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Can we have FFmpeg-proper back?

Monday, 28 October 2013 avconv ffmpeg ubuntu

A couple of years ago some FFmpeg developers decided they didn’t want to live under the tyranny of the project leaders and forked the project into Libav. That’s all fine except that for two years Ubuntu has erroneously been calling them the same thing. And they’re not.

If you install the ffmpeg package and run ffmpeg in Ubuntu (13.04) today you’re greeted with the following message:

This program is only provided for compatibility and will be removed
in a future release. Please use avconv instead.

That’s a lie. What you’re actually running is a Libav supplied binary which blurts out that message and then runs avconv. ffmpeg isn’t deprecated, it’s just nowhere to be seen.

We (Ubuntu) are favouring libav to the point where we’re letting them say wildly inflammatory (and inaccurate) things and and we’re letting them squat on the ffmpeg name both in packages (they’re transitional meta-packages) and through its binary.

Why does this matter now?

Aside from it just being pretty crappy behaviour to get involved in this civil war, ffmpeg and avconv have continued to develop. They’re no longer compatible as they once were. That means when you Google for “ffmpeg resync audio”, you’re getting answers for the wrong command. You work that out after ten minutes of wasted time. After the tenth time doing this you write a blog post on Planet Ubuntu.

Further, both projects are developing interesting new features that work in different ways. Here’s Libav’s changelog and here’s FFmpeg’s changelog. They’re developing really well to the point where it’s desirable to have both available under their respective names.

So that really leaves one question…

Can we give the ffmpeg back to the FFmpeg project and include their version in Ubuntu too?

I really don’t know who has been responsible for this in the past which is why I’m here asking the planet but if you are the person or can point to the person, I’d really like to hear from you.

Similarly, if you think I’m just wrong, let me know.