Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Reports of the MP3’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

You may have heard that the company that invented the MP3 codec just recently killed it off, but you have heard wrong. If anything, it’s almost the opposite: the MP3 format has been set free.

Jason Koelber, Vice:

Fraunhofer’s announcement notes that the company is “terminating” the “licensing program” for the MP3, opening the door for royalty- and licensing-free use of the format. While it’s true that there are more efficient and higher quality methods of encoding audio these days (Spotify, iTunes, and other streaming services use OGG or AAC), this means that it’s now easier to make MP3s than it has ever been.

“If you look carefully, they weren’t announcing the death of the mp3, they’re announcing the end of their licensing program,” Witt told me. “That program has been in decline for years because of streaming, but now you no longer have to go to Fraunhofer to get their permission to use it. Fraunhofer made many billions of dollars of this thing, but as a profit source for them, it’s over. Now it’s kind of free technology and free use.”

The MP3 spec represents an antiquated way of compressing audio — compared to today’s formats, it requires a higher bitrate to achieve quality comparable to an AAC file, and isn’t nearly as good at preserving anything in the extremes of the audible spectrum. But it’s not dead and, unlike AAC, a license is no longer required to encode or decode an MP3 file.