The Swiss Army knife of video codecs is folding up its blades for the last time. The team behind the open-source project Perian has announced that it will be retiring the endeavor after one final release.
First released in 2006, Perian is a component for Apple’s QuickTime software that allows for the playback of many popular video file formats, including DivX, AVI, MKV, and VP6. In addition, the component supported almost twenty video codecs, more than half a dozen audio formats, subtitles, and more.
The project’s discontinuation was announced in a note posted on the project’s homepage, though the developers didn’t specifically say why they had chosen this moment to retire Perian, other than that “it’s time for all of [them] to move on.”
The final release of the software is due soon; it’ll be the first update since version 1.2.3 arrived in July 2011 and will incorporate all the fixes the team has worked on since that release. The developers will continue to support Perian for 90 days after launch; the team also said, however, that Perian’s compatibility with Apple’s forthcoming OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion—due in “late summer”—is unclear.
If Perian does stop working in a future version of OS X, the team recommends open-source media players VLC and MPlayer OS X as potential replacements. They also gave a thumbs up to the Niceplayer project.
That said, Perian may yet live on. The team intends to post the project’s source code to a public repository, which may allow a few enterprising developers to pick up the reins. They're also encouraging interested parties to support each other via the project’s mailing list and IRC channel. However, the team is no longer accepting donations for the project; instead, they are directing those efforts towards charities and causes where the money will make more of a difference.
On a personal note, I’ve found Perian an indispensable tool over the years, especially during the time when the Mac was a second-class citizen for many media formats. But the landscape has changed radically since those days. To put it in context, Perian was first released just a few months before the iPhone was announced. With the massive proliferation of iOS devices in recent years, MPEG4 and H.264 have become widely accepted as standard formats for the distribution of video; those earlier codecs that Perian supported have in turn become the marginalized ones.
So while Perian will likely continue to be useful for some time, it’s no longer the essential that it once was. But the team behind the project still deserves our thanks and appreciation for a job well done.