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What is Matroska .mkv File

Rob Parsons Updated on Apr 15, 2022 4:22 PM

The Matroska Multimedia Container is a free container format, which can hold an unlimited number of video, audio, picture, and subtitle in a file called Matroska Media. In concept aspect, Matroska is similar 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. Most of people may regard Matroska as mkv, but actually mkv is just one of the many formats of Matroska.

The Matroska project was announced as a fork of the Multimedia Container Format (MCF). And its developers promise that this format and software based on it could be used without any limitation. This format remains free of charge even though it became widely used and popularized.

Format type

The Matroska media has mainly defined as three types of file.

1.Matroska Video File (MKV), which is the most common used format, can store video, audio and subtitle. Find out how to go about converting MKV Files to MP4 format on a computer

2.Matroska Audio File (MKA), stores single audio with different audio tracks.

3.Matroska Subtitles (MKS), stores subtitle.


The whole project was started from 7 December 2002. After several discussion, its developers decided to use Extensible Binary Meta Language(EBML, an extensible binary meta language)to replace its binary format. They also believed that there are lots of advantages in EBML. And it is easy to extend programs if developers wanted to change objects or had new develop plans.

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 which is free to use and the 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.


The whole project launched with the intention of:

1. Develop a modern, flexible and multi-platform Internet server, being able to quick find.

2. Develop a set of Matroska tool for creating and editing, then launch it under the GNU General Public License.

3. Develop a network library, allows developers to apply for permission to add Matroska in their self developed applications and launched them under the Lesser General Public License.

4. Develop robust streaming support.

5. Develop a menu system similar to that of DVDs based on EBML.

6. Work with hardware manufacturers to include Matroska support in embedded multimedia devices.

7. Work to provide native Matroska support in various operating systems and hardware platforms.

Related article: How to Burn MKV Videos for Playing on DVD Home Player


The biggest feature of Matroska is that it has a capacity of different video codec, audio codec and subtitle. It also holds RealMedia and QuickTime files, allowing them to reorganize their audio and video to reach a better effect.

The launch of Matroska is a big challenge to conventional media format. Even so, Matroska was developed into a multifunctional media format.

Matroska & AVI

Audio Video Interleaved(AVI), developed by Microsoft in March, 1992, is a multimedia container format within a part of Windows video software. With audio and video data in one file, AVI allows them to play at one time, that is quite similar with DVD. The data of AVI is often applied to disc, while storing all kinds of images including TV, films, and the like.

Matroska .mkv aims at replacing the old media container format. Its main focus competitor format is AVI. AVI still remains important position in multimedia market ever since it was launched. However, the original schema is too backward to encode in audio and video. It is also inconvenient to use in platforms besides Microsoft. Matroska defeated AVI by its open ,free structure, cross-platform features. But AVI owns widely support of hardware and software, which is a yardstick to know whether MKV is successful or not. The present Matroska still needs to be further developed for making more people to recognize it. There is still a long way to catch up with AVI and make itself distinguished in DV or digital TV market.

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