Yesterday I had a random technology developer email me with the question why he should use Ogg over other codecs that have a much more widespread uptake. Of course with “Ogg” he meant “Xiph codecs”, since a comparison of container formats isn’t really what people are asking for. He felt positive towards open codecs, but didn’t really know how to express this with reason. So I wrote up some arguments that can be made for open codecs.
First of all the royalty-free character of Xiph technology makes it possible for them to be used for any application without having to consider what impact the use of the codec has on ROI and scalability of business models. It is important to have a video and audio codec available that you can just use for exchanging audio and video data
just like you can exchange text – nobody would consider paying a license for ASCII either.
Second the flexibility that you get with Xiph is important for developing new applications. One example is the development of a scheme for encrypting audio or video for DRM and then transport it inside Ogg. Since everything around Ogg is open, one can just go ahead and implement this, even if the Xiph community is not interested in such technology.
Third let’s talk about quality. Ogg Vorbis is an audio codec that is of higher quality at comparable compression rates than MP3. Ogg Theora compares well to H.261 and also to MPEG-2 video. To achieve high-quality video such as in H.264, you will need to move into Dirac territory. And yet, Xiph has more to offer: for VoIP you can currently use the highly competitive Speex codec. And a new, hybrid speech/audio codec of low delay and high compression rate with very low quality loss is CELT, the new codec developed by the author of Speex. CELT has no comparison in proprietary codecs. All of the software is available for free and in source code from svn.xiph.org and the authors are easily reachable for discussions. Should there be need for improvement, everyone has the opportunity to develop such.
Lastly, I’d like to look at the capabilities of Ogg based technology in a Web environment. Over the last years we have developed technology that is now being included by the W3C into future Web standards. This includes URL addressing to time offsets into videos, which can ultimately help develop e.g. a Web-based video editor. This includes the implementation of Ogg Theora/Vorbis as baseline video codec in Firefox for the new HTML5 video element. This includes technology for making audio and video accessible, in particular to Web search engines through deeply searchable content, but also to hearing- and visually impaired. All the base techology and specifications are available.
“Ogg” is totally the future of media technology, because the future has to be open and royalty-free to allow everybody on this planet equal rights and possibilities to participate in a media-centric Internet, and because anything else will continue to be a burden on innovation.