MP3 Files Explained
If you have ever listened to digital music, chances are that you have come across a compressed audio file, or an MP3. The encoding format for the digital audio uses lossy data compression to condense the audio into a usable, sharable and transferable format. The MP3 extension has gained a lot of popularity because it is the preferred extension for storage and consumer streaming.

Most digital audio players (such as the generic name, “MP3 player,” as well as the iPod and others) use the MP3 extension as their standard of digital audio compression. Thus, the MP3 extension is used worldwide to play music from digital devices.

The MP3 extension, which is mostly associated with “MPEG Audio Stream, Layer III,” has seen a long history, as it was first developed in 1991, but wasn’t published until 1993. Improvements kept being made until MP3 became the ultimate way to reduce the required data amounts needed to represent the music recording while still replicating the original sound file.

Another big benefit of the MP3 extension is its flexibility. Because the MP3 file can be made at a lower or higher bit rate, there are more “high or low quality” options. The higher the bit rate the better final sound output.

Close to the turn of the century, MP3 files began to flood the Internet. This boom was due in large part to the audio player Winamp (that would be the precursor for iTunes and other current players), which allowed users to store, share and play their MP3 files online and on their personal computers.

Although other alternative technologies (lossy formats) exist, such as AAC and MP2, the user familiarity along with the popularity makes the MP3 file extension the dominant format for compressed audio files.

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