The MP3 Isn’t Dead

The MP3 format is about to have the patents surrounding it expire. Here’s Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors on what that means:

One of the companies who held patents covering some uses of the MP3 format has terminated its licensing program because its patents have run out. What this means is not that the MP3 format is about to evaporate, but rather, that lots of audio software that previously avoided encoding files into MP3 will now be free to support it without paying a tithe to Fraunhofer.

This is great news for everyone. I’ve spoken to several developers of audio and MP3-related software who have been watching the clock run out on MP3 patents so that they could release MP3 features into the world—both in brand-new apps as well as existing ones—without buying into Fraunhofer’s expensive licensing regime.

And Marco Arment:

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.

I still remember the first MP3 I downloaded (it was The Simpsons’ theme song) and not understanding how it was such a small file. I was blown away.