The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits, a German organization that was a major contributor in the development of the MP3 music compression format, has announced it has terminated licensing for certain MP3-related patents, thereby allowing them to expire.

“MP3 is still very popular amongst consumers. However, most state-of-the-art media services such as streaming or TV and radio broadcasting use modern ISO-MPEG codecs such as the AAC family or in the future MPEG-H. Those can deliver more features and a higher audio quality at much lower bitrates compared to mp3,” reads the statement.

The Advanced Audio Codec family, also known as AAC, which was partly developed by the Fraunhofer Institute, is now considered the “de facto standard for music download and videos on mobile phones,” according to the institute’s director.

First published in 1993, MP3 development began at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in the late 1980s. Those of a certain age may nostalgically recall the days of dial-up internet when downloading a single MP3 track took what felt like an eternity on that 56K modem. Such was the popularity of the file format that many non-technical individuals knew it by name. At the end of the nineties and the start of the next decade, the public profile of MP3s had risen even higher, helped partly by the Napster controversy.

As the Fraunhofer Institute notes, many consumers still enjoy MP3s. And now that developers can use the format in projects without having to pay royalties, thereby making it open for use to everyone, it could see a brief surge in popularity. AAC may be better, but it seems the MP3 format might not be disappearing just yet.