FLAC stands for Free Lossless Audio Codec. Grossly oversimplified, FLAC is similar to MP3, but lossless. The FLAC project consists of:
- the stream format
- libFLAC, a library of reference encoders and decoders, and a metadata interface
- libFLAC++, an object wrapper around libFLAC
- flac, a command-line wrapper around libFLAC to encode and decode .flac files
- metaflac, a command-line metadata editor for .flac files
- input plugins for various music players (Winamp, XMMS, and more in the works)
"Free" means that the specification of the stream format is in the public domain
(the FLAC project reserves the right to set the FLAC specification and certify compliance), and that neither the FLAC format nor any of the implemented encoding/decoding methods are covered by any patent. It also means that the sources for libFLAC and libFLAC++ are available under Xiph.org's BSD license
and the sources for flac, metaflac, and the plugins are available under the GPL
FLAC compiles on many platforms: most Unixes (Linux, *BSD, Solaris, OS X), Windows, BeOS, and OS/2. There are build systems for autoconf/automake, MSVC, Watcom C, and Project Builder.
On January 29th, 2003, Xiphophorus (now called the Xiph.org Foundation) announced the incorporation of FLAC under their xiph.org banner, to go along with Ogg Vorbis, Ogg Theora, and Speex.
see also lossy data compression