Like many web-savvy music fans, I’ve been using Last.fm for the past couple of years. Now there’s a project, Libre.fm, which aims to bring the types of service last.fm offers into the world of Free Network Services.
Basically you install some client software which tracks (the verb they use is ‘scrobbles’) get played in your audio player of choice and uploads that data to a Last.fm server.
Why would you do that?
For one, it’s interesting to see what you actually listen to, not just what you think you listen to:
(You can see I’ve been catching up on my NPR Live Concert Podcasts this weekend while writing some blog posts).
In addition to your own constantly updated, live list of what you’re listening to, you can also track friends and what Last.fm calls “neighbours” (UK spelling showing you where last.fm hails from) – people who you may or may not know but who have musical tastes similar to yours.
You can also listen to streaming music from last.fm – a radio station created based on your own library (tracks you’ve scrobbled) or your neighborhood. There’s even a streaming iPhone application.
Why do we need Libre.fm?
In exchange for all this functionality, however, I’m essentially giving last.fm (and parent company CBS, and all the third parties specified in their terms of service) access to a substantial bit of data about my habits.
Who owns that data, both legally and in practical terms? What happens if I want to take all that data – my complete listening history of the last two years – and migrate to another service? What if the terms of service at last.fm change, and they decide to impose a fee on all users just to maintain profiles? Would my choice essentially be to take it or leave it? What if last.fm imploded – see ma.gnolia – and lost all that data?
(Technically I propogate the last.fm ‘recently played tracks’ stream as part of an aggregated lifestream at johneckman.com, so I keep my own copy of the data as well – but most last.fm users do not).
Users looking to run their own “track what I play, let me display it to friends and see theirs” service now have an alternative: Libre.fm, current in alpha release:
Like the code behind Identi.ca, the code running Libre.fm is licensed using the AGPL, and the content is explicitly licensed (Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike) for sharing. In addition to getting the code which runs the service, users can also retrieve data dumps of their own tracks and those of their friends.
Also like Identi.ca, the folks at Libre.fm are leveraging existing clients and APIs. identi.ca replicated Twitter’s API, enabling clients which had been built for Twitter to be easily adapted to point to Identi.ca instead, and even created a “bridge” function enabling users to autofeed microblog status updates to Twitter from Identi.ca. The Libre.fm wiki points to several clients which can “multiscrobble” (point to more than one scrobbling server) as well as clients which can be made to scrobble to turtle.libre.fm by use of a hosts file redirecting the last.fm scrobbler server address.
See also: Libre.fm – Building an Open Last.fm