As with vinyl, MP3 heads to the music graveyard

In Music
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In technology, change is inevitable. And, so, it seems is death.

When the MP3 was introduced to consumers in the late 1990s, it eventually swallowed up the market for compact discs, which earlier laid to rest vinyl records. While CDs allowed greater portability of music, MP3s gave listeners the ability to carry massive amounts of music around in pocket-sized devices, such as iPods.

But, as often is the case with music, the MP3 has been usurped by newer platforms that include streaming services. Now, after nearly two decades, the German research body that owns the rights to MP3 has decided to no longer renew its patents on the technology.

“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,” read a statement from Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits. “Those can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates compared to MP3.”

Translation: The MP3 format is dead.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to your old MP3 files. It just means that AAC and newer formats that offer better audio quality will be readily available.

Certainly, there are music purists and audiophiles who have never warmed to MP3s. For instance, with vinyl records and CDs, you could hold a physical product, read liner notes and look at the graphic artistry of the cover. MP3s were all about the sound, and the sound alone could be a bit of challenge when the format’s compression was engaged. Sure, an audio file sizes could be reduced by as much as 95 percent, which meant MP3’s often limited the artist’s creative intention giving listeners an essence of the sound intended and sometimes not the full scope of orchestration.

Still, it is sad to see a once novel music format die without a whimper from most media. The late Steve Jobs had a fascination with mobile music that was reflected when Apple launched iTunes in January 2001, followed by the iPod in October. Today, iTunes is a music streaming service and the iPod is on life support.

And now the MP3, which enabled billions of songs to be listened by millions of people, will soon become history.

“Visible Digital” is a weekly column that explores digital technology and social media trends. Contact Bobbi Booker at [email protected] or (215) 893-5749. Share your digital world with me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook @bobbibooker.



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