MP3 Format Dead, But Not Down Yet

All good things come to an end and so has MP3! The once-controversial audio format that created ripples in the commercial music industry in the 90s by changing it to digital age is no more.

Apparently, Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, a division of the state-funded German research institution that funded the MP3’s development in the late ’80s, has decided to no longer issue licenses for certain MP3-related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS. In other words, they want the MP3 to retire and make way for other better formats of storing music that have appeared on the scene of late.

According to a post on their site, the German research lab said, “On April 23, 2017, Technicolor’s mp3 licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated.

“We thank all of our licensees for their great support in making mp3 the defacto audio codec in the world, during the past two decades.”

Bernhard Grill, a Fraunhofer director and one of the principals in the development of the MP3 told NPR in an email that Advanced Audio Coding (or AAC) is now the “de facto standard for music download and videos on mobile phones.” AAC is the default audio format used by Apple for ripping music from CD into iTunes.

In comparison with its predecessor, AAC is “more efficient than MP3 and offers a lot more functionality,” Grill added. “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 bitrates compared to MP3.”

Considered a game-changer 20 years ago, the development of the MP3 started in the late 1980s at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits. The first, however, unsuccessful MP3 player was developed by Frauenhofer in the early 1990s. In 1997, the first successful MP3 player known as the AMP MP3 Playback Engine was invented by developer Tomislav Uzelac of Advanced Multimedia Products. Later, two university students, Justin Frankel and Dmitry Boldyrev ported AMP to Windows and created Winamp.

In 1998, Winamp became a free MP3 music player boosting the success of MP3, which did not require licensing fees to use it.

While MP3’s demise is unfortunate, it is expected to die a slow and not an instant death. However, with the retirement of MP3, it will now allow developers to concentrate on MP3’s successor – AAC – and upgrade the level of audio quality to the next level.

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