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Music And The Internet
Digital Audio Workshop
Nowadays, codecs are so powerful, you can download an entire album-worth of CD quality sound in just 10 minutes - and there you have it. The digital download revolution. The following are some of today's most popular Internet audio file formats, with basic descriptions and advantages/disadvantages. Click on the related links to download product or for additional information.

QuickTime Apple introduced QuickTime in the early 90's, around the time they introduced the first color Mac's; it remains an integrated part of the Mac Operating System. Therefore, QuickTime is mainly popular with Mac users. QuickTime originated as the very first video codec offered on a personal computer, and it is still popular as a video format. But Apple hasn't won over many hearts with their audio codecs. The QuickTime audio files are MOV files, and they don't apply much compression. The sound quality suffers greatly in this case. The latest version of QuickTime does integrate MP3 compression (one of the best quality codecs offered today), but still QuickTime has not caught on as a popular format. This may be because over 80% of Internet users are PC users who generally think of QuickTime as a Mac application.

RealAudio RealNetworks had been around for years before gaining popularity. The concept behind RealAudio is "streaming," which means listening to music as it loads. As RealNetworks improved their codec over the years, the sound quality also improved. The best feature of Real's streaming capabilities is their ability to perform "bandwidth negotiation." Depending on a user's bandwidth, a higher or lower quality version of the same RAM sound file is streamed. This is negotiated by the server and the user's player. If there is net congestion the software will switch to a lower-quality version until the congestion clears, at which point it will switch back, almost unnoticed by the user. The RealAudio format is very popular for offering sound clips, because the user only waits a few seconds before hearing the clip that they requested. This format is not generally used for high quality downloads.
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