The file extension M3U is categorized as a playlist file for MP3 songs and recordings which are downloaded from the Internet. M3U is a format created by the Moving Pictures Experts Group which stores playlists for digital multimedia. The format was originally designed for Winamp Media Player and recently is supported by a wide variety of multimedia applications.
Files which contain the M3U extension are a settings file type which is stored in plain text format. M3U files contain song playlists which point to the actual location of the audio file. This type of M3U file references the song location as opposed to actually storing the audio file. Other types of M3U files can contain audio or video files which are supported by a wide variety of multimedia applications.
M3U files can appear with additions to the extension such as M3U8 and M3URL. File extension M3U8 is a format that is used by a variety of media players which support the UTF-8 format. UTF-8 is a Unicode Transformation Format in 8-bit which is a variable-width encoding that symbolizes each character in the Unicode set.
The file extension M3URL is used by MP3 file playlists which are stored in Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language or SMIL format. This format is commonly used for websites which offer MP3 audio recordings for download. The SMIL format provides a way to define and synchronize video and audio for an interactive experience on a website and is widely used by website designers.
M3U stands for Moving Picture Experts Group Audio Layer 3 Uniform Resource Locator, which is a file format for storing playlists. The Moving Pictures Experts Group is also the developer of the MPEG standard. The standard is used to format movies, films, and videos for the purpose of easier storage and delivery.
How to Open M3U Files
Since the file extension M3U can be opened using a variety of media applications, double click on the file to see if it will automatically open in a default program you have installed on your PC. M3U files can vary in formatting, so you may already have a program which will open the file.
If you are using Windows, you can open M3U files with Windows Media Player which is typically included with the Windows operating system. You can also download Windows Media Player on the Microsoft website. Media Player Classic will also open M3U files in Windows. Media Player Classic is a lightweight media player which supports a variety of video and audio file formats and is available as a free download on the SourceForge website.
If you are using Windows or Mac OS X, you can open M3U files with Apple iTunes which can be downloaded on the Apple website. You can also opt to use RealPlayer, which is a free media player that allows you to play and manage multimedia from one location. RealPlayer is available as a free download on the RealNetworks website and is compatible with Windows and Mac OS X.
If you are looking for a cross platform media player which will open the file extension M3U, you can use VLC Media Player, which is an open source application that is available as a free download on the VideoLAN website. VLC Media Player is compatible with Windows, Mac OS X, and the Linux operating system.
Another cross platform application which can be used to open the M3U file extension is MPlayer. It is an open source media player which is available as a free download on the MPlayer website. It is designed for use with Windows, Mac OS X, and the Linux operating system.