Why Ogg Vorbis?

July 9, 2002

This an old, sarcastic news post from when I was in college. I apologise.

Audio format

Files

Fatal flaw

MPEG Audio Layer 3

.mp3

Charges software makers
Quality mediocre

MPEG 4

.mp4

Charges software makers more
Has aura of evil

Windows Media Audio

.wma

Made by Microsoft
Quality mediocre
Piracy protection

Real Audio

.ram
.rmj

Made by Real
Quality mediocre

Ogg Vorbis

.ogg

Silly name

Q Codec 7

.qc7

Fictional codec
Causes cancer
Only available in Guam

MILPITAS, CA, USA - The open source media organization xiph.org has released the 1.0 version of the “Ogg Vorbis” music format. They intend this to replace MPEG layer 3 as everybody’s favourite audio format. It’s a bit higher quality than other popular formats, and (more importantly) is open and free of patents. MPEG (the Moving Picture Experts Group) charges royalties on all mp3 encoders (this is why Winamp is a player only) and they want to charge makers of encoders and players for their new MPEG 4 format. They’re being closed, secretive, and touchy about it, and are starting to work in more ways to regulate and stop piracy with their new formats. Ogg Vorbis is out to vanquish this evil, and has a sufficiently dumb name to back it up.

So why not Microsoft’s WMA files, or RealNetworks’ RAM or RMJ files? “The main problem with these formats,” said one computer scientist, “is that they blow chunks. I wouldn’t use them if it would save my life.” While of course everyone hates Microsoft and Real, this seems to extend past that. “I’ve used Windows Media and Realplayer, but I went back to 8-tracks after a few minutes of that.” Of course with these file formats, they’re even more proprietary than MP3 and MP4 formats, because even if someone wanted to pay fees, they couldn’t make their own software.

To combat all of this, the use and programming involved in making and playing Ogg Vorbis files is publicly available, and will be improved all the time. They have no affiliation with a multinational conglomerate, and no way of making money from it (sounds familiar…) These .ogg files give better sound quality and options compared to .mp3 files as well. However some people don’t trust it. “MP3 sounded technical and ominous… something I don’t need to understand,” said one layman. “As opposed to Ogg Vorbis, which I know is just a random dumb name.” An expert on media files provided us with this chart:

After a few minutes searching the xiph.org site for why on earth they called the thing Ogg Vorbis, the writer of this article grew impatient and started playing 3D Pong. The best guess so far is that it was the name of a Dungeons & Dragons character, probably a hulking, dim-witted one.

© Allen Pike. See also Twitter and Steamclock.