I’m a bit late in noticing this as it was launched in June, but as far as I know, Virgin are the first major radio station in the UK to provide an Ogg stream for their radio services, although the BBC did run some test streams for a time (I live in hope that Ogg will one day appear on the BBC Radio Player.)
The Virgin family Ogg streams have been added due to popular demand, according to their website, and come in high and low quality streams, alongside Real and Windows Media.
With so many radio stations offering their webstreams in just one format, SMG’s commitment to providing a variety of formats is a very welcome move. That one of them should be an open format like Ogg, that will run on all manner of media players on all sorts of operating systems, is an even better one. Especially as it means I can now fireup Winamp and listen to The Groove at work should I need a change from my normal diet of BBC 6music.
What is Ogg?
For those that don’t know, Ogg is a similar kind of format to MP3, but with one important difference – it was open source, patent free, meaning no royalties had to be paid to the patent holders and anyone could write support into their software and hardware.
Whilst there have never been any royalty payments for MP3s for end users, there have been for software creators and hardware manufacturers which was the reason Ogg was created.
Unfortunatly Ogg has been a bit slow to take off in the mainstream, mainly as by the time it started raising its head, MP3s were pretty much intrenched in the market.
Needless to say, it’s main use has been on the computers of the techies (ah, that will be me then) although Winamp 3 now comes with the appropiate codec to play them as default, and it’s supposed to be appearing in RealPlayer soon as well if it hasn’t already.
One of its big benefits is its open nature, and that the streaming software is free to use.
Windows users may wonder why this even matters. At this point I should point out that I’m not a Windows user. My main PC runs Linux, not an operating system that is well known for it’s Windows Media support for starters. Indeed Windows Media only really supports Windows and Macs. Real go one better and provide a Unix player, but Ogg can also be played easily on old Macs, BeOs and even OS/2, meaning streaming in Ogg opens up a station to more computer users than any other format. Although how many OS/2 users there are streaming Virgin Radio I don’t know…