Some anonymous hacker recently made a name for himself (wait, can you make a name for yourself anonymously?) by ranting against the difficulty of working with certain Adobe file formats. It got me wondering if we could draw more attention to the FFmpeg program by littering the code with rants against the file formats we’re trying to re-implement. I’d like to think we’re above that, if only because the average FFmpeg hacker intuitively understands that no one ever meant for us to be able to re-implement these formats, at least not the proprietary formats.
Ironically, I think you’ll hear the most complaints from the crew where free, open formats are concerned.
You can look at a seemingly bizarre format and generally experience 1 of 2 reactions:
- What kind of moron thought of this format?! What were they thinking?!
- What did the creator of this format know that I don’t know? What were the original design goals and what problems were they trying to solve.
Over the years, I’ve trained myself to have reaction #2. I’m not saying I’m superior; on the contrary, the philosophy leads me down the wrong path sometimes when it turns out that the format’s originator honestly didn’t know what they were doing. In that case, I end up giving them too much credit.
Along these same lines, Joel Spolsky’s take is absolutely fascinating: He describes how the Microsoft Office formats evolved to their present complexity — not out of spite for third party programmers, but to meet the needs of the applications’ features.
Actually, an impromptu and unscientific audit of the FFmpeg code (grep’ing for certain keywords) does seem to indicate a high level of animosity towards Microsoft.