugely popular (which also supports Ogg Vorbis now - another indication of the growing support for this standard). There is more and a . Other projects include , an open source CD ripper for GNU/Linux - see the - and the . Despite the latter's splendid name, it is the Ogg Vorbis project that is likely to have the most impact on computing, particularly in the broader context of the burgeoning world of open source software.
This was last published in August 2002

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