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Advanced Systems Format

Advanced Systems Format

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Advanced Systems Format is Microsoft
Microsoft Corporation is an American public multinational corporation headquartered in Redmond, Washington, USA that develops, manufactures, licenses, and supports a wide range of products and services predominantly related to computing through its various product divisions...

's proprietary
Proprietary software
Proprietary software is computer software licensed under exclusive legal right of the copyright holder. The licensee is given the right to use the software under certain conditions, while restricted from other uses, such as modification, further distribution, or reverse engineering.Complementary...

 digital audio
Digital audio
Digital audio is sound reproduction using pulse-code modulation and digital signals. Digital audio systems include analog-to-digital conversion , digital-to-analog conversion , digital storage, processing and transmission components...

/digital video
Digital video
Digital video is a type of digital recording system that works by using a digital rather than an analog video signal.The terms camera, video camera, and camcorder are used interchangeably in this article.- History :...

 container format, especially meant for streaming media
Streaming media
Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and presented to an end-user while being delivered by a streaming provider.The term "presented" is used in this article in a general sense that includes audio or video playback. The name refers to the delivery method of the medium rather...

. ASF is part of the Windows Media
Windows Media
Windows Media is a multimedia framework for media creation and distribution for Microsoft Windows. It consists of a software development kit with several application programming interfaces and a number of prebuilt technologies, and is the replacement of NetShow technologies.The Windows Media SDK...


Overview and features

ASF is based on serialized
In computer science, in the context of data storage and transmission, serialization is the process of converting a data structure or object state into a format that can be stored and "resurrected" later in the same or another computer environment...

Object-oriented programming
Object-oriented programming is a programming paradigm using "objects" – data structures consisting of data fields and methods together with their interactions – to design applications and computer programs. Programming techniques may include features such as data abstraction,...

which are essentially byte
The byte is a unit of digital information in computing and telecommunications that most commonly consists of eight bits. Historically, a byte was the number of bits used to encode a single character of text in a computer and for this reason it is the basic addressable element in many computer...

 sequences identified by a GUID
Globally Unique Identifier
A globally unique identifier is a unique reference number used as an identifier in computer software. The term GUID also is used for Microsoft's implementation of the Universally unique identifier standard....


The format does not specify how (i.e. with which codec
A codec is a device or computer program capable of encoding or decoding a digital data stream or signal. The word codec is a portmanteau of "compressor-decompressor" or, more commonly, "coder-decoder"...

) the video or audio should be encoded; it just specifies the structure of the video/audio stream. This is similar to the function performed by the QuickTime
QuickTime is an extensible proprietary multimedia framework developed by Apple Inc., capable of handling various formats of digital video, picture, sound, panoramic images, and interactivity. The classic version of QuickTime is available for Windows XP and later, as well as Mac OS X Leopard and...

Audio Video Interleave
Audio Video Interleave , known by its acronym AVI, is a multimedia container format introduced by Microsoft in November 1992 as part of its Video for Windows technology. AVI files can contain both audio and video data in a file container that allows synchronous audio-with-video playback...

, or Ogg
Ogg is a free, open container format maintained by the Xiph.Org Foundation. The creators of the Ogg format state that it is unrestricted by software patents and is designed to provide for efficient streaming and manipulation of high quality digital multimedia.The Ogg container format can multiplex...

 container formats. One of the objectives of ASF was to support playback from digital media servers
Streaming media
Streaming media is multimedia that is constantly received by and presented to an end-user while being delivered by a streaming provider.The term "presented" is used in this article in a general sense that includes audio or video playback. The name refers to the delivery method of the medium rather...

, HTTP servers, and local storage devices such as hard disk drives.

The most common file types contained within an ASF file are Windows Media Audio
Windows Media Audio
Windows Media Audio is an audio data compression technology developed by Microsoft. The name can be used to refer to its audio file format or its audio codecs. It is a proprietary technology that forms part of the Windows Media framework. WMA consists of four distinct codecs...

 (WMA) and Windows Media Video
Windows Media Video
'Windows Media Video is a video compression format for several proprietary codecs developed by Microsoft. The original video format, known as WMV, was originally designed for Internet streaming applications, as a competitor to RealVideo. The other formats, such as WMV Screen and WMV Image, cater...

