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ID3 is a metadata container most often used in conjunction with the MP3 audio file format. It allows information such as the title, artist, album, track number, and other information about the file to be stored in the file itself.
There are two unrelated versions of ID3: ID3v1 and ID3v2.
Although ID3 is sometimes referred to as a standard, the term applies only in the de facto sense, as no standardization body was involved in its creation nor has such an organization given it a formal approval status.
After the creation of the MP3 standard, there appeared a problem with storing data about the file. Standalone MP3s didn't have any special method of doing this. In 1996 Eric Kemp had the idea to add a small chunk of data to the audio file, thus solving the problem. The method, now known as ID3v1, quickly became the de facto standard for storing metadata in MP3s. The format was released by Damaged Cybernetics, an underground group that specialized in cracking console gaming systems. There was no identifying information for any of the ROMS, thus an ID tagging system was created to make tracking easier. Eric and associates carried this over into mp3 files. This format was used for a number of file formats unknown at that time.
The ID3v1 tag occupies 128 bytes, beginning with the string TAG. The tag was placed at the end of the file to maintain compatibility with older media players. Some players would play a small burst of static when they read the tag, but most ignored it, and almost all modern players will correctly skip it. This tag allows 30 bytes each for the title, artist, album, and a "comment", four bytes for the year, and a byte to identify the genre of the song from a predefined list of 80 values (Winamp later extended this list to 148 values).
One improvement to ID3v1 was made by Michael Mutschler in 1997. Since the comment field was too small to write anything useful, he decided to trim it by two bytes and use those two bytes to store the track number. Such tags are referred to as ID3v1.1.
The extended tag is an extra data block before an ID3v1 tag, which extends the title, artist and album fields by 60 bytes each, offers a freetext genre, a one-byte (values 0–5) speed and the start and stop time of the music in the MP3 file, e.g., for fading in. If none of the fields are used, it will be automatically omitted.
Some programs supporting ID3v1 tags can read the extended tag, but writing may leave stale values in the extended block. The extended block is not an official standard, and is only supported by few programs, not including XMMS or Winamp. The extended tag is sometimes referred to as the "enhanced" tag.
Strings are either space- or zero-padded. Unset string entries are filled using an empty string.
ID3v1: 128 bytes
|title||30||30 characters of the title|
|artist||30||30 characters of the artist name|
|album||30||30 characters of the album name|
|year||4||A four-digit year|
|comment||28 or 30||The comment.|
|zero-byte||1||If a track number is stored, this byte contains a binary 0.|
|track||1||The number of the track on the album, or 0. Invalid, if previous byte is not a binary 0.|
|genre||1||Index in a list of genres, or 255|
Extended tag (placed before the ID3v1 tag): 227 bytes
|title||60||Next 60 characters of the title (90 characters total)|
|artist||60||Next 60 characters of the artist name|
|album||60||Next 60 characters of the album name|
|speed||1||0=unset, 1=slow, 2= medium, 3=fast, 4=hardcore|
|genre||30||A free-text field for the genre|
|start-time||6||the start of the music as mmm:ss|
|end-time||6||the end of the music as mmm:ss|
In 1998, a new specification called ID3v2 was created by multiple contributors. Although it bears the name ID3, it has little to no relation to ID3v1.
ID3v2 tags are of variable size, and usually occur at the start of the file, to aid streaming media. They consist of a number of frames, each of which contains a piece of metadata. For example, the TIT2 frame contains the title, and the WOAR frame contains the URL of the artist's website. Frames can be up to 16MB in length, while total tag size is limited to 256MB. The internationalization problem was solved by allowing the encoding of strings not only in ISO-8859-1, but also in Unicode.
Textual frames are marked with an encoding byte.
$00 – ISO-8859-1 (LATIN-1, Identical to ASCII for values smaller than 0x80). $01 – UCS-2 (UTF-16 encoded Unicode with BOM), in ID3v2.2 and ID3v2.3. $02 – UTF-16BE encoded Unicode without BOM, in ID3v2.4. $03 – UTF-8 encoded Unicode, in ID3v2.4.
However, mojibake is still common when using local encodings instead of Unicode. In particular, some Japanese editors are known to use Shift JIS encoding, which usually has disastrous effects: it will assuredly not work with any standard-compliant software regardless of local settings (since it is not supported by the standard), assuredly not work outside Japan (since Shift JIS has very little support outside of Japan), and will not even work on all Japanese computers even with a specifically non-compliant reader (as it is software-dependent and settings-dependent).
There are 83 types of frames declared in the ID3v2.4.0 specification, and applications can also define their own types. There are standard frames for containing cover art, BPM, copyright and license, lyrics, and arbitrary text and URL data, as well as other things.
