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I know there are quite a few types of audio/music playlists out in the wild. Are there any that are specifically approved as FLOSS? That is, are there are that are particularly encouraged by the FSF, like how .ogg is an encouraged audio container format?

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Most playlist formats are plain text and open by design, thus there is no need for a "specifically approved" playlist format. I therefore suggest to use the most popular one which seems to be m3u. – scai Jul 25 '12 at 14:13
I'd go with m3u8 given how diverse the character set tends to be with artist names, song and album titles, etc. – jw013 Jul 25 '12 at 17:29
Thanks both scai and @jw013 , I wasn't sure what format to use, and I do have a few songs with asian-character metadata. – Tanaki Jul 25 '12 at 17:49

The same community that brought you Ogg, FLAC, Vorbis, and now Opus, created XSPF.

Unlike M3U, XSPF is XML.

Unlike SMIL, XSPF is simple.

Unlike ASX, XSPF is open.

From a practical standpoint, however, there isn't many software out there, that supports it. I still tend to use it for little projects, etc. but aside from RockBox, VLC and I think Foobar, there aren't that many players that can understand .xspf.

From a design standpoint, .xspf is pretty well designed. It is XML, which makes it easy to maintain, write software for it, incorporate support into existing projects, or even edit it by hand:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<playlist version="1" xmlns="http://xspf.org/ns/0/">

It supports metadata, of course. Adding metadata to the individual tracks might be quite redundant, as that metadata is usually stored in the files themselves, but you might want to put info about streaming media in there, or the playlist itself, possibly. XSPF supports all that.

Personally, I've supported that playlist format on a web radio project of mine. I added it, since I was using Ogg/Vorbis, so I though it would be quite a natural addition, to make the whole thing a bit more complete. But I must say, acceptance by the audience was very minimal, most clicks were out of accident, or out of curiosity. I would suggest not relying on XSPF alone. If you have a project that deals with audio playlists, make sure you support other playlists as well...

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

Scai seems to have it answered in the comments. A lot of these are just plain text, so there is no proprietary license on them; use whichever you'd like. M3U seems to be a popular choice.

EDIT: polemon pointed out that some plain text formats such as ASX (XML-based) require a license for use. Watch out for things like this.

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Not true. ASX is an XML file, essentially, but you have to pay licenses if you plan to use it... I know, it kinda doesn't make sense, but that's Microsoft for you. From a legal standpoint, ASX is plain text (as basically all playlist formats are), but there is a proprietary license on them! – polemon Sep 28 '12 at 14:24

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