MP3 Heads Towards Legacy As Licensing And Patents Get Terminated

The format could not continue being supported in the face of AAC

Ransomware attacks may be shaking the tech world, but it has also seen another casualty: the MP3 format. 

The Fraunhofer Institute, a German company responsible for the development of MP3, released a statement highlighting that the format, including the licensing for its patents and software, has been terminated. 

While MP3 users will still be able to listen to their digital music collections, the end is nigh for the format as it has been put out to pasture and support for it will cease. 


MP3 logoThe choice to kill off MP3, according to the Institute, is the fact that the higher-quality Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format has become the de-facto standard for streaming and downloading music these days. 

“Most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as the AAC family or in the future MPEG-H. Those can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates compared to MP3,” said Bernhard Grill, director at the Fraunhofer Institute. 

Since its debut in the late 1980s, the MP3 format essentially ushered in a new era for music, bypassing the likes of CD players and creating the need for an MP3 player; a device that could hold hundreds to thousands of songs, something that was rather revolutionary in the late 90s and early 2000s, and resulted with wider peer-to-peer sharing of music. 

This arguably lead to Apple’s stellar comeback in the early 2000s by enabling the advent of the iPod and the concept that one can carry hundreds if not thousands of songs in one’s pocket. 

However, there are many devices out in the world that still run MP3s, so the format while lacking support and official licensing, will now become free for public domain use to use, though given AAC offers better quality encoding and is also free to use for the steaming and distribution of content, MP3 is arguably defunct from this point inwards. 

Interested in legacy technology, then why not check out our Tales in Tech History articles.