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The MP3 file

The MP3 file was developed in Germany by Dieter Seitzer and Karlheinz Brandenburg at a company called Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and the University of Erlangen. The MP part of MP3 refers to the MPEG roots of MP3 compression. MPEG stands for Moving Picture Experts Group, which was established in 1988 to set standards for digital encoding. Developed and perfected in the mid-1990s, the MP3 format, which stands for MPEG Audio Layer III, became the standard for digital audio compression worldwide.

MP3 compression is necessary because CD-quality audio files are extremely large—too large, in fact, to fit on digital players of the day. An average song on a CD might consist of 30 MB to 40 MB of information, while that same song in MP3 format could be whittled down nearly tenfold—to 3.5 MB or 4 MB—with minimal quality loss. Obviously, without the MP3 format, the rise of small digital media devices would have been cost-prohibitive and unrealistic.


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