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MP3 Format Dead, But Not Gone

A German foundation that owns the patent for the MP3 audio file format recently announced that it would stop licensing it, which is about as close as it gets to an official death warrant in the tech world.

But obsolescence is a slow disease, and the MP3 will live on for some time. It helped usher in the music-ripping subculture in middle schools and high schools around the country in the 1990s, and the vast collections of digital albums that many people amassed—and sometimes shared illegally online—aren't going anywhere.

But the decision of the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits to end its licensing program is still noteworthy as an acknowledgement that MP3s are—like many of the Pentium III processors that first encoded them—relics.

As of April 23, Fraunhofer is no longer issuing licenses for certain MP3-related patents, likely following a drop in demand thanks to the proliferation of other encoding formats like Advanced Audio Coding (AAC). Bernhard Grill, a Fraunhofer director and one of the principals in the development of the MP3, told NPR that AAC is now the "de facto standard for music download and videos on mobile phones."

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And it is those mobile phones (smartphones, to be exact) that arguably bear greater responsibility for the MP3's demise than its inferior audio quality. With the rise of Spotify, cell phone plans with unlimited data, and services like T-Mobile's Binge On, many music listeners no longer care how their music is encoded because they can stream pretty much any song they want for a fixed monthly fee.

So it mostly falls to audiophiles who haven't yet ripped their entire CD collection (or, for that matter, their vinyl collection) to carry on the MP3 torch, and even they aren't likely to choose MP3s for future rips, given the proliferation of better encoding options.

To commemorate the end of MP3's reign with a bit of nostalgia, check out our Top 10 Buying Tips for MP3 & Digital Music Players and 10 Weirdest MP3 Players Ever.

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Set the “days without a Facebook’s privacy problem” counter to zero. This week, an alarmed developer contacted TechCrunch, informing us that their Facebook App Analytics weekly summary email had been delivered to someone outside their company. It contains sensitive business information including weekly average users, page views, and new users. 43 hours after we contacted Facebook about the issue, the social network now confirms to TechCrunch that 3 percent of apps using Facebook Analytics had their weekly summary reports sent to their app’s testers, instead of only the app’s developers, admins, and analysts. Testers are often people outside of a developer’s company. If the leaked info got to an app’s competitors, it could provide them an advantage. At least they weren’t allowed to click through to view more extensive historical analytics data on Facebook’s site. Facebook tells us it has fixed the problem and no personally identifiable information or contact info was improperly disclosed. It plans to notify all impacted developers about the leak today and has already begun. Below you can find the email the company is sending: Subject line: We recently resolved an error with your weekly summary email We wanted to let you know about a recent error where a summary e-mail from Facebook Analytics about your app was sent to testers of your app ‘[APP NAME WILL BE DYNAMICALLY INSERTED HERE]’. As you know, we send weekly summary emails to keep you up to date with some of your top-level metrics — these emails go to people you’ve identified as Admins, Analysts and Developers. You can also add Testers to your account, people designated by you to help test your apps when they’re in development. We mistakenly sent the last weekly email summary to your Testers, in addition to the usual group of Admins, Analysts and Developers who get updates. Testers were only able to see the high-level summary information in the email, and were not able to access any other account information; if they clicked “View Dashboard” they did not have access to any of your Facebook Analytics information. We apologize for the error and have made updates to prevent this from happening again. One affected developer told TechCrunch “Not sure why it would ever be appropriate to send business metrics to an app user. When I created my app (in beta) I added dozens of people as testers as it only meant they could login to the app…not access info!” They’re still waiting for the disclosure from Facebook. Facebook wouldn’t disclose a ballpark number of apps impacted by the error. Last year it announced 1 million apps, sites, and bots were on Facebook Analytics. However, this issue only affected apps, and only 3% of them. The mistake comes just weeks after a bug caused 14 million users’ Facebook status update composers to change their default privacy setting to public. And Facebook has had problems with misdelivering business information before. In 2014, Facebook accidentally sent advertisers receipts for other business’ ad campaigns, causing significant confusion. The company has also misreported metrics about Page reach and more on several occasions. Though user data didn’t leak and today’s issue isn’t as severe as others Facebook has dealt with, developers still consider their business metrics to be private, making this a breach of that privacy. While Facebook has been working diligently to patch app platform privacy holes since the Cambridge Analytica scandal, removing access to many APIs and strengthening human reviews of apps, issues like today’s make it hard to believe Facebook has a proper handle on the data of its 2 billion users.

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