MP3 licensing program finally expired: what this means it for the users
“The MP3 is far from being dead”
When something is written with as much enthusiasm as the MP3, strong emotions must be in the game.
In fact, no other technology from the world of music would probably have split the minds over the past 20 years as much as the widespread compression standard.
MP3 has changed the way we listen to music. And it the reason why Apple has launched iPod and the launch has made Apple as the most valuable company in the world.
A few weeks ago, on April 23, 2017, the Fraunhofer Institute finished the last licensing program with Technicolor and thus more or less officially carried the yearly standard of audio coding – at least symbolically – to the grave.
This does not mean that MP3 does not work anymore, but the priorities are now somewhere else.
Today’s media such as streaming, television or radio use more modern ISO-MPEG methods of the AAC family.
These offer extended setup possibilities and a better audio quality at much lower bit rates. For example, Apple’s iTunes store has been using it for years.
What does the patent end mean for the user?
No panic: You can still listen to or edit MP3 files. However, the institute will no longer develop the standard. The experts at the Fraunhofer Institute advise that more modern codes such as AAC be used.
The AAC files are about a quarter smaller than MP3 files with the same quality.
The ISO MPEG methods of the AAC family offer, for example, expandable settings and better audio quality at lower bit rates compared to the MP3 format.
Apple’s iTunes Store has been using the AAC format since the beginning of 2003.
Other streaming services, TV and radio are more likely to be based on ISO-MPEG methods of the AAC category.
A cultural phenomenon.
“Mp3 is more than just a technology, mp3 is a cultural phenomenon, and mp3 is an example of successful research, development and marketing in Germany“, says the electric engineer Heinz Gerhäuser, who is the inventor of the mp3 format.”
Mp3 compresses and saves music. Compared to the original, an mp3 file requires only about ten percent of the storage space. This allows music to be transferred quickly over the Internet and stored on mp3 players. A modern mp3 player saves between 2000 and 200,000 minutes of music depending on the memory size, which is over 130 days of uninterrupted music playback.
MP3 is a German success story. Between 1982 and 1992 the researchers of the Fraunhofer Institute had developed the format.
In July 1995 the ending .mp3 was adopted for files with MPEG-Audio Layer III. The format was able to compress uncompressed audio files for the first time without a perceptible loss by a factor of ten. For users a real relief.The music industry, however, was less enthusiastic about this development: MP3 files can be copied and distributed more easily.
Why Mp3 is so special?
What is special about MP3 is not only that the format compresses large music files, but also makes use of the characteristics of human hearing.
Jürgen Herre, a co-developer of mp3 has explained it as “The parts of the music, which are especially audible to the human being, are also presented with particular precision. Less clearly audible components are shown less precisely, inaudible information can be ignored”. Music consists of many different components, but they are not equally good for people. Thus, a silent flute play may be concealed from the listener, if at the same time is blown vigorously into the trumpet.
With MP3, the Fraunhofer Institute once again secured worldwide popularity. However, the development also means a lot for the economic center of Germany. According to Fraunhofer IIS, the tax revenues induced by the invention add up to € 300 million annually for the Federal Government. At least 9,000 jobs in Germany are directly due to MP3 – for example in the trade or for manufacturers of appropriate players. Germany still occupy the position of world leader in the development of audio technologies.
Fun Fact : On the occasion of the EU Council Presidency, the Federal Government even promoted its own series of MP3 players for Germany as a location for innovation.
What next? Switch to new file format?
“AAC is better.”
It seems to be time to carry the MP3 to the grave.
New formats like the compression standards AAC (“Advanced Audio Coding”) is considered more effective and at the same time more economical. AAC was also developed at the Fraunhofer Institute and has been used by Apple since the launch of iTunes in 2003. Streaming services such as Deezer or Tidal offer their customers streaming of high-resolution audio files at an extra charge, reportedly Spottily has also got similar plans.
The Fraunhofer IIS emphasizes in a communication that modern media services for streaming, TV or radio transmissions use anyway modern ISO MPEG codecs such as the AAC family or the future MPEG-H. These standards provide more functionality and higher audio quality at lower bit rates.
Nevertheless, that AAC and other technologies will replace the MP3 completely and that device manufacturers have already accepted the new technology.