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GStreamer is a framework for creating streaming media applications. The fundamental design comes from the video pipeline at Oregon Graduate Institute, as well as some ideas from DirectShow.
GStreamer's development framework makes it possible to write any type of streaming multimedia application. The GStreamer framework is designed to make it easy to write applications that handle audio or video or both. It isn't restricted to audio and video, and can process any kind of data flow. The pipeline design is made to have little overhead above what the applied filters induce. This makes GStreamer a good framework for designing even high-end audio applications which put high demands on latency or performance.
One of the most obvious uses of GStreamer is using it to build a media player. GStreamer already includes components for building a media player that can support a very wide variety of formats, including MP3, Ogg/Vorbis, MPEG-1/2, AVI, Quicktime, mod, and more. GStreamer, however, is much more than just another media player. Its main advantages are that the pluggable components can be mixed and matched into arbitrary pipelines so that it's possible to write a full-fledged video or audio editing application.
The framework is based on plugins that will provide the various codec and other functionality. The plugins can be linked and arranged in a pipeline. This pipeline defines the flow of the data.
The GStreamer core function is to provide a framework for plugins, data flow, synchronization and media type handling/negotiation. It also provides an API to write applications using the various plugins.