MP3, The Technology That Changed Music Forever, Has Officially Been Killed…By Its Creator

Photo courtesy of Apple.

MP3s are dead. R.I.P. 

That’s not us being hyperbolic about the rise of streaming. MP3s were basically just killed off by the creators of the digital audio encoding format.

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits funded the technology in the early ’90s. (Fun fact, the first MP3 was Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.”) The last US patent on the MP3 has expired and the company has decided to end the licensing program for MP3-related patents after a 20-year run. The reason? There are better ways to listen to music.

The company has admitted it themselves, saying that there are “more efficient audio codecs,” including the AAC file format, which The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits owns the patent for.

In a statement, Fraunhofer officials said:

“Most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as the AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) family or in the future MPEG-H/. Those can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates compared to mp3.”

So the question remains: what happens if you’re someone who’s never embraced streaming and you have thousands of songs on an external hard drive in your desk draw? Will all your MP3s just disappear? Not exactly. Your music is still safe. But just realize that you’re dealing with technologically that is being phased out. (Gizmodo did a good post about it and compared it to when manufacturers started “installing CD-ROMs instead of floppy drives.”)  

So, mostly, this signifies the end of an era. MP3s rose to popularity in the late ’90s with the rise of Napster and other illegal file sharing sites. The technologically, which compressed music into small files sizes, was crucial to the initial success of the iPod in the early aughts.

H/T: CNBCGizmodo


Dimas Sanfiorenzo

Dimas Sanfiorenzo is the Managing Editor for Okayplayer. He specializes in coverage centered around music, pop culture, and politics. Email:

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