Ogg Vorbis, created by a team of independent developers, has been floating around the Web for about a year. Like MP3, the specialized computer program compresses standard audio tracks into smaller sizes without significantly compromising sound quality.
But Ogg Vorbis is actually designed to result in better audio quality than MP3 without any of the associated patent royalties for software developers or music distributors. It already has been adopted by a few major software companies, including Sonic Foundry and AOL Time Warner's Winamp, as well as some music sites.
This weekend, the team of programmers working on the software aims finally to release version 1.0 of the technology--a designation that ordinarily means a first release going beyond trial or experimental stages.
The line between release designations has blurred for some popular software. Napster, for example, has worked its way through successive "beta" releases throughout the entire period of its rise and fall. Various versions of Vorbis have been out and used by some listeners since its unveiling last year.
But this release is nonetheless a crucial step for a technology that developers hope to see make its way inside more commercial software, including such things as music players and video games, and to be supported by hardware vendors who make MP3 players and other devices.
Traditionally, companies that might license other developers' software have been skeptical of using anything that comes before a 1.0 release, viewing that as a sign that there are still bugs, or flaws, in the software code. Vorbis' developers have said that they view the 1.0 release as a critical moment for gaining support from a wider range of commercial backers.
The version set for release Sunday will officially be a "release candidate"--containing essentially everything that will be in the final version but still being checked by its users for last-minute flaws.
"After some pounding on this, we'll ship 1.0," Jack Moffitt, a Vorbis developer, wrote in an e-mail. "This is essentially 1.0, but we're giving ourselves a short cycle to squash any bugs that come up."
On Thursday, the companies behind the rival MP3 format released an updated version of their technology called MP3Pro, which halves the amount of disk space needed to store a song at a given audio quality.