David A. Wheeler's Blog

Sat, 10 Jan 2009

Ask Apple to Support Ogg on iPod/iTunes

Please ask Apple to support Ogg on their iPods, iPhones, and iTunes! It wouldn’t hurt to also sign this petition (and maybe this one), though I don’t know how strongly they’d influence Apple. Here’s why, as good news and bad news.

Bad news: Some of the most common formats for audio (like MP3 and AAC) are patent-encumbered, and thus not open standards. Because they’re patent-encumbered they are harder and more expensive to support. Many organizations like Wikipedia forbid the use of patent-encumbered standards, and they can’t be directly implemented in FLOSS products used in the U.S. and some other countries.

Good news: Ogg (as maintained by the Xiph.org foundation) is available! Ogg is a “container format” that can contain audio, video, and related material using one of several encodings. Usually audio is encoded with “Vorbis” (the combination is “Ogg Vorbis”); perfect sound reproductions can be created with FLAC. This format is already the required audio format for Wikipedia, and the next version of Mozilla’s Firefox will include Ogg built in. Many people already have huge music collections in Ogg format, and both many people report that Ogg is an important requirement for a player. See my older blog entry on playing Ogg Vorbis and Theora for more information.

Bad news: Apple’s iPods do not directly support Ogg. That’s really unfortunate for iPod users, and it also makes it harder to release files in Ogg. So please, ask Apple to add support for Ogg. People have been asking for this for some time, so it’s not true that “no one’s asking for it”. Some people have even taken radical efforts and rewritten the iPod software - but although that shows there’s a real interest, that’s an extreme measure that normal people shouldn’t have to do. There’s already software available to Apple to implement Ogg at no charge, and even the original iPods have enough horsepower to implement Ogg. Thus, it will cost Apple very little to add support for Ogg - and there are people who want it.

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