retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

The Washington Post has a story about how the MP3 file format, which was used on the original iPod, "has been abandoned by its inventors at the Fraunhofer Institute. The German organization, a division of the group that helped develop the MP3, is letting its licensing hold on the format expire."

The Post waxes rhapsodic about the MP3 this way:

"The MP3 was, in its day, the spark of a revolution. The file format, created in 1993, changed the way we listened to music as it liberated people from tapes and compact discs.

"It wasn't just about the equipment we used to enjoy our music that changed with the MP3, though the MP3 hastened the abandonment of many a Walkman and Discman. The MP3 let mix tapes give way to playlists. Albums, and the order in which artists laid out their songs, didn't matter quite as much. You could carry thousands of songs with you at all times, without having to lug around a CD wallet. (Millennials, ask your parents. Or even just slightly older millennials.)

"And, of course, you could share. Arguably, more than anything, the MP3's cultural mark comes from the way it enabled sharing — especially, let's face it, illegal sharing..."

The MP3 format, the story notes, "fell out of favor with companies steadily through the early 2000s. The iTunes store adopted the AAC standard in 2003. In 2014, Amazon MP3 was rebranded as Amazon Music. As streaming picked up steam, so did newer formats." And so, the Fraunhofer Institute decided to let its patents expire.

This doesn't mean that MP3 files suddenly will be unplayable. Far from it. But what does mean is that technology has moved on, and that even an innovation that sparked fundamental change in how people acquired and engaged with music eventually becomes obsolete and is replaced.

That's life. A fact of doing business today. It happens faster and faster. And it is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: