this is a lossless-format (and encoding algorithm) for Apple platforms. M4A is widely used in iPod players and as a component in QuickTime media-players. The m4a codecs decoder is found in open sources - this allows third party users to open files in that format.
is the most common format for storing audio. Almost any player on any platform can open mp3 files. The audio is compressed with loss of quality, but the loss is negligible for the typical user, and the file size is usually less than that of the original files.