End of an era: MP3 format officially dead


The iPod played a big role in popularizing the MP3.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

The MP3, the iconic music compressions format partly popularized by the iPod, has been declared dead by its creators.

Licensing of the technology has been the responsibility of German company the Fraunhofer Institute. In a statement, the institute revealed that it is terminating licensing patents and software related to MP3. It’s the end of an era!

MP3 was invented back in the 1980s, long before the majority of people were able to connect to the internet. But with the arrival of the internet, it became the de-facto music format. Anyone over the age of 25 will probably remember the grindingly slow days of dial-up, in which downloading a song could consume the best part of an hour.

The format has since given over to Advanced Audio Codec family (AAC). However, it’s still an historic occasion to wave goodbye to probably the most famous file format in history, particularly if you were to poll the general public.

In a statement, the Fraunhofer Institute wrote that:

“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.

The development of mp3 started in the late 80s at Fraunhofer IIS, based on previous development results at the University Erlangen-Nuremberg. 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 was the first MP3 you ever downloaded? Leave your comments below.

  • Chris N

    It’s not dead, the patents have just expired so Fraunhoffer can’t make any more money from it. That’s all this is.

  • alba63

    Misleading title I agree. MP3 is still the most used compressed music file format. Apple – as usual – has it’s own proprietary file format (bad!)… Anyway, it doesn’t make sense NOT to use compressed music files in less than hiEnd stereo systems (like most portable players, including car HiFi). Only a very small percentage of listeners are able to keep apart a WAV file from a 256kbs mp3 file.

    • Storm

      Apple doesn’t have its “own proprietary file format”. Apple uses AAC, which while proprietary, is part of the MPEG-4 ISO standard, developed and owned by a consortium of companies (of which Apple isn’t one), that includes Fraunhofer IIS, the developers of MP3.

  • Ian Phillip

    As others have noted, mp3 is in no way dead — it’ll be around for years, if not decades, especially in podcasting circles. Fraunhoffer have issued this statement in the hope that lazy news sites will reproduce it unquestioningly and scare people into switching up to AAC which, unlike mp3, they’re still receiving patent payments for. It’s a cash-grab, nothing more. You really should try to be more interrogative of press releases instead of just reprinting them as news.