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M3U (MP3 URL[1][2] or Moving Picture Experts Group Audio Layer 3 Uniform Resource Locator[3] in full) is a computer file format for a multimedia playlist. One common use of the M3U file format is creating a single-entry playlist file pointing to a stream on the Internet. The created file provides easy access to that stream and is often used in downloads from a website, for emailing, and for listening to Internet radio.

Filename extensions.m3u, .m3u8
Internet media typevarious; see § Internet media types
Type of formatPlaylist
Extended toHTTP Live Streaming playlist

Although originally designed for audio files, such as MP3, it is commonly used to point media players to audio and video sources, including online sources. M3U was originally developed by Fraunhofer for use with their Winplay3 software,[4] but numerous media players and software applications now support the format.

M3U playlists have been the cause of vulnerabilities in many music players such as VLC media player,[5] iTunes,[6] Winamp,[7] and many others.[8]


File formatEdit

There is no formal specification for the M3U format; it is a de facto standard.

An M3U file is a plain text file that specifies the locations of one or more media files. The file is saved with the "m3u" filename extension if the text is encoded in the local system's default non-Unicode encoding (e.g., a Windows codepage), or with the "m3u8" extension if the text is UTF-8 encoded.[9]

Each entry carries one specification. The specification can be any one of the following:

  • an absolute local pathname; e.g., C:\My Music\Heavysets.mp3
  • a local pathname relative to the M3U file location; e.g. Heavysets.mp3
  • a URL.

Extended M3UEdit

The M3U file can also include comments, prefaced by the "#" character. In extended M3U, "#" also introduces extended M3U directives.

The following are M3U extensions:

Directive Description Example
#EXTM3U File header. Must be the first line of the file.
#EXTINF Track information, including the runtime in seconds and the title.
#EXTINF:191,Artist Name - Track Title


The Unicode version of M3U is M3U8, which uses UTF-8-encoded characters. M3U8 files are the basis for the HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) format originally developed by Apple to stream video and radio to iOS devices, and which is now a popular format for Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP (DASH) in general.

The current proposal for the HLS playlist format uses UTF-8 exclusively and does not distinguish between the "m3u" and "m3u8" file name extensions.[10]

Internet media typesEdit

The only Internet media type registered for M3U and M3U8 is application/, registered in 2009 and only referring to the playlist format as used in HLS applications.[11][12]

The current proposal for the HLS playlist format acknowledges two media types which it treats as equivalent: application/ and audio/mpegurl.[10] Likewise, these are the two types recommended for HLS use by Microsoft.[13]

For non-HLS applications, no media types were standardized or registered with the IANA, but a number of media types are nonetheless associated with the historical and ongoing use of the M3U and M3U8 formats for general playlists:

  • application/mpegurl
  • application/x-mpegurl
  • audio/mpegurl
  • audio/x-mpegurl[1][2]

These types, plus application/ and application/, are supported for HLS applications by (for example) Microsoft's Windows 10[13] and Internet Explorer 9,[14] and LG's WebOS.[15]


Example 1

This is an example of an extended M3U file on the Windows platform. Sample.mp3 and Example.ogg are the media files. 123 and 321 are the lengths in seconds.[16] A length of -1 or 0 may be used when the media file is a streaming file, as there is no actual, predefined length value. The value after the length is the title to be shown, which is generally the same as the location of the file which is on the second line. On the Mac OS X and Linux platforms, Unix paths are used.

#EXTINF:123, Sample artist - Sample title
C:\Documents and Settings\I\My Music\Sample.mp3
#EXTINF:321,Example Artist - Example title
C:\Documents and Settings\I\My Music\Greatest Hits\Example.ogg
Example 2

This example shows how to create an m3u file linking to a specified directory (for example, a flash drive, or CD-ROM). The m3u file should contain only one string: the path to the directory. After starting, the media player will play all contents of the directory:

Example 3

Here is another example, using relative format. The M3U file is placed in the same directory as the music, and directories must be preserved when moving the playlist to another device if subdirectories are used. This method is more flexible, as it does not rely on the file path staying the same.

This is the same file as above, saved as sample.m3u in C:\Documents and Settings\User\My Music\

#EXTINF:123, Sample artist - Sample title
#EXTINF:321,Example Artist - Example title
Greatest Hits\Example.ogg

This format in an M3U allows copying to another device for playback. All files and directories referred to must also be copied.

