It appears that the MP3 format is on the death bed. According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuit (Fraunhofer) , the organisation that created the MP3 format, they will not be extending the patents they hold on the MP3 format as they have expired, and in turn will not be collecting any further license fees on them.
The main reason; there are better methods to store music.
"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." said Fraunhofer in a statement.
The MP3 format can be given credit for the revolution and changing of not just how we store and playback audio in general, but somehow changing the music industry.
The timing is also curious as it comes at a time when music streaming is becoming popular and most streaming services do not use the MP3 format.
Brief History Of MP3
The origins of MP3 can be traced back to 1987 when Germany's Fraunhofer started their research on Digital Audio Broadcasting. The research project was code-named EUREKA project EU147, The main task of the DAB research and development project was to demonstrate the
technical feasibility of "the digital terrestrial radio network and to work out the most promising solution from a number of different approaches".
1997: MP3man Digital Music Player Released.
A year later in 1988, the Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) was created. It was to be a sub-committee of the International Standards Organization / International Electrotechnical Commission or (ISO/IEC). MPEG's main task was to set standards for audio and video compression and transmission, which would lead to the various MPEG standards.
Then, during April of 1989, Fraunhofer were granted a patent for MP3 in Germany. With the MP3 patent in the United States of America being issued on 26 November 1996.
It was only during late 1998 that Fraunhofer started to be strict about their patent rights and started collecting license fees from all developers of MP3 encoders, rippers and decoders / players.
1999 is marked as the year that really marked the potential of the MP3 format as MP3 players started becoming popular in place of portalble CD players. Although the first MP3 player was created in 1997.
What really made the MP3 popular was that it reduced the size of the files significantly with minimal loss of audio quality. As Frauhofer put it "Without Data reduction, digital audio signals typically consist of 16-bit samples recorded at a sampling rate more than twice the actual audio bandwidth (e.g. 44.1 kHz for Compact Discs). So you end up with more than 1.400 Mbit to represent just one second of stereo music in CD quality. By using MPEG audio coding, you may shrink down the original sound data from a CD by a factor of 12, without losing sound quality."
This meant you could store many more songs than you could with other formats on any form of digital storage. This subsequently led to the popularity of both the Apple iPod and other similar MP3 players as well as software based MP3 players such as WinAMP.
The rest as they say, is history.
With the spread of the Internet globally and growing popularity of music streaming services, AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) has become one of the more popular formats preferred over MP3 as well as FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) which provides better audio quality as ut is lossless.
There is also those who argue that now that MP3 is no more tied to any patents, it is likely to see more interest from developers who want to improve it.
Time will tell.