Difference Between MOV (QTFF) and MP4

MOV vs MP4

MP4 and MOV are two file formats that can be used to store digital audio and video streams. Specifically they are known as file containers. MP4 was a development based on the MOV format, and they share many similarities in the structure and quality.


Quick time file format (QTFF) is a file format developed by Apple computers for their Quick time media player. Because of its ability to describe any media structure, QTFF is a good file format for the exchange of digital media among devices, applications, and operating systems.

QTFF can contain one or more track in the file, with each track being a video, audio, effects or text of the same stream. The tracks are maintained within the container in a hierarchical data structure that consists of objects called movie atoms. QTFF format is object-oriented and consists of a flexible collection of objects that is easily parsed and easily expanded. Unknown objects in the container can easily be ignored, allowing greater forward compatibility as newer objects are introduced.

Abstract nature brought by the object orientation within the container allows abstract data references for the media atoms and separation of the media data from the media offsets and track edit list makes it suitable for editing purposes too.

Even with its advanced capabilities and advantages, QTFF is hindered in development and usage due to the proprietary nature of the code.

File extensions .mov and .qt are used with this file format.


MP4 is a file container format developed by the Moving Pictures Experts Group for the International Standards Organization, and it is based on the QTFF. In fact, the initial release of the format was nearly identical to the QTFF. Still they share the same structure, but MP4 has moved up the timeline and developed into a more advanced container. It is now a major component of the ISO base media file format standards.

Widely used data streams in the MP4 file format are MPEG-4 Part 10 (H.264) and MPEG-4 Part for video and Advanced Audio Coding for audio streams. Subtitles use the MPEG-4 Timed Text data stream.

Since the initial development was based on the QTFF, much of the structure of MPEG-4 is the same. In an Apple environment (MacOS or iOS), these file formats can be used interchangeably. The file format can be changed without actually re-encoding video. The MP4 has the advantage of being able to stream over the internet while QTFF is not supported for this. Also, MP4 is supported by most of the OS platforms and video editing software. The community around the standard has grown, and contributions from the community have ensured the progress of the standard in the industry; something QTFF does not enjoy due to its proprietary nature.

MPEG4 files use the .mp4 extension in general, but depending on the application extension used may differ. For example, the audio only file can use the .m4a extension. Raw MPEG4 video bit streams are given the .m4v extension. The video file formats used in the mobile phones are also a development from the MPEG4-12, and they use the .3gp and .3g2 extensions. Audio books use the .m4b extension because variation in the code allows bookmarking the audio file.

What is the difference between MOV (QTFF) and MP4?

• Quick Time File Format or the MOV was developed by Apple for their Quick Time player, and it is a proprietary file format.

• MP4 is a file format based on the QTFF by the Moving Pictures Experts Group formed by the ISO, and the MP4 is not a proprietary container. It is an Industry standard, and part of the ISO base media file format standards.

• Both QTFF and the MP4 are lossy video file formats and share the same file architecture and hierarchy, and in an Apple environment they are simply interchangeable by changing the file extension, without really changing the encoding.

• MP4 is supported by a majority of the OS and industry software, with a larger community for support and development.