MP3 audio codec officially gets released back into the wild by its original developers

MP3 audio codec officially gets released back into the wild by its original developers
"Heh, heh, heh..."

When I was in college, I wrote a silly article for my school newspaper (S/O everyone at The Water Tower; I’m sure none of you are reading this!) about finally realizing that the CD was dead and how I should learn to love and appreciate my new digital format overlord, namely the MP3. Versatile and physically incapable of being scratched by careless hands, the MP3 was “perfect.” Surely, it would outlive us all. Then, just the other week, I log on to my local internet to read that, in what seems like a cruel twist of fate, the MP3’s own developers have terminated all licensing for the format, effectively killing it!

Let’s reminisce for a moment: of course, we all remember that, coupled with the file-sharing service Napster, the MP3 helped collapse the music industry down from a behemoth into the crumbling rubble heap (that every fifth #longread decries as “dead!”) it is today. In terms of convenience, listening to a seemingly endless stream of songs on an iPod, Zune (cough), or any of the other MP3 players that failed because they weren’t the iPod sure beat the hell out of having to lug your entire CD collection around. And who among us didn’t ruin a family computer or two by illegally downloading MP3s of incorrectly titled Nirvana songs via the likes of Kazaa, Limewire, or BearShare? Ah, memories; what a time to be alive it was!

But now, much like a mother rabbit would do to her baby after it’s been tainted by the vile stench of human touch, it would seem that the poor, cute, fuzzy, little MP3 has been abandoned by original owners Fraunhofer in favor of various other, superior audio codecs offering better quality, better file compression, looser women, and cheaper alcohol! Oh! Cruel Fate!

Luckily, however, this saga does have a happy (or at least much more ambiguous) ending! Because the other day I log onto my local internet again…only to find assurance that the MP3 has not, in fact, been SAVAGELY KILLED so much as it has been Harry and The Hendersons-style set FREE. Apparently that licensing program has been killed because Fraunhofer’s patent is up, but this might just mean 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.” So, perhaps there’s hope for the little guy after all…if he can survive out in the wild on his own without being mauled by a pack of FLAC files or eaten by a huge WAV!

Still though — it IS sort of fun to imagine a future world in which Lars Ulrich has finally won and in which the MP3 only lives on in our hearts and minds. In the mean time, though; let us all salute the format we all love-to-hate by listening to a probably horribly-compressed MP3 version of the Metallica classic “I Disappear,” off the soundtrack of the highly revered Mission: Impossible II. Cheers!

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