Getting on that Hobby Horse

Posted on Wed 07 June 2006 in geek

We have course been here before, however for the benefit of the record.

To: Prime Ministers Office Webmaster


I was following a link from the BBC to your site ( and wanted to watch the interview of the Prime Minister. Although a transcript of the interview was available I wasn't able to access any of the multi-media files. This is because the only formats available were proprietary formats I couldn't play.

Unfortunately due to their secret nature and the patent protections FLOSS* authors are unable to implement the required software to play these files. Although it is possible to get these formats to work on some variants of GNU/Linux systems the support is usually sporadic and architecture dependant.

I was wondering if the choice of these formats was fixed or open to being expanded?

For audio the Ogg Vorbis** codec is an already well known and tested solution.

Unfortunately Video compression codecs are a patent minefield although plenty of FLOSS players exist for MPEG's various derivatives as they are based on published standards.

Can I take the opportunity to applaud your websites accessibility statement ( I found the phrase "The Prime Minister's Office is committed to providing a website that is accessible to the widest possible audience - regardless of ability or browsing technology" most encouraging. I take it the PM's office is well aware that not everyone runs Microsoft Windows on x86 PC's.

I look forward to your answers.

index, n.: Alphabetical list of words of no possible interest where an
alphabetical list of subjects with references ought to be.

* - FLOSS refers to Free/Libre/Open-Source Software, an ecology of software written by people collaborating around the world. See for more details.

** Ogg Vorbis is an audio compression codec popular in the FLOSS community. It is already widely used by the community as well as several internet broadcasters. See for more details.