The developer of the MP3, which revolutionized the way people listen to music, announced Monday it has terminated the file format’s licensing program after more than two decades.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, a German research body that licensed MP3 patents to software developers, said in a statement that though the technology remains popular among consumers, “there are more efficient audio codecs with advanced features available today.” Indeed, the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), MP3’s successor, is already considered the default audio format for YouTube, iTunes, and other music-streaming services.
The format became popular mostly because it could compress vast amounts of data without a commensurate deterioration in quality. In practical terms, it meant many songs—sometimes thousands—could be saved on a single device.
Though MP3 will join the list of older formats such as CDs, cassette tapes, and vinyl, it’s unlikely to enjoy the resurgence of its predecessors. As Gizmodo’s Rhett Jones writes, “The audio quality is trash by modern standards and some research has even suggested that its compression reinforces perceived negative emotional characteristics in musical instruments to the detriment of positive emotional characteristics.”
Still, the impact of MP3s on the digital music landscape won’t soon be forgotten. The format ushered the music industry into the digital age, fueling millions or billions of portable audio downloads and setting the foundation for an era that brought the iPod and all the other modern forms of music listening that have come since.
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