Technology 3 min read

Like the GIF, the MP3 is not Dead

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Around since the early 1990s, the MP3 is “commercially” dead. The German institute that created the MP3 technology has officially announced the termination of its licensing program, understanding that new audio formats are taking over.

If you’re older than twenty and listen to digital audio, then undoubtedly you have been in contact with MP3 files. Basically, MP3 is a codec, a form of digital audio coding, developed by the German company Fraunhofer IIS in the late 1980s and marketed in the early 1990s. Don’t worry, though, the MP3 is not dead, yet.

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When an audio file is compressed into an MP3 it takes up about 10 percent of the original size while remaining as close as possible to the sound quality of the original uncompressed recording. MP3 has been the most widely used format of audio files because it is flexible in terms of its size to quality ratio.

MP3 Bows out of the Music Scene

After a more than two-decade-long history, MP3 developer Fraunhofer IIS officially said in a press release that “Technicolor’s MP3 licensing program for certain MP3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS has been terminated.”

As per the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits IIS, despite the existence of other more efficient and advanced audio codec types, the MP3 codec remains very popular among music fans. However, compared to MP3, these codecs, such as AAC or future MPEG-H, adopted by new multimedia services, offer more functionality and better audio quality at lower bitrates.

The termination of the patent program means no further MP3-related patents will be applied for or granted and existing patents become part of the public domain.

GIF, MP3 Licenses Terminated but MP3 is not dead

Don’t fret! The news has been related all over the web under ominous titles, but technically:

The MP3 is not dead yet.Click To Tweet

The ending of the MP3 licensing program by its creator doesn’t mean the end of the format per se. Your treasured MP3 files stored on your hard drive or smartphone will remain intact and play as fine as always and will continue to work. Patents have expired, but usage and encoding to MP3 format will not be affected.

More than a decade ago, the GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format–which compresses image files just like MP3 compresses audio files–went down a similar path and let its patents expire.

But, as you probably are aware, the GIF is widely used today. It is an integral part of social media conversation and memetics, regardless of the proliferation of PNG. A beloved file type that revolutionized the way we listen to music, the MP3 is not dead.

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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