The MP3 is officially dead, according to its creators.
The Fraunhoefer Institute of Integrated Circuits—responsible for the creation of the MP3—announced on its website last month that its licensing for MP3s and other related patents had been terminated.
So what does this mean?
Streaming TV and radio broadcasting use ISO-MPEG codecs. What this means is that AAC or “Advanced Audio Coding” is most likely going to take over.
Bernhard Grill, a developer of the MP3, told NPR via E-Mail that AAC is a “de facto standard for music download and videos on mobile phones.” He also said that it is “more efficient than MP3 and offers a lot more functionality.”
MP3 development began in the late ’80s, becoming a standardized format in 1991. As mobile listening devices such as the Walkman and portable CD players gained popularity, consumers sought something that could store more songs. The file size of CDs were too large to be practical, and so the MP3 became the chosen candidate. Below is a promotional video for the MP3 from 2011.
MP3 files use only 9% of what a CD file would. By eliminating parts of sound that are not normally audible to humans, MP3 files are able to approximate what you would hear on a larger format while cutting the file size. MP3s began spreading over the Internet in the late ‘90s, then into iPods in the early 2000s. The results of free MP3 file sharing sites like mp3.com and Napster were financially devastating for the music industry.
According to a report by Nova Southeastern University, global music sales have dropped by 25 billion dollars between the mid-’90s and 2014.
Sound engineers and audiophiles criticized the medium, stating that the compressed audio of MP3s eliminated the in-depth experience and detailed nuance available in other formats, including vinyl.
Strangely enough, older mediums are making a comeback. According to new data released by the Entertainment Retailers Association (ERA), vinyl sales surpassed mp3 sales in the UK last year. Annual events like Record Store Day have made the purchase and collection of vinyl more than an underground trend.
Cassette labels have also gained popularity. Labels like Burger Records based out of Los Angeles continue to gain momentum while releasing music by popular and emerging artists.
No doubt it will take a considerable amount of time before MP3s are completely usurped by its successor, but it’s officially on its way out.