MPEG-21, which stands for “Motion Picture Experts Group 21,” is a standard for the use and delivery of multimedia. It was created to have a common scheme for putting different multimedia elements and resources together. MPEG-21 is also known as “International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 21000” or the “Multimedia Framework.”

Think of MPEG-21 as a guidebook for developers and users of multimedia content. It describes how multimedia files should be created, distributed, and used. It also defines the characteristics that multimedia files should have.

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Why Is MPEG-21 Important?

As an open standards-based framework, MPEG-21 is publicly available for use in multimedia delivery and consumption. Its primary goal is to make all kinds of media useful on all types of devices and networks. It ensures that all digital items, including videos, images, and audio tracks, can be distributed and played on as many platforms as possible. Typical devices used to view or listen to MPEG-21 multimedia are DVD players, computers, and mobile phones. The built-in components of these gadgets can read the media’s content without the need to alter it.

Harmonizing digital item consumption is necessary because, now more than ever, different industries have cropped up to produce content consumable via various means—online streaming, downloading, and others.

Each content type and platform has its own implementing rules, procedures, models, and formats that make it hard for providers to make their products consumable for a wide range of audiences. A standard such as MPEG-21, however, made that possible.

Who Uses MPEG-21?

Anyone who produces and consumes multimedia content can use MPEG-21. Netflix supports MPEG files, among other content providers. The use of MPEG-21 can thus help it make its content consumable across all TV brands, computers, tablets, and mobile phones.

What Are the Advantages of Using MPEG-21?

Making One Size Fits All Media

MPEG-21’s primary goal is to make content consumable to as many people as possible, regardless of device, platform, or media player. Its use should reduce content consumers’ reliance on proprietary solutions (e.g., QuickTime for Macs and Windows Media Player for PCs) that may not work on all devices. In effect, to play various media types they need to download and install several applications.

Improving Producers’ Competitiveness

Digital media consumption can only be expected to increase as we see more improvements to the speed of Internet connection, the capacity of mobile devices to serve as entertainment means, and the increased connectivity worldwide. As more and more people troop to the Internet for content consumption, MPEG-21 may soon become the norm. Only those who successfully use it stand to reap the rewards. Why? They can become the first to offer truly interoperable digital media and so gain as much of the market as possible.

Making the Standard Work for You

MPEG-21 is an open standard, which means users can tweak parts of it to add as many devices, platforms, and consumption formats as possible to their products and services. Imagine a future where all media players can play any video, game, or audio track.

MPEG-21 is bound to improve over time. If used properly, it will allow content developers to make and distribute truly interoperable multimedia to as many consumers as possible. Who knows? We may see a future where you no longer need a ton of applications just to enjoy your favorite videogame, music, or TV series.