The MP3 (MPEG Audio Layer 3) audio compression format was developed by the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and was established as an international standard through MPEG, the Moving Pictures Experts Group. This format reduces the size of the audio file by ten to twelve times while retaining the original CD sound quality. Detailed technical information on the MP3 format is available on the Fraunhofer Institute's MPEG Audio Layer-3 page. The development of this format opened a new frontier in distributing, promoting, organizing and listening to music.
By reducing the size of the audio file, the introduction of the MP3 format allows music files to be downloaded in minutes rather than hours. This opened the way for artists and recording companies to use the Internet to promote new music, either through their own websites or through MP3 websites.