It might sound surprising to those who never used Fedora before but Fedora has a weakness called codec support.
Up until recent, users of the distribution who wanted to install what most of us consider as “basic” codec support, had to go out of their way, installing various non-default repositories or apps such as Fedora-utils (as mentioned here) in order to watch movies or listen to popular music.
The reason Fedora made codec support, which we all take for granted as well as most other Linux distributions, so complicated to achieve is due to the legal aspect of it.
Being potentially patent encumbered, Fedora chose not to include nor support the various formats, MP3 among them. In fact, here’s what the official Fedora project used to say about MP3:
“MP3 encoding and decoding support is not included in any Fedora application because MP3 is heavily patented in several regions including the United States.
… Other platforms might have paid the royalty and/or included proprietary software. Other Linux distributions not based in a region affected by the patent might ship MP3 decoders/encoders or they might have included proprietary software.
However, Fedora cannot and does not include MP3 decoders/encoders in order to serve the goal of providing and supporting only free and open source software that is not restricted by software patents by default. ” fedoraproject
Despite the above, here we are today and suddenly Fedora decides to support MP3! So, what’s changed?
Why MP3? Why Now?
Christian Schaller, the Red Hat employee who announced Fedora will start supporting MP3, mentioned on the technical side of it that the enablement of MP3 would be made through the mpg123 library – an open source licensed library that supplies MP3 playing and decoding capabilities.
The library was initially released in 1999 however its development was ceased for several years during which serious security holes had emerged. It was only in 2007 that a stable 1.0 version was finally released.
Since the library currently only supports playing / decoding of MP3, by relying on it Fedora would therefore still be missing the encoding capabilities I’m sure many users would rather have included out of the box.
Nonetheless, it still is indeed a welcomed step in the right direction for Fedora.
The upcoming release of Fedora 25, currently scheduled for November 22, 2016, will be including the aforementioned partial support for MP3, yet it won’t ship with it by default.
This might change when Fedora 26 will be released.