You know how, for the past decade, you’ve been able to track everything you’ve played on your iPod, iTunes, Winamp, Windows Media Player, Spotify and more — and have all of that stuff create a Last.fm profile, which is useful for all kinds of reasons?
No? Well then, do you use Facebook? It’s basically doing the same thing.
Richard Jones released Audioscrobbler 10 years ago today, inventing the concept of tracking the music people play in order to inform music recommendations.
Ten years later, scrobbling has changed the world, even if the people using it might not be familiar with the word. The scrobbling concept has become interwoven throughout the internet. People use it every time they sign in to a music service with Facebook.
Evolver.fm: How did the idea of scrobbling occur to you?
Richard Jones, inventor of Audioscrobbler: I had been reading about collaborative filtering algorithms, and it occurred to me it would be fun to try and use them to discover new music. “People who like A, B & C also like D …” but for music.
There wasn’t really a suitable source of music data to base recommendations on, though. I considered crawling the P2P systems of the time (Soulseek was popular back then) — but in 2002, when the world was still reeling from Napster melting down, people who listened to MP3s tended to hoard massive collections of music they had no intention of listening to, just because they could.
This made the list of music you were sharing via P2P a poor data set to base recommendations on — yes, I downloaded the full Metallica back catalog just because I could, but I didn’t really listen to all of it, and I wouldn’t want recommendations based on it.
Always-on internet was rapidly becoming the norm, and more and more people were listening to MP3s on their computers with software such as Winamp. So scrobbling was born: I wrote a plug-in for Winamp that reported what was being played in realtime — the perfect data source for recommending and discovering music.
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