Example 4

Here is a mixed example:

Alternative\Band - Song.mp3
Classical\Other Band - New Song.mp3
D:\More Music\Foo.mp3
..\Other Music\Bar.mp3


  • Alternative and Classical are sub-directories of the directory that this playlist is stored in.
  • "Song" and "New Song" are in sub-directories of the directory that this playlist is stored in.
  • "Stuff" is in the same directory that the playlist is stored in.
  • "Foo" is in the specified (Windows) volume and directory, which may or may not be the same directory the playlist is in.
  • "Bar" is in a different directory at the same level as the playlist directory. The double-dots reference the parent directory of the playlist directory, then into the sub-directory "Other Music" to reach "Bar".
  • "Listen" is a Shoutcast stream.
  • "Mine" is an MP3 stored on a web server.
Example 5

References to other M3U playlists, for example, are generally not well-supported.

Example 6

The following is an example of a M3U playlist file for "Jar of Flies" album by "Alice in Chains" that was created by Mp3tag with the following custom option settings:[17][18][19]

  • playlist extended info format = "%artist% - %title%"
  • playlist filename format = "%artist%_%album%_00_Playlist.m3u"
  • tag to filename conversion format = "%artist%_%album%_$num(%track%,2)_%title%"
 #EXTINF:419,Alice in Chains - Rotten Apple
 Alice in Chains_Jar of Flies_01_Rotten Apple.mp3
 #EXTINF:260,Alice in Chains - Nutshell
 Alice in Chains_Jar of Flies_02_Nutshell.mp3
 #EXTINF:255,Alice in Chains - I Stay Away
 Alice in Chains_Jar of Flies_03_I Stay Away.mp3
 #EXTINF:256,Alice in Chains - No Excuses
 Alice in Chains_Jar of Flies_04_No Excuses.mp3
 #EXTINF:157,Alice in Chains - Whale And Wasp
 Alice in Chains_Jar of Flies_05_Whale And Wasp.mp3
 #EXTINF:263,Alice in Chains - Don't Follow
 Alice in Chains_Jar of Flies_06_Don't Follow.mp3
 #EXTINF:245,Alice in Chains - Swing On This
 Alice in Chains_Jar of Flies_07_Swing On This.mp3


Tag editorsEdit

The following tag editor software allows users to edit the ID3 tags in MP3 files, and has support for creating M3U files.


Media playersEdit


See alsoEdit

Other playlist file formats
  • ASX - Windows media
  • PLS - SHOUTcast
  • XSPF - Xiph.Org Foundation
  • WPL - Windows Media Player


  1. ^ a b Fraunhofer Gesellschaft, Fraunhofer Institut für Integrierte Schaltungen-A (1996-10-30). "WinPlay3 - Windows real-time ISO/MPEG Audio Layer 3 Player". Archived from the original on 1997-06-06.
  2. ^ a b Gruett, Matt. "M3U FILES AND STREAMING". LockerGnome. Archived from the original on 2001-04-26.
  3. ^ Nero. "Nero MediaHome 4 - Manual" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-09-05.
  4. ^ The Playlist and Playlist Editor – Nullsoft Winamp Online Documentation
  5. ^ "VideoLAN-SA-0804 (CVE-2007-6683)". 2008. Arbitrary file overwrite and other abuses through M3U parser and browsers plugins.
  6. ^ "Heap-based buffer overflow in Apple iTunes before 10.6.3 allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (application crash) via a crafted .m3u playlist".
  7. ^ "Buffer overflow in Winamp 2.64 and earlier allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary commands via a long #EXTINF: extension in the M3U playlist".
  8. ^ "247 search results". Packet Storm. Retrieved 2018-01-23.
  9. ^ "Nero 2015 Platinum - System Requirements". MP3 URL + UTF-8 (M3U8)
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "DigiLinX Application Note - Creating Playlists to Work with the Streaming Music Manager" (PDF). 2007-10-05.
  17. ^ MP3tag Export Settings.
  18. ^ MP3tag Playlist Settings.
  19. ^ MP3tag Scripting Functions.
  20. ^ Astro Player official web-site Archived 2009-12-01 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Astro Player (old) - Sidenis LLC Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Astro Player - Sidenis LLC Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ n7player Music Player (271,478) N7 Mobile Sp. z o.o.
  24. ^ n7player 1.0 (8,816) N7 Mobile Sp. z o.o.
  25. ^ Hindley, Nathan. "XMPlay 3.8.2". XMPlay. Un4seen Developments. Retrieved 11 July 2016.

External linksEdit