Currently, ffmpeg is missing from APT packages when using the stable versions of Debian and Ubuntu.

There are numerous resources (example from SuperUser, another one from Debian's documentation and the one from AskUbuntu) which explain how to install it in a different (and more complex) way than a simple apt-get install ffmpeg.

What I wonder is why the package is not there in the first place?

From what I understood, avconv is a fork of ffmpeg and is a de facto standard for Debian similar distributions. Meanwhile, ffmpeg is not abandoned: the website mentions no intention to close the project in profit of avconv, despite the fact that the leader of ffmpeg left the project.


  • Why ffmpeg was plainly removed from APT packages, instead of keeping it and simply adding avconv?

  • Is there a reason (other than the fact that it became more difficult to install ffmpeg) to stop using it?

  • 1
    – jordanm
    Nov 11, 2015 at 17:39
  • 1
    I can't comment specifically why it was removed from apt, however the Libav fork of FFmpeg (not to mention its ensuing confusion) is well-documented elsewhere: Fork from FFmpeg. Nov 11, 2015 at 17:46
  • 1
    You may find the answers to this question useful: What are the differences and similarities between ffmpeg, libav, and avconv? Nov 11, 2015 at 17:52
  • @jordanm: indeed, among with the two other comments, that helps a lot (the quote “the Debian developer who maintained ffmpeg was part of the group that created the fork, so he naturally pulled the distribution along for the ride” alone answers my question). Do you want to promote your comment to an answer, including relevant quotes of the article? Nov 11, 2015 at 18:19

1 Answer 1


Why was ffmpeg not available in the repo?

For some time there was a so-called "ffmpeg" available after Debian switched to Libav, but it was not from FFmpeg. This can probably be explained best with a a rough timeline of what happened:

  1. Libav split from FFmpeg and kept the ffmpeg binary name (it also kept the names of the libraries, and the "libav" name was already being used by FFmpeg as a collective noun for the libraries: libavcodec, libavformat, libavutils, etc.).

  2. The Debian ffmpeg package maintainer at the time, a member of the Libav fork, switched Debian to use Libav.

  3. Libav eventually deprecated/renamed their ffmpeg to avconv, then eventually removed the counterfeit "ffmpeg", but some downstream users such as Ubuntu kept the old, fake "ffmpeg" for "compatibility and transitional" reasons for some time.

  4. Debian/Ubuntu eventually removed the buggy, old, dead, fake "ffmpeg".

  5. FFmpeg returns in Debian stable (jessie-backports) and Ubuntu Vivid 15.04.

  6. Debian/Ubuntu drops Libav.

You're currently between steps 4 and 5. Updating to a newer release of your distro will allow you to install the real ffmpeg from the repository.

Is there a reason to stop using ffmpeg?

FFmpeg development is very active, and now that Libav has lost its major downstream users I think you can ask this question about avconv instead.

Other stuff

...the leader of the FFmpeg left the project.

Michael Niedermayer is still quite active. He just got tired of some of the admin duties and politics and resigned as leader. Also, it was a gesture to Libav developers as a potential step for reunification with Libav developers.

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