One of the more popular multimedia formats today is the mp4 format- the offspring of the more venerable mp3 format that has been synonymous with many of the well known media players available on the World Wide Web today, including Nullsoft's Winamp series, that has been available since the nineties.
The format is being extensively used throughout the world to carry digital music and other content, and has been thoroughly adapted by many companies that produce portable media players. This media format is being used extensively also on the World Wide Web, as it allows users to literally "stream" content.
There should be a disambiguation between the two most common uses of the term mp4. Throughout the world there are portable media players that use the term mp4 to describe their functions. This is simply a misnomer. These portable media players do not really play the MP4 media format. The name simply implies that these players have the capacity to play video files as well as mp3 files.
The real MP4 players are digital media players that may be found in high-end portable media players and in personal computers that either run on the Mac platform or the Windows platform.
The media container that is MP4 according to technical specifications contains different types of streams of files- and so this might be confusing for some people. The company that originated and patented the media container format has recently been using a file extension to denote that a file is media container format and not simply one file.
Now, there are different file extensions to denote which specific content is in what MP4 file. For example, the extension name .m4a is used to denote that a file may possible contain videos or digital music. Now, as for digital media content (video and digital music) that are sold through electronic stores such as Apple's popular iTunes stores, there is the file extension of .m4p to denote that the material is protected by copyright programs.
This media container format can also convey electronic books and other related content. Now, if it conveys this kind of content, the file extension changes to .m4a. .
There are many other types of content that this particular format supports- however, there are certain limits to its usage. For instance, the MP4 format is not usually used by digital cameras or video recorders, as these still use the MPEG-3 format.
According to its creators though, the container format can support nearly every conceivable type of media content, from raw images to raw unedited videos to edited formats. The media container format is even being used in other non-PC related technologies, such as in digital video discs, as carriers of foreign subtitles that are dispersed alongside other multimedia content. As for audio content, the media format can sustain different forms of content- from the highest bitrates to the ones with lowest and poorest bitrates.
All in all, the MP4 format is here to stay- unless Apple releases a more sophisticated media container format.