No More MP3 Extension
The Format of the MP3 Owner killed its Extension off last month “NO MORE MP3 Extension” – and it’s taken three weeks for anyone to notice. With the last of the patents protecting the MPEG Audio Layer III expiring, the Fraunhofer Institute has declined to renew the IP and terminated its licensing programme.
Today there are more efficient audio codecs with advanced features available today, mp3 is still very popular amongst consumers. However, most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as the AAC family or in the future MPEG-H. Those can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bit rates compared to mp3,” the Institute said in a statement.
MP3 built on the idea that the ear can be tricked – it’s called psycho-acoustics – to allow information to be thrown away. The Fraunhofer team’s work allowed audio wave files to be compressed into a file to one tenth or one twentieth the original size. Developed for commercial transmission – the work was funded by AT&T and Thomson – the Fraunhofer Institute’s discoveries were first incorporated into the MPEG-1 standard in 1991. MPEG-2 layer III followed in 1994, and “MP3” became a file format with an .mp3 extension in July 1995.
The MP3 rose to prominence in the late 1990s and is credited with revolutionizing the way we listen to music by reducing file sizes by as much as 95 percent, allowing music listeners to fit dozens of albums on compact digital devices, instead of lugging CDs around with them.
However, the older, less efficient spec became a de facto standard after the Fraunhofer encoding software was acquired using a stolen credit card, pirated and repackaged with a bogus README file claiming: “This is freeware thanks to Fraunhofer”.
“He gave away our business model. We were completely not amused,” mathematician Karlheinz Brandenburg – often described as the “Father of MP3” although he shuns the description – admitted later.
The older MP3 format was adopted as a pirate radio streaming codec then popular usage exploded with Napster in 1999.
The music industry had years to prepare for digitization so it isn’t quite accurate to say they “didn’t see it coming”. Like Nokia, the music business saw change coming, but reacted badly. Market building was perpetually thwarted by corporate self-preservation (execs were incentivised by market share compared to rivals), and a long list of technology duds showed poor thought and paranoia.
MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free. There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3, it’s good enough for almost anything, and now, over twenty years since it took the world by storm, it’s finally free