In this chapter, we examined one of the hottest issues and formats on the Internet today—music creation and distribution using MP3 audio. MP3 is a file format that can produce near-CD-quality sound at a fraction of the file space consumed by uncompressed audio. To listen to MP3 files, you need an MP3-compatible player. We worked with Winamp, a popular shareware player, and learned how to use and customize it to meet our needs. To create MP3 files, you need to encode digital audio files (such as that found on an audio CD or in WAV or AIFF files) using an MP3 encoder. We worked with different MP3 encoders, including a commercial encoder from Xing and a shareware encoder from MusicMatch, and got a birds-eye view of issues surrounding HTTP and FTP MP3 distribution. We also looked at using MP3 files and the SHOUTcast software from Nullsoft to create an online radio station and stream MP3 files over the Internet. Finally, we examined the emerging legal issues associated with MP3 and defined more clearly the nature of the legal and illegal uses of MP3 files over the Internet. Though MP3 is still in its infancy, it is one of the most significant technologies to date associated with audio and music distribution.
Now that we have a taste for online distribution, let’s examine a more refined (and proprietary) approach using Flash and Shockwave.