M3U (MP3 URL or Moving Picture Experts Group Audio Layer 3 Uniform Resource Locator 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.
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, but numerous media players and software applications now support the format.
Careless handling of M3U playlists has been the cause of vulnerabilities in many music players such as VLC media player, iTunes, Winamp, and many others.
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.
Each entry carries one specification. The specification can be any one of the following:
The M3U file can also include comments, prefaced by the "#" character. In extended M3U, "#" also introduces extended M3U directives which are terminated by a colon ":" if they support parameters.