 (WMV). Note that the file extension abbreviations are different from the codecs which have the same name. Files containing only WMA audio can be named using a .WMA extension
Filename extension
A filename extension is a suffix to the name of a computer file applied to indicate the encoding of its contents or usage....

, and files of audio and video content may have the extension .WMV. Both may use the .ASF extension if desired.

ASF files can also contain objects representing metadata, such as the artist, title, album and genre for an audio track, or the director of a video track, much like the ID3
ID3 is a metadata container most often used in conjunction with the MP3 audio file format. It allows information such as the title, artist, album, track number, and other information about the file to be stored in the file itself....

 tags of MP3
MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a patented digital audio encoding format using a form of lossy data compression...

 files. It supports scalable media types and stream prioritization; as such, it is a format optimized for streaming.

The ASF container provides the framework for digital rights management
Digital rights management
Digital rights management is a class of access control technologies that are used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals with the intent to limit the use of digital content and devices after sale. DRM is any technology that inhibits uses of digital content that...

 in Windows Media Audio and Windows Media Video. An analysis of an older scheme used in WMA reveals that it is using a combination of elliptic curve cryptography
Elliptic curve cryptography
Elliptic curve cryptography is an approach to public-key cryptography based on the algebraic structure of elliptic curves over finite fields. The use of elliptic curves in cryptography was suggested independently by Neal Koblitz and Victor S...

 key exchange, DES
Data Encryption Standard
The Data Encryption Standard is a block cipher that uses shared secret encryption. It was selected by the National Bureau of Standards as an official Federal Information Processing Standard for the United States in 1976 and which has subsequently enjoyed widespread use internationally. It is...

 block cipher, a custom block cipher, RC4 stream cipher and the SHA-1 hashing function.

ASF container-based media are usually streamed on the internet either through the MMS
Microsoft Media Services
Microsoft Media Server is the name of Microsoft's proprietary network streaming protocol used to transfer unicast data in Windows Media Services . MMS can be transported via UDP or TCP...

 protocol or the RTSP
Real Time Streaming Protocol
The Real Time Streaming Protocol is a network control protocol designed for use in entertainment and communications systems to control streaming media servers. The protocol is used for establishing and controlling media sessions between end points...



Although the ASF container format can technically include any codec, Microsoft's encoding tools (including Windows Media Encoder
Windows Media Encoder
Windows Media Encoder is a freely downloadable trial version media encoder developed by Microsoft which enables content developers to convert or capture both live and prerecorded audio, video, and computer screen images to Windows Media formats for live and on-demand delivery. It is the successor...

 and Windows Movie Maker
Windows Movie Maker
Windows Movie Maker is a video creating/editing software application, included in Microsoft Windows Me, XP, and Vista. It contains features such as effects, transitions, titles/credits, audio track, timeline narration, and Auto Movie. New effects and transitions can be made and existing ones can be...

) produce ASF/WMA/WMV files using the DirectX Media Objects (DMO) framework. So far, third-party DMO-based codecs remain extremely rare.


The specification is downloadable from the Microsoft website and the format can be implemented under a license
The verb license or grant licence means to give permission. The noun license or licence refers to that permission as well as to the document recording that permission.A license may be granted by a party to another party as an element of an agreement...

 from Microsoft that however does not allow distribution of sources and is not compatible with open source
Open-source software
Open-source software is computer software that is available in source code form: the source code and certain other rights normally reserved for copyright holders are provided under a software license that permits users to study, change, improve and at times also to distribute the software.Open...

 licenses. The author of the free software project VirtualDub
VirtualDub is a video capture and video processing utility for Microsoft Windows written by Avery Lee.It is designed to process linear video streams, including filtering and recompression...

 reported that a Microsoft employee informed him that his software violated a Microsoft patent regarding ASF playback.

Certain error-correcting
Error detection and correction
In information theory and coding theory with applications in computer science and telecommunication, error detection and correction or error control are techniques that enable reliable delivery of digital data over unreliable communication channels...

techniques related to ASF are patented in the United States (United States Patent 6,041,345 Levi, et al. March 21, 2000) by Microsoft.

External links