MP3 is finally free

"MP3 is dead" missed the real, much better story:

If you read the news, you may think the MP3 file format was recently officially "killed" somehow, and any remaining MP3 holdouts should all move to AAC now. These are all simple rewrites of Fraunhofer IIS' announcement that they're terminating the MP3 patent-licensing program. [...]

MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year -- the last known MP3 patents have simply expired. [...]

MP3 is very old, but it's the same age as JPEG, which has also long since been surpassed in quality by newer formats. JPEG is still ubiquitous not because Engadget forgot to declare its death, but because it's good enough and supported everywhere, making it the most pragmatic choice most of the time.

AAC and other newer audio codecs can produce better quality than MP3, but the difference is only significant at low bitrates. At about 128 kbps or greater, the differences between MP3 and other codecs are very unlikely to be noticed, so it isn't meaningfully better for personal music collections. For new music, get AAC if you want, but it's not worth spending any time replacing MP3s you already have. [...]

Until a few weeks ago, there had never been an audio format that was small enough to be practical, widely supported, and had no patent restrictions, forcing difficult choices and needless friction upon the computing world. Now, at least for audio, that friction has officially ended. There's finally a great choice without asterisks.

MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free. There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3, it's good enough for almost anything, and now, over twenty years since it took the world by storm, it's finally free.

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16 Responses:

  1. Jan Kujawa says:

    The idiot who wrote "MP3 is dead" deserves a sound beating.

    • Not a laser says:

      However, he probably got a raise.

    • MattyJ says:

      Ouch. That hertz.

    • Nick L says:

      How so? This "idiot" works for Fraunhofer or their PR company and was tasked with spinning this.

      Almost all the "news" you consume is produced by PR companies and "sold" into the media to spin whatever sparse facts are included to the benefit of whoever paid.

  2. phuzz says:

    And now all linux distributions get a few MB larger because they'll finally include an MP3 decoder, despite no distro ever getting in trouble for bundling an MP3 de/encoder ever.

  3. Paul Rain says:

    What can MP3s do that MODs can't?

  4. Web Guy says:

    Lossy codecs are for suckas! FLAC 2017! Wooooooooo!

  5. I'm assuming that this means that the Fraunhofer codec can now be shipped with free software, which should actually improve the quality of MP3s.

    • PDP says:

      No, Fraunhofer still owns the copyright to their own program so it's not free.

      (also LAME is better anyways)

  6. Joe Shelby says:

    The problem with the articles is that the wrong audience is seeing them. They're directed kinda towards tech providers (streaming services)...but the people reading them are our mom's and dad's and ignorant uncles and aunts and cousins who all see "mp3 is dead" and think that their entire collection of amazon music is about to become wasted and they'll need to buy the White Album yet again.

    Some people have bad memories of the encrypted 90s and losing entire collections of purchases because the license provider went under...and these articles are rekindling that fear in the public, unnecessarily.

    • Rich says:

      And, for their revenue-generating purposes, announcing "mp3 is dead" is a true statement.

    • Norie says:

      Wat? Losing entire collections of purchases in the 90s? I left high school in the 90s and my project was a serial-port hardware MP3 decoder (and control software) so the 150 or so shitty 486DX33s the school had could play mp3s. Wrong decade, millennial hipster.

  7. anon3494 says:

    Hail Satan!

  8. Lloyd says:

    MP3 totally needs to be rebranded as MPfree. It needs a killer logo.

    Possibly not a logo with GNU horns behind it, though.

  9. robert_ says:

    In relation to the 'no meaningful difference' at higher bitrates, bear in mind that with hard drives being larger and storage cheaper you no longer need to try to optimise your space by constraining bitrates at 128k. They can now be a mor e comfortable 192k or even 320k.

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