No, MP3 is not dead

May 18, 2017 at 9:05 pm

For most people, songs in MP3 format sound just fine.   | Photo Credit: AP

MP3 is only set free.

MP3, the much popular audio format famous for its small size, has now got its licensing program terminated.

The Fraunhofer Institute, the developer of the format, recently said it had ended the “licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software” as of April 23, 2017. The company stated: “Although 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 bitrates compared to mp3.”

What is MP3?

MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 audio layer 3, ubiquitously known as mp3, is essentially compressed music files that allowed the audio file to be as little as 1/10th of its original size. The development of mp3 started in the late 1980s at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS. Compared to its WAV counterpart, the mp3 format occupied less space owing to its small size and was hence used extensively for sharing and streaming.

Sound engineers use high-resolution audio in formats like AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, WAV, and DSD. But consumer electronics largely use mp3 to take advantage of a large scale user-base.

What does the end of licensing mean for you?

You can still use mp3 files if you want to. Many music streaming sites and services still use mp3 formats, according to Fraunhofer. “If you ever ripped an mp3 from a CD, or bought from an online store, then the company involved paid a licensing fee to Fraunhofer/Technicolor. Now, the company won’t have to do this anymore, but your mp3s will still continue to work as they always did,” says cnet.com.

The popularity of the mp3 rose in the early 1990s, as people who wanted to listen to songs in their PCs had limited storage space. MP3 stepped in, and for most people, the songs sounded just fine. In the later years, it gained popularity due to underground song networks that were pirating copyrighted content. The advent of WINAMP software too, boosted the audio format’s image, before it became a standard in many mobile phones and compact discs.

However, audiophiles preferred pure music over compressed ones, dissing mp3 for cutting down sounds that are thought to be beyond the audio reception ability of most people.

According to macobserver.com, “MP3 isn’t dead, all your songs will still play, and you can keep buying MP3 tracks from music services. Fraunhofer’s announcement means that, as of April there isn’t anything to license because there aren’t any current patents covering MP3. Without those patents there isn’t any value in licensing, and that’s what this comes down to: The Fraunhofer Institute can’t make money off licensing MP3 patents.”

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