The ogg file format is an open standard container format used to provide more efficient streaming and higher quality presentation. It is typically used to encode content found freely available on the Internet to improve the streaming quality of the content. The Xiph.Org Foundation put together the specifications for the open standard, hoping to create a patent-free method for encoding media. When using the format, a decent sampling rate is around 96 kbits, which is comparable to a 160 kbit MP3 file. The compression is much better, allowing smaller file sizes and better quality files.
The audio found within ogg files is purely stored within the file. The file format is a container file for the actual audio being encoded. This allows audio to be compressed and manipulated to use less overhead when streaming. Applications can then decode the information stored in the ogg files and play them back just like files formatted in other more common file formats.
The most popular and successful of the Xiph.Org foundation's formats is Vorbis, an encoder designed to compete with the likes of MP3 and AAC files. They are also working to create a patent-free video format along the lines of MPEG. It is believed that patent-free audio and video formats for Internet content will make it easier for consumers and general Internet users to stream the content they create with less overhead and, in the future, fewer issues related to software that will use the format.
There are a number of mainstream players that will accept the ogg file format. These players require a free codec, a set of files that recognizes additional formatting types, to be downloaded to use the format. The Free Software Foundation (FSF) also has a free player available from their website. This organization started an online campaign to use Vorbis audio and ogg files as an alternative to MP3 music files since they are legal and free for anyone to use. The FSF has also created a badge that can be downloaded for use on blogs and other websites to support the movement.
While many players, both portable and software-based, will likely stick to AAC and MP3 formats for some time, the ogg file format seems likely to stay. The amount of free and community driven support for the project generated by the FSF and by Xiph.Org is a testament to just how the Internet community thrives on keeping these things in the hands of users. With the introduction of codecs to support ogg files in many of today’s most popular music players, there are no shortage of ways to use the free format.