What is M3U8 and How to Open/Convert It

What is M3U8

Have you ever encountered an M3U8 file and found yourself puzzled about its purpose or struggled to open it on your computer? This article will provide practical solutions for playing downloaded M3U8 files on your PC and converting them into other formats, ensuring a smoother and more accessible viewing experience.

Many users who seek to download streaming videos might come across the M3U8 format in their quest. However, downloading an M3U8 file alone is not sufficient for playback due to its nature as a playlist file. It contains essential information required to load stream data during playback, making it indispensable but not directly playable.

This article aims to unravel the mystery surrounding M3U8 files, shedding light on their essence, their role in streaming, and how to navigate them effectively. This guide is your comprehensive handbook, from understanding what M3U8 refers to and troubleshooting issues related to opening these files to practical steps on converting them into more familiar formats.

What is an M3U8 File?

What is an M3U8 File

An M3U8 file is an extensible playlist format that is a pointer to audio or video files. It is a UTF-8 encoded text file that various media players use to locate and play multimedia content. These files can be references to online files, personal music, or video playlists, using absolute paths, relative paths, or URLs to specify the location of the media files or folders.

While M3U8 files do not contain audio or video data, they store information like multiple ‘ts' files (short videos), playback duration, and sequence. As playlists, they facilitate continuous playback of media content. They are widely utilized for HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), a technology enabling high-quality streaming. Initially developed by Apple, M3U8 files have become a standard format for video delivery services like TVer, Hulu, and GYAO!

Streaming video players primarily play these files and are incompatible with standard media players like Windows Media Player. To watch M3U8 videos, conversion to formats like MP4 or MKV is necessary. Thankfully, various online converters and software are available to seamlessly convert M3U8 files, allowing for greater versatility in playback.

Features of M3U8 Files

M3U8 files, an extension of the M3U format, possess key attributes that make them vital in media streaming and playlist management:

  • Enhanced Extensibility: Derived from the M3U format, M3U8 files support UTF-8 character encoding, ensuring compatibility with various media players and streaming devices. This extended functionality broadens their usability.
  • Versatile Media Location: M3U8 files pinpoint multimedia file locations or entire folders using absolute paths, relative paths, or URLs. This flexibility simplifies referencing and retrieval of audio or video files for seamless playback.
  • Adaptive Bitrate Streaming: Critical for streaming, M3U8 files enable adaptive bitrate streaming by defining multiple streams with varying qualities (e.g., resolution, bitrate). This dynamic selection enhances user experience by adapting to network conditions.
  • Integral to HLS: Essential for HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), M3U8 files segment media into smaller parts (like ‘ts' files), optimizing streaming delivery for smoother online playback.
  • Human-Readable Format: As plain text files, M3U8 playlists are easily read and edited using basic text editors. This feature enhances their versatility, allowing users to create, modify, or customize playlists effortlessly.
  • Metadata Support: M3U8 files accommodate additional text information, such as comments, aiding in organizing and annotating media content within playlists.

How to Open M3U8 Files

how to open m3u8 files

M3U8 files, which can be accessed and modified using text editors like Notepad, present limitations in playing media directly due to their text-based nature. They require specific media players for playback. Programs like VLC, iTunes, and Windows Media Player can interpret and utilize M3U8 files to play audio or video content.

While text editors merely display file references within M3U8 files, dedicated media players, available on Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms, offer seamless playback functionality. Windows supports media players like VLC, KMPlayer, and Windows Media Player. On Mac, iTunes, RealPlayer, VLC, and others serve this purpose, while Linux users can rely on XMMS, Clementine, and VLC.

Online services like HSLPlayer.net can also open M3U8 files, provided the referenced content is available online via URL. However, this method won't work for locally stored M3U8 files.

How to convert M3U8 Files

YouTube video

M3U8 files, being plain text, cannot be directly converted to video or audio formats like MP4 or MP3. These files are references or playlists that point to media files. To convert the media files referenced in an M3U8 playlist to different formats, locate or download those files first and then use a suitable conversion program or tool.

The challenge arises when these referenced media files are scattered across various locations on your computer, such as internal drives, external drives, or flash drives. Manually gathering these files in a single location can be time-consuming.

To address this, tools like M3UExportTool or M3U8X can assist in identifying and copying all referenced media files to a single location based on the M3U8 playlist's information. Once these files are consolidated, you can use video or audio converters like VLC or other dedicated programs to convert them to desired formats like MP4, MP3, AVI, etc.

It is important to note that while some programs claim to convert M3U8 playlists, they extract and convert the referenced media files, not the M3U8 text-based format itself.

Diffence Between M3U8 and M3U

Diffence Between M3U8 and M3U

The main variance between M3U and M3U8 files lies in their character encoding. M3U files use the ANSI character encoding, restricting their character support to the extended ASCII set. This limitation could pose challenges when dealing with characters from various languages or non-standard symbols. On the other hand, M3U8, an extension of the M3U format, employs UTF-8 encoding. UTF-8 is a more versatile and expansive character encoding method, accommodating a broader range of characters encompassing multiple languages and special symbols. This distinction in encoding makes M3U8 files more adaptable for handling diverse text elements from different linguistic backgrounds than the more limited character set of M3U files.


M3U8 files, an extension of the M3U format, play a pivotal role in multimedia playlists, enabling seamless streaming experiences. Utilizing UTF-8 encoding, they offer broader language and symbol support, aiding creators and users. These text-based playlists organize media content and enable adaptive streaming, dynamically selecting quality streams. Despite not storing actual media, they are compatible with various players and are standard for playlist management. While unable to convert directly, tools like M3UExportTool aid in consolidating referenced media for subsequent conversion.

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