There’s perhaps no audio format that has been so widely used that it established itself as a noun in the English language and supplanted the traditionally used ‘song’ in the process.
The MP3 was the word of the digital era for years since it made its entry. It became the audio format of choice for consumers when it came to songs, podcasts and other audio content that were downloaded, shared or streamed.
But the time has come to mute the once ubiquitous digital file format for good, announced its German-based creators at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits (Fraunhofer IIS) who introduced the audio format in the 1980s.
Two decades on, the institute has decided to terminate the licensing programme for some MP3-related patents which effectively halts industry support.
Although users can still listen to their MP3 files, inventors of new technologies will probably not include the file format in their blueprints as they turn to more advanced alternatives.
MP3s revolutionised the audio sector with their compressed file sizes, relegating the once shiny compact discs (CDs) to nothing more than cheap ornamental mirrors and unleashing a whole new market for MP3 players.
The digital technology also shook the music industry across the globe as it continues to struggle against online piracy – an unfortunate consequence of the technological advancement.
But the popularity of the MP3 declined inevitably as more advanced file formats emerged over the years with better audio quality.
“Although there are more efficient audio codecs with advanced features available today, MP3 is still very popular amongst consumers,” Fraunhofer IIS said on its website.
“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.”
At the pace that technology has changed consumer patterns, it’s quite a record for the MP3 to have stayed in the game for as long as it did. While not everyone welcomed its birth with open arms, it will be remembered as it goes down into the annals of audio history.