MXP4: what’s in a name? Well, success, for one.

May 18, 2009

Somebody came up with a brilliant idea: let’s make a new audio file format! After all, people have tons of complaints about MP3s, right? Like… oh, wait, actually there are very few complaints. Undaunted, and with a $2.5M war chest ($2.5M to create a file format!?), MXP4’s advanced technology is poised to “revolutionize the music experience”… uh, what? That full quote:

So what makes MXP4 so advanced? The file format, beta-released in September, contains multiple tracks, allows users to mix the music, and incorporates video. On the mixing side, different track elements can be suppressed and recombined, allowing remixes, karaoke versions, or others creative combinations. “This are clear signs that the music industry is beginning to see the potential for MXP4 to revolutionize the music experience for consumers by allowing them to play with the music, whilst opening up new promotional and revenue possibilities for artists and labels alike,” Serviant commented.

Riiight… I think this’ll fail. Not (just) because it brings insignificant value. But for a reason that sounds incredibly trivial but is actually really significant: MXP4 has too many letters.

All successful file formats have TLAs. It’s just how things work. Yes, technically you can have a four-letter file extension. Just nobody ever does it, so it looks really weird.

Even “jpeg” eventually dropped the “e” to become “jpg” — and “jpeg” sounded fine when you said it out loud. MXP4 sounds incredibly awkward spelled out, and doesn’t sound like anything when pronounced like a word. That means every website, tool, story, and mention of this abysmal product will be tainted with an awkward, unpronounceable tinge.

I think had they called it MP5, or even just MPX, they’d be in a far better position. But MXP4 is this weird bastard name — it’s not the clear successor to MP3 that MP4 connotes, nor is it even in the MP family (it’s in some new MXP family). But rather than being the first of a new family (MXP1), it’s spontaneously the fourth generation — in an obvious ploy to sound better than MP3.

It’s a name only a high-paid marketing team could come up with.

David Barrett
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