Invented: The MPEG-3 (later called MP3) was announced in 1992
Inventor: Moving Picture Experts Group invented the MP3, a popular digital music format
Portability: Extremely portable. Can be carried on any device that has some form of digital memory.
The MPEG-3 (MP3) was invented to pass audio at a reasonable quality while minimizing the bandwidth needed to transmit it. It is a "lossy" format that doesn't maintain all of the information from the original analog signal. With many users still stuck on slow dial-up connections, it was perfect for sending over the internet in the 90s. MP3 files took up less space, transferred quickly and sounded decent... sometimes. The format had the ability to sound downright awful depending on how compressed the file was.
In 1998, the first MP3 players hit the market. One such device was called the Rio player and was made by Diamond Multimedia. It allowed listeners to load MP3 files into its internal memory to be played later at the user's convenience. The RIAA subsequently sued Diamond Multimedia over the device.
The Diamond Rio, the first commercially successful Mp3 player, was released in 1998.
In 1999, Napster was born. Created by a young programmer named Shawn Fanning, Napster allowed users to share music files over what was know as a "peer-to-peer" network. Through this network, Napster was actually able to skirt the "Digital Millennium Act" which stated that no device or software could be made that was intended to circumvent the copy protection features of digital media files. Technically, the users were the ones committing piracy. Napster was simply enabling them to. Nonetheless, the courts demanded that Napster block any illegal transfer of files, which effectively shut the service down.
Despite Napster's demise, digital media piracy continues to exist. Some say that prohibitively high prices of CDs encourage listeners to download illegally. Regardless of the reason, the record industry has had trouble capturing the high profits they once had during the CD's heyday. Many listeners now download their music from online music stores such as iTunes, listen to internet radio from services such as Pandora, or subscribe to services like Spotify, which offers unlimited playback of music at the user's request.
Services like iTunes, Pandora, and Spotify are all ways for listeners to enjoy music from the web.
The future of the music industry is largely unknown. Technology is advancing at an ever-increasing rate, and these changes will most certainly affect the way we consume music in coming years. Who knows how music will be delivered to our ears in the future. Whether you still listen to CDs, prefer the experience of vinyl, or subscribe to an online music service, one thing remains clear: We love to listen to music, regardless of the format, and that doesn't seem to be changing.