There are three versions of ID3v2:
- ID3v2.2 was the first public version of ID3v2. It used three character frame identifiers rather than four (TT2 for the title instead of TIT2). Most of the common v2.3 and v2.4 frames have direct analogues in v2.2. Now this standard is considered obsolete.
- ID3v2.3 expanded the frame identifier to four characters, and added a number of frames. A frame could contain multiple values, separated with a / character. This is the most widely used version of ID3v2 tags.
- ID3v2.4 is the latest version published, dated November 1, 2000. Notably, it allows textual data to be encoded in UTF-8, which was a common practice in earlier tags (despite the standard, since it was not supported yet) because it has several noticeable advantages over UTF-16. It uses a null byte to separate multiple values, so the character "/" can appear in text data again. Another new feature allows the addition of a tag to the end of the file before other tags (like ID3v1).
Windows Explorer and Windows Media Player cannot handle ID3v2.4 tags in any version, up to and including Windows 8 / Windows Media Player 12. Windows can understand ID3v2 up to and including version 2.3.
ID3v2 Rating tag issue
There is a loose de facto standard for implementation of song ratings. Most apps will display 0-5 stars for any given song. How they implement that display, can vary.
For instance, when rating a song in iTunes, the rating is not embedded in the tag in the music file, but is instead stored in a separate database that contains all of the iTunes metadata. Other media players can embed rating tags in music files but some software creates its own tag frame or method. As a result, a song which is rated on a media player (usually from 1 to 5) sometimes won't display the rating when played on other software or mobile device.
However, there is a "Popularimeter" frame in the ID3v2 specification meant for this purpose. The frame is called POPM and Windows Explorer, Windows Media Player, Winamp, foobar2000, media monkey and some other software all map roughly the same ranges of 0–255 to a 0–5 stars value for display.
This chart details how windows explorer reads and writes the POPM frame:
- 224-255 = 5 stars when READ with windows explorer, writes 255
- 160-223 = 4 stars when READ with windows explorer, writes 196
- 096-159 = 3 stars when READ with windows explorer, writes 128
- 032-095 = 2 stars when READ with windows explorer, writes 64
- 001-031 = 1 stars when READ with windows explorer, writes 1
windows explorer uses this syntax:
Windows Media Player 9 Series | 255 | 0
(the 0 is playcounts as per POPM id3 spec. note the ID string windows uses isn't even an email address, as called for in the spec)
If an app supports granularity however, it should write 1 for one full star, and then 2-31 would be granular points under one full star.
Please note that windows/wmp up to and including win7/wmp12 (and possibly beyond) have a bug such that if you use them to rate files, any Replay Gain tags you have will be corrupted.
The ID3v2 Chapter Addendum was published in December 2005 but is not widely supported as yet. It allows users to jump easily to specific locations or chapters within an audio file and can provide a synchronized slide show of images and titles during playback. Typical applications include Enhanced podcasts and it can be used in ID3v2.3 or ID3v2.4 tags.
ID3v2 Embedded Image Extension
The metadata can also contain images of the following types:
$00 Other $01 32x32 pixels 'file icon' (PNG only) $02 Other file icon $03 Cover (front) $04 Cover (back) $05 Leaflet page $06 Media (e.g. label side of CD) $07 Lead artist/lead performer/soloist $08 Artist/performer $09 Conductor $0A Band/Orchestra $0B Composer $0C Lyricist/text writer $0D Recording Location $0E During recording $0F During performance $10 Movie/video screen capture $11 A bright coloured fish $12 Illustration $13 Band/artist logotype $14 Publisher/Studio logotype
ID3v2 Frame Specification (Version 2.3)
AENC Audio encryption APIC Attached picture
COMM Comments COMR Commercial frame
ENCR Encryption method registration EQUA Equalization (replaced by EQU2 in v2.4) ETCO Event timing codes
GEOB General encapsulated object GRID Group identification registration
IPLS Involved people list (replaced by TMCL and TIPL in v2.4)
LINK Linked information
MCDI Music CD identifier MLLT MPEG location lookup table
OWNE Ownership frame
PRIV Private frame PCNT Play counter POPM Popularimeter POSS Position synchronisation frame
RBUF Recommended buffer size RVAD Relative volume adjustment (replaced by RVA2 in v2.4) RVRB Reverb
SYLT Synchronized lyric/text SYTC Synchronized tempo codes
