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  • Porcus
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
I do not ask "do we really need this many?".

Rather I ask "why did they come around?", and the question "what particular feature is (/was originally) this format's raison d'être?" is part of it. I disregard from the discussion the rationale for corporations like Apple and Microsoft (and Real ...) to have Their Very Own Format, Period. And the DRM-driven need for MLP.


Obvious candidate 1: Compression rate. In OptimFrog's own words: "Its main goal is to reduce at maximum the size of audio files". Plain and simple; speed sacrificed. Guess LA had the same goal. (BTW, has OptimFrog dethroned LA in this respect? No? And they are undeveloped since 2006 and 2004, respectively?)


Obvious candidate 2: fairly good compression rate at high decoding speed. Hence e.g. WavPack and FLAC. WavPack seems to me to offer more or less everything FLAC does, except FLAC is wider supported -- but as WavPack is the oldest, this obviously was not the case when FLAC was born. So why FLAC in the first place? Was WavPack only symmetric (slow decoding) back then? Or non-freely licenced? Josh, you there?


And why e.g. Monkey's? Or TTA? No offence to their qualities, but what niche do/did they really fill?


And why yet another? Why TAK? Well if I understand TBeck right, it seems like a fun driven idea -- and if his idea of "fun" is to outrun the competition in compression at given speed (encoding + decoding), then don't blame him.
  • Last Edit: 16 March, 2010, 06:42:27 PM by Porcus

  • probedb
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #1
You could ask why not. Why shouldn't people develop different formats, for whatever reason?

  • Porcus
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #2
You could ask why not. Why shouldn't people develop different formats, for whatever reason?

Why not? Because it takes time, and you only live once?  Then on the other hand, it is probably a less expensive hobby than collecting music.


I got a PM from a moderator who had binned the replies, as the discussion had rather turned into "what are the formats' pros & cons", which is really an overdone discussion which I didn't intend to start a new thread for.

My question was rather: what problem did this thing (set out to) solve? Then of course, "xxx is still the only format which ..." is certainly on topic, but "FLAC is best because it has widest support" is not.

E.g., consider Shorten; once upon a time there definitely was a reason to use it, and its limitations definitely gave reasons why someone would develop something better.

  • Notat
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #3
Developers overestimate the novelty of their ideas. Developers are not researchers. They are often not aware they are reinventing the wheel and when made aware they typically respond with rationalizations and differentiation. It is a bit messy, but, as Darwin discovered, it does work quite well.

  • timcupery
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #4
Darwin theorized that it worked quite well. and it turns out that it does.
the range of fields to which evolutionary theory gets extended nowadays is fascinating - and in some of those fields, it actually makes explanatory contribution (cool recent extensions into clustering of people into institutional and ideological groups, e.g., by David Sloan Wilson).

I've wondered the same thing about why so many lossless formats. From here it looks like FLAC rules the game except for competition from ALAC because Apple likes everything proprietary if it can do so (which, since it's big, it can).

What I wonder is, what would or does it take for a new format to really catch on? The ecology of lossless formats works a lot differently than lossy.
I guess it would actually be easier for the entire field to switch to a new format, because transcoding lossless -> lossless is, by definition, lossless.
God kills a kitten every time you encode with CBR 320

  • smack
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #5
Rather I ask "why did they come around?", and the question "what particular feature is (/was originally) this format's raison d'être?" is part of it.

Ask the original authors of those codecs you're interested in. Only they can tell you what their personal motivation was to create those pieces of software.

And to contribute my own guessed answer to the discussion: People like to learn, to express themselves, to create things. Writing software is one way to do that.

  • TechVsLife
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #6
I think ALAC would instantly crush FLAC overnight, if Apple starting selling from iTunes in ALAC format.  Why they don't is (I assume) either weak consumer demand or a refusal by music labels to come onboard (at a workable price point).   

As for Darwin, you'd have to find out first who have more children (who also reproduce etc.), the FLACers or others.  Then figure out why.  But things are a lot more complicated with a species whose members are conscious of mortality and even of evolution.  I agree with smack, that people need to express themselves, see themselves alive outside of themselves in their work or somehow transcend themselves (their limitations) in their work, by making or loving and partly possessing something beautiful that lives on beyond them (or connecting to it by learning or understanding).  (But writing software also pays the bills.)   
  • Last Edit: 17 March, 2010, 11:53:45 AM by TechVsLife

  • Porcus
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #7
Developers overestimate the novelty of their ideas.


But what were their ideas? Outdoing the current gold standard on its hown ground, or circumvening a certain issue?
Tagging, including features like Replay Gain, solves a specific issue. Asymmetry with low decoding time is something different from, say, OptimFrog.
And myself, I'd wish for a CD image format which copies CD Extra data sessions and meta-information sufficient to write it back, and stores it as a track. AFAIK no format does that as of now.


Yes I could start asking the developers personally, but there is a survival bias here too; lots of ideas only made it to a format nowadays considered oddball. So what was the current situation and needs at the times? What feature did catch on was not necessarily the same as the prior intention.


(Edited)
  • Last Edit: 17 March, 2010, 11:41:37 AM by Porcus

  • lvqcl
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #8
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fool_(tarot_card)

Quote
The Fool is the spirit in search of experience. He represents the mystical cleverness bereft of reason within us, the childlike ability to tune into the inner workings of the world. The sun shining behind him represents the divine nature of the Fool's wisdom and exuberance, holy madness or 'crazy wisdom'.

Although it cannot be seen in all modern cards, The Fool is often shown walking off a cliff. This raises the question "Is The Fool making a mistake, or is The Fool making a leap of faith?"

  • _m²_
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #9
I think ALAC would instantly crush FLAC overnight, if Apple starting selling from iTunes in ALAC format.  Why they don't is (I assume) either weak consumer demand or a refusal by music labels to come onboard (at a workable price point).


I didn't verify it, but I've heard that Apple sells M4As with ALAC endoced audio.

  • TechVsLife
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History: Why [insert lossless format x here]?
Reply #10
I didn't verify it, but I've heard that Apple sells M4As with ALAC endoced audio.


I don't see any--only lossy aac-encoded files there, not lossless alac.