Give the BBC a kickin'

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When I checked my feed reader at one point today I noticed that there was an interesting sounding article from the BBC available - “Tiny files set for a big future" was the heading. It did actually turn out to be a novel look at the importance of compression technologies when it comes to the availability of content on the web; then I read the last few paragraphs and it went horribly wrong: the BBC needs a wake up call (from us!).

So why is any of this interesting? Well, if you save your home movies using a specific codec, how do you know that in a few years from now you will be able to see them or play them?

Any free software advocate – or any user for that matter – worth their salt will experience an almost instinctive reaction to this comment: freely implementable open standards such as the OGG family are the solution! No matter what the market decides you will always be able to get access to content stored in these formats.

The BBC's solution? Store your files in more than one format:

There's no 100% guaranteed solution for longevity but probably the best advice is to keep copies in at least two formats such as MPEG 2, that is commonly used with DVDs, and on a tape format, such as Mini DV.

There's no mention of OGG or similar file formats. As long as MPEGs, and other formats such as MP3 suffer from legal problems which prevent their legal implementation in free software (at least in some regions) you cannot always guarantee access. To my mind this is wrong and we ought to try and explain this to the BBC; to do this I suggest everyone who reads this article visits this page and sends an e-mail to the programs production team explaining this. Heck, if you're short on time I'll even write it for you:

After having read the piece “Tiny files set for a big future" I feel you have omitted one obvious and simple solution to the problem of file longevity: freely implementable and open codecs such as the OGG family. By using these, provided you have access to suitable hardware, you will always be able to freely access your media because they are accessible by Free (as in freedom) software - allowing access independent of what the markets decide.

There you go, copy and paste it and you're good to go.



Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

As well as OGG, why not write to the author and tell him about Dirac, an open, Free (both Beer and Freedom) video codec - and it's written by the BBC. Chances are that he doesn't know about it, so enlighten him.

Jonathan Roberts's picture


yes I do know about Dirac :D (thanks to a Linux Format article several months back). It's great that the BBC are doing development work, and that it's open, BUT their mainstream press coverage of the technology world leaves a lot to be desired, certainly when considering the free software point of view. That's not mentioning the fact they only provide their online media in proprietary formats making access difficult (if not impossible) for those license payers who wish to use free software.

Anonymous visitor's picture
Submitted by Anonymous visitor (not verified) on

The subject of this article is particularly ironic given that the BBC is itself developing an open standards video codec.

Mauro Bieg's picture

copied and pasted and added the following line:
read more:

guydjohnston's picture

I've done that. However, though I don't know a huge amount about file formats, I don't think there's any such thing as the 'OGG family' of codecs. From my understanding, Ogg is only a container format, and the only thing codecs such as Vorbis and Theora (and sometimes FLAC) have in common technically is that they are all used together with it.

GNU - free as in freedom

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Jonathan Roberts's picture


Currently a gap year student! I have a huge interest in Free Software which seems to keep growing. I run the Questions Please... podcast which can be found at On an unrelated note I'm reading theology at Exeter next year.