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Underground video code seeks legitimacy

A new version of a Divx video format is online, helping to push the once-underground technology further toward a split personality.

A new version of the Divx video codec is online, helping to push the once-underground technology further toward a split personality.

The Divx video codec, distributed by DivxNetworks, is still best known online as one of the most popular ways to encode high-quality pirated videos and movies. Codecs are the mathematical codes that compress large audio or video files into smaller, more usable packages that can be streamed or downloaded over the Web.

But the technology's creators are boosting the video format as a way to do professional film encoding and video-on-demand services, with funding from several high-profile venture capitalists.

The new release is a 4.0 beta, or test, version of the video technology. The company promises faster encoding and decoding, better resolution, and compatibility with all previous versions of the technology. While still in its final debugging stage, the 4.0 version will serve as the core of DivxNetworks' commercial release later this year, a spokesman said.

With the help of more than $5 million in funding secured last year, the company has been working to turn its original underground pedigree into a business.

No partners have been announced, but the company says it has secured several content providers interested in using the video technology for video-on-demand services later this year.

The commercial version of the video-on-demand product, which will include anti-copying technology in part developed by Divx programmers, will be released in the third quarter of 2001, a spokesman said.