Ogg Theora: What it is, and Why You Should Care

Ogg TheoraIf you’ve been paying attention – and I know you have – you might have heard a crazy term tossed about by video marketers and producers, particularly those in the relatively nascent open video camp. The term is Ogg Theora, and it’s making the rounds as the new covert buzzword of the video production world. But what the heck is it, anyway?

For one, it’s complicated. Without going into graphic detail, Ogg Theora is a free, open-source video compression format made by the Xiph.org Foundation that is optimized for internet video production. The Theora website hawks it as being “in the same class as MPEG-4/DivX,” and “well engineered for low-bitrate streaming.” The technology, released in November of ’08, is the video compliment to Ogg Vorbis, an audio codec with similar benefits.

Why does any of this matter? Here’s why:

Ogg Theora will Save You Money

Open-source means closed-wallet. There are no licensing or royalty fees associated with Theora, which means that no matter how you use it, you will never pay a dime. Contrast this with, say, the MPEG-4 format, which incurs licensing and royalty fees after a certain number of distributions, and must be paired with an MPEG audio codec, which incurs additional costs. By comparison, Theora can pair with a host of other free, high-quality, open-source audio codecs, including Vorbis, at no additional cost.

Ogg Theora is Perfect for Web Video

You know that blocky, pixellated look you sometimes get when you’re watching video from a low-tech source? Don’t you hate that? With Theora, you can kiss it goodbye. Streaming online video has never looked so good. Because Theora is optimized for low-bitrate video (which is the kind you’re most likely publishing now), you can rest assured that your users can experience your Web video content without a hitch.

Ogg Theora Works on Your Machine

If you’re worried about compatibility, stop worrying. Theora works on the Mac and Windows platforms (Windows users have to download a filter), and is standard for Linux users. In fact, producing content using Ogg software is a great way to give a tip of the hat to the rapidly growing open-source community.

Ogg Theora is Here to Stay

How many times have you called tech support only to find that support for a particular piece of software was no longer available? This will never happen with Theora. Because the software source code is open, so is all the documentation. This also means that if the company ever decides to get out of the video codec business, some enterprising developer would undoubtedly continue to make the code available to the public.

Now, there are a few downsides to Theora, and Christopher Rick of ReelSEO covers them here. It’s worth noting, however, most of these problems stem from the fact that A) the software is still new, and B) not everyone is so keen on their competitors offering comparable software for free. So the premise remains: a reliable, Web-optimized, cross-platform, free video codec? How could you possibly say no?

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