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The growth of multimedia is increasing the need for standards for accessing and searching distributed repositories. The moving picture experts group (MPEG) is developing the MPEG query format (MPQF) to standardize this interface as part of MPEG-7. The objective is to make multimedia access and search easier and interoperable across search engines and repositories. This article describes the MPQF and highlights some of the ways it goes beyond today's query languages by providing capabilities for multimedia query-by-example and spatiotemporal queries.