MPEG-4 Part 14 or MP4, formally ISO/IEC 14496-14:2003, is a multimedia container format standard specified as a part of MPEG-4. It is most commonly used to store digital video and digital audio streams, especially those defined by MPEG, but can also be used to store other data such as subtitles and still images. Like most modern container formats, MPEG-4 Part 14 allows streaming over the Internet. A separate hint track is used to include streaming information in the file. The only official filename extension for MPEG-4 Part 14 files is .mp4.
Some devices advertised as "MP4 Players" are simply MP3 Players that also play AMV video or some other video format, and do not necessarily play the MPEG-4 part 14 format.
History of MP4
MPEG-4 Part 14 is an instance of more general ISO/IEC 14496-12:2004 (MPEG-4 Part 12: ISO base media file format) which is directly based upon QuickTime File Format. MPEG-4 Part 14 is essentially identical to the MOV format, but formally specifies support for Initial Object Descriptors (IOD) and other MPEG features. MPEG-4 Part 14 revises and completely replaces Clause 13 of ISO/IEC 14496-1 (MPEG-4 Part 1: Systems), in which the file format for MPEG-4 content was previously specified.
The MPEG-4 file format specification was created on the basis of the QuickTime format specification published in 2001. The MPEG-4 file format, version 1 was published in 2001 as ISO/IEC 14496-1:2001, which is a revision of the MPEG-4 Part 1: Systems specification published in 1999 (ISO/IEC 14496-1:1999). In 2003, the first version of MP4 file format was revised and replaced by MPEG-4 Part 14: MP4 file format (ISO/IEC 14496-14:2003), commonly named as MPEG-4 file format version 2. The MP4 file format was generalized into the ISO Base Media File format ISO/IEC 14496-12:2004, which defines a general structure for time-based media files. It in turn is used as the basis for other file formats in the family (for example MP4, 3GP, Motion JPEG 2000).
The MP4 file format defined some extensions over ISO Base Media File Format to support MPEG-4 visual/audio codecs and various MPEG-4 Systems features such as object descriptors and scene descriptions. Some of these extensions are also used by other formats based on ISO base media file format (e.g. 3GP). A list of all registered extensions for ISO Base Media File Format is published on the official registration authority website www.mp4ra.org. The registration authority for code-points (identifier values) in "MP4 Family" files is Apple Computer Inc. and it is named in Annex D (informative) in MPEG-4 Part 12. Codec designers should register the codes they invent, but the registration is not mandatory and some invented and used code-points are not registered. When someone is creating a new specification derived from the ISO Base Media File Format, all the existing specifications should be used both as examples and a source of definitions and technology. If an existing specification already covers how a particular media type is stored in the file format (e.g. MPEG-4 audio or video in MP4), that definition should be used and a new one should not be invented.