Sustainability of Digital Formats: Planning for Library of Congress Collections

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ID3 Metadata for MP3

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Format Description Properties Explanation of format description terms

Identification and description Explanation of format description terms

Full name ID3 Metadata for MP3
Description Structured data chunk containing descriptive metadata about the file to which it is appended, virtually always an MP3_FF (MP3 sound file). Referred to by its creators as an "informal standard" for a "container format," the two versions of ID3 permit the identification of title, artist, date, genre, etc.
Production phase Generally used for final-state, end-user delivery.
Relationship to other formats
    Has subtype ID3v1, ID3, Version 1
    Has subtype ID3v2, ID3, Version 2
    May contain Images, encrypted information, etc.
    Used by MP3_FF, MP3 file format

Local use Explanation of format description terms

LC experience or existing holdings None
LC preference See the Library of Congress Recommended Formats Statement for format preferences for audio works.

Sustainability factors Explanation of format description terms

Disclosure Version 2 is fully documented; version 1 less so. Developed by Martin Nilsson and colleagues; see also Notes.
    Documentation See ID3v1 and ID3v2
Adoption Very widely adopted for World Wide Web dissemination and playback on specialized devices.
    Licensing and patents None
Transparency Easily parsed binary bitstream.
Self-documentation Not applicable as it pertains to ID3 itself; ID3 contains descriptive ("bibliographic") metadata as its payload. ID3v2 (version 2) is much more extensive than ID3v1 (version 1).
External dependencies None
Technical protection considerations None

Quality and functionality factors Explanation of format description terms

Normal rendering Not applicable
Fidelity (high audio resolution) Not applicable
Multiple channels Not applicable
Support for user-defined sounds, samples, and patches Not applicable
Functionality beyond normal rendering ID3v2 (version 2) appears to allow for synchronized texts, e.g., karaoke, and supports "addenda" for chapter markers, tables of contents, and accessibility support.

File type signifiers and format identifiers Explanation of format description terms

Tag Value Note
Filename extension Not applicable.   
Internet Media Type Not applicable.   
Magic numbers See note.  See 3DI marker information in Notes below.
Wikidata Title ID Q1054220

Notes Explanation of format description terms


ID3 binary content is structured as "frames" just like MP3_ENC (MP3 audio encoding).

When ID3 metadata is placed in a MP3_FF file, established conventions call for the use of the ID3 marker which consists of the string "3DI". For ID3v1, the marker is positioned 10 bytes preceding the metadata. For ID3v2 data, the marker is positioned in the first 3 bytes of the file when the metadata is pre-pended and 10 bytes from the end of a file when it is post-pended.

History According to Martin Nilsson's web site (link via Internet Archive), Erik Kemp was the first to append metadata to an MP3 file in 1996, with a program named Studio3. This idea was elaborated by Nilsson (a Swedish electrical engineer and antenna researcher), Michael Mutschler (a colleague from Germany), and others, and emerged first as ID3v1 and later, with richer expression, as ID3v2. Their account of their own work provides no dates, except to indicate that it postdates Kemp's contribution. Mutschler is also associated with MP3ext, described as a shell extension for the Windows Explorer that adds features for MP3 files.

Format specifications Explanation of format description terms

Useful references


Last Updated: 05/01/2023