TALB Album/Movie/Show title TBPM BPM (beats per minute) TCOM Composer TCON Content type TCOP Copyright message TDAT Date (replaced by TDRC in v2.4) TDLY Playlist delay TENC Encoded by TEXT Lyricist/Text writer TFLT File type TIME Time (replaced by TDRC in v2.4) TIT1 Content group description TIT2 Title/songname/content description TIT3 Subtitle/Description refinement TKEY Initial key TLAN Language(s) TLEN Length TMED Media type TOAL Original album/movie/show title TOFN Original filename TOLY Original lyricist(s)/text writer(s) TOPE Original artist(s)/performer(s) TORY Original release year (replaced by TDOR in v2.4) TOWN File owner/licensee TPE1 Lead performer(s)/Soloist(s) TPE2 Band/orchestra/accompaniment TPE3 Conductor/performer refinement TPE4 Interpreted, remixed, or otherwise modified by TPOS Part of a set TPUB Publisher TRCK Track number/Position in set TRDA Recording dates (replaced by TDRC in v2.4) TRSN Internet radio station name TRSO Internet radio station owner TSIZ Size (deprecated in v2.4) TSRC ISRC (international standard recording code) TSSE Software/Hardware and settings used for encoding TYER Year (replaced by TDRC in v2.4) TXXX User defined text information frame
WCOM Commercial information WCOP Copyright/Legal information WOAF Official audio file webpage WOAR Official artist/performer webpage WOAS Official audio source webpage WORS Official internet radio station homepage WPAY Payment WPUB Publishers official webpage WXXX User defined URL link frame
The version 2.3 of the standard prescribes that some fields can contain multiple values separated by the "/" character. The fields that can contain multiple values are:
TPE1 TCOM TEXT TOLY TOPE
ID3v2 Frame Specification (Version 2.4 – delta respect to 2.3)
EQUA replaced by the EQU2 frame IPLS replaced by the two frames TMCL and TIPL RVAD replaced by the RVA2 frame TDAT replaced by the TDRC frame TIME replaced by the TDRC frame TORY replaced by the TDOR frame TRDA replaced by the TDRC frame TYER replaced by the TDRC frame TSIZ deprecated.
ASPI Audio seek point index EQU2 Equalisation RVA2 Relative volume adjustment SEEK Seek frame SIGN Signature frame TDEN Encoding time TDOR Original release time TDRC Recording time TDRL Release time TDTG Tagging time TIPL Involved people list TMCL Musician credits list TMOO Mood TPRO Produced notice TSOA Album sort order TSOP Performer sort order TSOT Title sort order TSST Set subtitle
Version 2.4 of the specification prescribes that the text fields (all the fields starting with a T except TXXX) can contain multiple values separated by a null character. The null character is the one represented by the termination code for the character encoding used.
ID3 tags may be edited in a variety of ways. On some platforms the file's properties may be edited by viewing extended information in the file manager. Additionally most audio players allow editing single or groups of files. Editing groups of files is often referred to as "batch tagging". There are also specialized applications, called taggers, which concentrate specifically on editing the tags and related tasks. These often offer advanced features such as advanced batch tagging or editing based on regular expressions.
Implementation in non-mp3s and alternatives
ID3 tags were designed with MP3 in mind, so they would work without problems with MP3 and MP3Pro files. However, the tagsets are an independent part of the MP3 file and should be usable elsewhere. In practice, the only other format which widely uses ID3v2 tags is AIFF, where the tag is stored inside an IFF chunk named "ID3". The same could be accomplished in WAV, but isn't. The only tagging system in wide usage for WAV is the Broadcast Wave Format, stored as a RIFF chunk. Windows media ASF files (WMA, WMV) have their own tagging formats but also support ID3 Tags embedded as attributes. MP4 also allows the embedding of an ID3 tag, and this is widely supported, especially in Apple's iTunes, which uses MP4 standards in its audio and video file formats. Other container-based formats use their own tagging formats. An example of this is Ogg, which uses Vorbis comments. Adding ID3 tags to these would break the container structure. Earlier versions of Winamp such as 2.xx have been proven able to add ID3v1 and ID3v2 tags to MP1 and MP2 files.
- ID3 History page
- Practical Common Lisp, p. 335.
- The track number is stored in the last two bytes of the comment field. If the comment is 29 or 30 characters long, no track number can be stored.
- ID3v2 Contributors
- id3v2-00 - ID3.org
- "ID3v2.4.0 Native Frames". Retrieved 2012-12-27.
- Nilsson, Martin. "ID3 Developer Information". ID3.org. Retrieved 9 April 2011.
- Bright, Peter (28 October 2012). "Music and Video in Windows 8: a work in progress". arstechnica.com. Retrieved 2012-10-29.
- "Microsoft support community". 11 January 2011.
- Newell, C. (2 December 2005). "ID3v2 Chapter Frame Addendum". ID3.org. Retrieved 2008-02-06.
- ID3 Tag Version 2.3.0
- "Windows Media Developer Center: ID3 Tag Support". Microsoft Developer Network. Microsoft. Retrieved 2010-03-24.
- The 'MP4' Registration Authority