The Matroska Multimedia Container is a free, open-standard container format, a file format that can hold an unlimited number of video, audio, picture, or subtitle tracks in one file. It is a universal format for storing common multimedia content, like movies or TV shows. Matroska is similar in concept to other containers like AVI, MP4, or Advanced Systems Format (ASF), but is entirely open in specification, with implementations consisting mostly of open source software. Matroska file extensions are .mkv for video (which may or may not include subtitles and audio), .mk3d for stereoscopic video, .mka for audio-only files, and .mks for subtitles only.
"Matroska" is derived from matryoshka (Russian: матрёшка [mɐˈtrʲɵʂkə]), the Russian word for the hollow wooden dolls which open to expose another smaller doll, that in turn opens to expose another doll, and so on. The logo writes it as "Matroška"; the letter š, an "s" with a caron over it, represents the "sh" sound (/ʂ/) in various languages.
The project was announced on 6 December 2002 as a fork of the Multimedia Container Format (MCF), after disagreements between MCF lead developer Lasse Kärkkäinen and soon-to-be Matroska founder Steve Lhomme about the use of the Extensible Binary Meta Language (EBML) instead of a binary format. This coincided with a 6-month coding break by the MCF's lead developer for his military service, during which most of the community quickly migrated to the new project.
On 31 October 2014, Microsoft confirmed that Windows 10 would support HEVC and Matroska out of the box, according to a statement from Gabriel Aul, the leader of Microsoft Operating Systems Group's Data and Fundamentals Team. Windows 10 Technical Preview Build 9860 added platform level support for HEVC and Matroska.
The use of EBML allows extension for future format changes. The Matroska team has expressed some of their long-term goals on Doom9.org and Hydrogen Audio forums. Thus, the following are "goals", not necessarily existing features, of Matroska:
- Creating a modern, flexible, extensible, cross-platform multimedia container format,
- Developing robust streaming support, (both this format and the WebM subset are streamable)
- Developing a menu system similar to that of DVDs based on EBML, (as of July 2019, there is only a mostly empty draft)
- Developing a set of tools for the creation and editing of Matroska files (MKVToolNix, for example)
- Developing libraries that can be used to allow developers to add Matroska support to their applications (made open source by Matroska developers)
- Working with hardware manufacturers to include Matroska support in embedded multimedia devices
Matroska is supported by a non-profit organization in France (association loi 1901), and the specifications are open to everyone. The Matroska project is a royalty-free open standard that is free to use, and its technical specifications are available for private and commercial use. The Matroska development team licenses its libraries under the LGPL, with parsing and playback libraries available under BSD licenses.
- Matroska Format Specifications, Matroska.org.
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- Frequently Asked Questions, the WebM project
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