Apple Lossless, also known as ALAC, is a lossless audio codec Apple developed some time ago for digital music. The codec compresses music files anywhere from 40-60 percent of their original size with no discernible loss in audio quality or fidelity. "A decoded ALAC stream is bit-for-bit identical to the original uncompressed audio file," according to its description. iTunes on the Mac and virtually all of Apple's portable devices support the codec, and it's been my personal format of choice when ripping songs from a CD source.
The big news today is that ALAC is now open source. "Apple Lossless Audio Codec sources are available under the Apache license," according to Mac OS Forge, and the project "contains the sources for the ALAC encoder and decoder."
The project also includes alacconvert, a command line utility that can read and write audio data to and from Core Audio Format (CAF) and WAVE files. "A description of a 'magic cookie' for use with files based on the ISO base media file format (e.g. MP4 and M4A) is included as well," Mac OS forge says.
Open sourcing ALAC may or may not lead to more widespread adoption of the codec, but for purely selfish reasons I hope it does. While FLAC fulfills many of the same functions as Apple's in-house lossless codec, it has no support on iOS devices, and re-encoding FLAC files into something that iTunes won't choke on has always been a pet peeve of mine. If more people begin adopting ALAC instead of FLAC, it'll make life a lot easier for audiophiles.
[via Vincent Gable/twitter]