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O'Reilly Network: Could Ogg Vorbis Replace MP3?

Oct 14, 2000, 18:00 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Steve McCannell)

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"It seems that the MP3 world has meant nothing but trouble as of late. Napster's been hauled off to court, MP3.com is wrapping up their multiple settlements over their "MyMP3.com" service (what were they thinking when they launched that, anyhow?), and several other file-sharing programs (Gnutella, Scour, FreeNet) have been gaining more and more users to replace Napster if and when it finally gets shut down."

"Another wrench is being thrown into the MP3 mix. Much of the technology underlying the MP3 music format is patented by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany. They've smartened up and will start charging royalty fees for decoders, encoders, hardware products, and the distribution of any MP3 file at the end of this year. The fees are not cheap either: up to $5 per unit for an encoder; $.50 per hardware sale; digital download sites will pay 1 percent of the price charged to the listener; and there is a $15,000 minimum licensing fee for every company. By the end of 2001, webcasters will also have to pay a royalty for streaming MP3s."

"While the MP3 revolution was occurring, another format was laying low on the radar screen, and has set itself up to possibly take over where MP3 may be halted. Its name is Ogg Vorbis, and its 1.0 beta launched at the MP3 summit on June 20, 2000. Vorbis is an open source (read as royalty free) compressed audio format for high-quality (44.1 to 48.0 kHz, 16 bit and higher, polyphonic) audio and music at fixed and variable bit rates from 16 to 128 kbps per channel. The iCast-sponsored Ogg Vorbis home site claims that this format is comparable in sound quality to MP3, while providing the ability to encode in surround sound. They also claim that the file size is considerably smaller when compared to an MP3 using the same settings. While Vorbis is still in beta, there are also plans for incorporating streaming and video with this format in the near future. Now that I've piqued your interest, you might want to go to the Vorbis web site for binary downloads of encoders and plug-ins for Linux and Windows."

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