The venerable MP3 audio format has come to an end… technically. The creators of the file format at The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits have decided to terminate the patent; allowing anyone to use the code without using a license.
As it stands, the MP3 format has become outdated. Most streaming services use the AAC format instead. Since it provides better audio quality and is more efficient at delivering content. ISO-MPEG and MPEG-H are also becoming increasingly popular as alternative formats.
Because of this, there was no reason for the German research institute to keep holding on to the patents and continue to license it out. Instead, the termination of the patent will now allow more research into newer media file formats and provide room for innovation.
The MP3 will always have a place in history as being at the forefront of digital music distribution. Either legally through stores like iTunes, or through piracy. That said, the format will not actually be going away. It’s still incredibly popular among consumers, and will probably still be in use over the next few years.