I am amazed by the volume of codec references that have been popping up in my TweetDeck columns. For those of you, like me, who have limited knowledge of codecs, I have set out a pretty good [albeit slightly tinkered with!] definition from Xilisoft’s Multimedia Glossary:
Codec: Codec stands for COder/DECoder. Basically it is a piece of software or a driver that adds a support for certain video/audio format for your operating system. With a codec, your system recognizes the format the codec is built for and allows you to play the audio/video file (=decode) or in some cases, to change another audio/video file into that format (=(en)code).
In my simple non-technical terms, a codec provides the magic that allows you to view video (and listen to audio) on your computer or other media device. No codec – no exciting movie or pretty music!
A number of recent developments have brought codecs to the forefront of the open source software Twitter stream. This issue came on my radar through Paul Ryan’s Google boosts open video by funding ARM Theora codec post on the Ars Technica >Open Ended blog in mid April.
Then there were a flurry of stories around a reported Steve Jobs’ email statement that “”A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other “open source” codecs now”. These stories include the CNET post by Tom Krazit entitled Patent challenge looming for open-source codecs? and the ZeroPaid post by Drew Wilson entitled Apple Rumoured to Be Preparing to Sue Open Source Codec Developers.
It appears that all of these threads have now morphed into a “battle line” between open source software and patents. As I continue to see this rift as a somewhat false dichotomy for the reasons set out in my earlier post, I commend Ed Bott for his Ogg versus the world: don’t fall for open-source FUD post on his ZDNet Microsoft Report. While his post is hard-hitting and rather technical, it is a cogent reminder that the open source software world in general, and its codecs in particular, need to pay attention to the patent landscape. I continue to believe that the open source community should move beyond denial, anger, and depression and channel its creativity and energy into acceptance and even bargaining in this space. In the meantime, there are codes, codecs, everywhere and not a….