How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Drop the OGG

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Important Hardware

The iPod is no longer just a geek device. TiVo never was. (Good luck, MythTV fanatics!) These hardware makers would, of course, love to avoid having to license MP3, but each has their own reasons they’re strongly disincented to even try. Apple has its own AAC format with which it can at least try to enforce whatever DRM strategies they have in mind. TiVo is fighting so many other battles, believe me, this issue is the last one on its mind. The “also-rans”, like Microsoft in the Media Center sphere, or SanDisk and iRiver in the MP3 player sphere, have support, but it hasn’t exactly led to a groundswell of adoption.

Software

Software media players know that you’re going to play MP3 files. Not all of them expect you to want to play Ogg files. You have to download plugins from who knows where. Almost no one wants to do this, unless it is trivially easy. I know for a fact that this is not the case with iTunes. WinAmp is no longer so good that all the Windows uers are using it. I have no idea what the status is for other players. (I use Foobar2000 and amarok, personally, both of those have built in support).

Laziness

Assume that all of those issues that I just mentioned did not exist, and the format was natively supported on every MP3 player you could find. The Ogg format would still very likely to be unadopted.

Any music fan with more than just a scattering few files would take a long time to convert. Their files would actually sound even worse if they converted from MP3 and not the original source. MP3 has already been the beneficary of the Network Effect.

Being a Leaf Doesn’t Matter

Ogg may be more flexible, but it is not more compatible. It’s the province of geeks. I can get the format to work better for me than MP3. But it doesn’t matter, because the format is on the wrong end of the MP3 network effect. It doesn’t stand a chance of “tipping” in the next few years because there’s no connector ready to get the format adopted in all the places I mention above.

Almost all successful open source software has a clear benefit to its competition from the point of view of the user. In the MP3/Ogg battle, it carries a cost.

Stop Worrying

So I’m giving in. My own personal plan for a music archive will allow me to choose Ogg in the future without too much trouble should the landscape ever change, but for now, the accursed 192Kbps MP3 is my encoded format of choice.

I guess the most salient force Ogg has in the market now is keeping the MP3 license from being too expensive. Too bad!