Long Live MP3

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.

I wasn’t paying attention last week when Gizmodo, Engadget, and NPR got hoodwinked into writing “MP3 Is Dead” stories by an announcement from Fraunhofer pushing people to switch from the now-open MP3 to the still-patent-encumbered AAC.

On Twitter, Marco pointed to this 10-year-old piece from yours truly, describing the then-pipe-dream of Ogg Vorbis:

The ideal scenario would be for a genuinely open and free file format such as Ogg Vorbis to supplant MP3 as the de facto world standard. No patents, no licensing fees, a documented file format, open source libraries for encoding and decoding. That doesn’t seem to be in the cards, however. In the real world, major corporations only seem comfortable with multimedia formats backed by other large corporations.

Now that the MP3 patents have expired, the situation is even better, because MP3 has been so thoroughly vetted, patent-wise. Idealism seldom wins out in these format battles. But time always wins.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017