MP3's are not dead, they are just free

You may have seen some articles in the last few days proclaiming that the MP3 format is now "dead". But the reality is that while the format has been pushed aside by technology manufacturers to make way for more higher quality audio files, this could actually spell extremely good news for emerging developers.

To explain the situation, it must first be said that the MP3 format is actually a licensed invention. We have become used to the idea that MP3 is simply a byword for an audio file. And while it was, and in some cases still is, the most popular, its use is still under copyright protection. But the reason why many are claiming it to be dead is because its parent owner, The Fraunhofer Institute, who created the format back in 1987, are planning to let the patent on MP3's expire in the coming months. This is due to the fact that most digital music players now use the AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) instead, therefore making the MP3 obsolete.

This is mainly due to the advancements in technology over the last decade. The MP3 is a very low quality audio file, developed specifically for the digital music market. Over ten years ago, handheld devices could only store a very limited amount of memory, meaning that the smaller (or lesser quality) the file size, the more content users to pack into the device. But given that most handheld devices can now store more than 100x what they could only a few years ago, and the rise of seeing smart phones with music players already built in. The move has now been made to provide higher quality audio for both paid and streamed music.

But there are still many outlets and business ventures in the music industry that still use MP3 in some form, and those ventures could now see a wave of new competition on the way. Most club DJs will be aware of the idea of a DJ pool. This is basically a subscription service that allows users to download club quality music and removes the need it rely on iTunes, which isn't always as good as you think. But given that the license of the MP3 is soon to disappear, you can expect even more of these pools to crop up. Given that the market for DJs seems to be ever-expanding, most larger pools may begin to have to improve their personal services should smaller, independent companies begin to appear on the scene.

And that's not all as the expiration of the format could also see a change in how we share music altogether. We all remember the days of Napster and Limewire, peer-to-peer services that became notorious because of their liberal approach to the music industry and allowing users to download copies of their favourite tunes for free. Now that the MP3 will be gone, it may prove even harder for the industry to keep a check on these kinds of services. While some still exist and usually offer low quality rips, mostly because the general public are never too concerned about how well the song sounds, especially when they are most likely to be playing it out of tinny earbuds anyway. This lack of care when it comes to sound quality may just be the catalyst that justifies a boom in these services, especially now their overheads are looking to diminish.

So while this may sound like an expected move from the high-industry point of view, many lower developers will see this as the opportunity of a lifetime. With MP3's now free to use, imagine the cost-cutting it could provide to those who wish to sell their music online. Or those who have been looking to set up their own iTunes competitor but don't have the same negotiating arm as Apple. To say that the MP3 is dead is clearly far from reality, as there is no doubt that the format is going to prove just as useful for new innovators now as it did for its creators many years ago.