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GstTypes exist to try to make sure data eveyrone is talking about the
right kind of data. They aid quite a bit in autoplugging, in fact make it
possible. Each well-formed type includes a function (typefind) that will
take one or more buffers and determine whether or not it is indeed a
stream of that type, and possible a metadata to go with it. It may
provide related metadata structure IDs (and must if it provides metadata
from the typefind function).
Because multiple elements and plugins are very likely to be using the same
types, the process of creating/finding types is designed to be done with a
single function call. All operations on GstTypes occur via their guint16
ID numbers, with the GstType structure "private" to the GST library. A
plugin wishing to use a give type would contain a static struct of type
GstTypeFactory, which lists the MIME type, possible extensions (which may
overlap the mime-types file), a typefind function, and any other cruft I
decide to add.
A plugin init function would take this typefactory and hand it to the
gst_type_new() (FIXME: badly named) function, which would first search for
that same MIME type in the current list. If it found one, it would
compare the two to see if the new one is "better". Better is defined as
having more extentions (to be merged) or a typefind function verses none.
The point of returning an existing MIME type is a result of the goal of
unifying types enough to guarantee that, for instance, all MP3 decoders
will work interchangably. If MP3 decoder A says "MIME type 'audio/mpeg'
with extensions 'mpeg3'" and decoder B says "MIME type 'audio/mpeg' with
extensions 'mp3'", we don't want to have two types defined, possibly with
two typefind functions. If we did, it's not obvious which of the two would
be tried first (luck) and if both would really identify streams as mp3
correctly in all cases. And whichever wins, we're stuck using the
associated decoder to play that stream. We lose the choice between any
valid mp3 decoder, and thus the whole point of the type system.