pure AJAX audio formats now a reality

The best hack I’ve seen since Brad Neuberg did AMASS in 2005: Arek Korbik implements Vorbis in Flash, with no dedicated Vorbis support provided by Adobe as part of Flash. It’s a god-level piece of hacking.

What Arek’s hack means is that new sound formats can now be implemented in pure AJAX and deployed with browser-borne technology. This breaks the logjam at MP3, where new audio formats could never reach wide deployment because the only one that Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe could agree on was MP3. The result of the logjam was that innovation related to audio file formats was over in about 1998.

That innovation can now start up again. We can expect growth of patent-free codecs like Vorbis and FLAC. I’ll bet there will be a JSON-based audio format based on Vorbis. And in the long term, freaky Big Daddy Roth audio files with chromed metadata, embedded blenders, etc.

Upate: I’m getting a little pushback from people who feel that (1) there’s nothing new here because it has been possible to do Vorbis using Java applets for a while and (2) this method doesn’t support video.

Java is not a viable option. Most people don’t have Java installed, and the people who do have it installed won’t tolerate the slow and ugly startup. About the need for video, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. One thing at a time.

6 thoughts on “pure AJAX audio formats now a reality

  1. Working with SoundManager 2 right now, and making a music player where all of the real work is happening in HTML, CSS and Javascript, it seems to me there’s the beginning is a viable future where the audio formats become like JPG, GIF and PNG.

    In other words, the format cease to dictate the user experience, and instead is simply chosen based its fidelity for a particular use.

    Of course, like with the 1990s fears around the GIF patents, right now on the web we need alternatives to MP3 Apple Lossless such that we can work with web audio free of any patent threats and such that even proprietary players have an incentive to properly support free formats like Vorbis and Flac.

  2. About patent-free alternatives, this is where being patent free gives the Xiph codecs a competitive advantage. Users won’t adopt those codecs for political reasons, but developers will adopt them if they allow extension without fear of getting sued.

    Soundmanager is a great reference point. I could easily see these Flash sound APIs being exposed to Javascript via that little Flash shim.


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