Almost one year ago, Fraunhofer ended its licensing program for MP3. It did so because the last of the MP3 patents finally expired. A large number of news sites claimed that this was the death of MP3. In fact, it was a rebirth, with MP3 finally becoming a “free” format.
Why does being free matter, you might ask? Because up until that announcement, the cost of licensing the MP3 patents was prohibitive. So we made use of complicated workarounds for each platform to get the operating systems to handle MP3 on our behalf, and these solutions (despite our best efforts) were not always perfect. With this change, some updates by the Chromium team and alterations to our own code, we can finally decode MP3 more directly.
Having good MP3 support matters immensely. While there are better quality codecs, MP3 support is so widely supported, that the vast majority websites offering pure audio streams (radio stations, podcasts, and many music streaming services) utilize MP3.
The MP3 change solves a bunch of audio problems, but we are not done yet. We continue to work on “slow audio” and other issues that some of you are affected by. The final good news is that recently we made plans to ramp up our efforts on media issues. Additionally, having to deal with one less patented codec, lightens the load somewhat.
P.S. If you want a well written commentary on the state of MP3 after the closure of the Fraunhofer licensing program, read “MP3 is dead” missed the real, much better story by Marco Arment.
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