and Free Network Services

Like many web-savvy music fans, I’ve been using for the past couple of years. Now there’s a project,, which aims to bring the types of service 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 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:

My profile with Recently Listened Tracks
My profile with Recently Listened Tracks

(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 calls “neighbours” (UK spelling showing you where hails from) – people who you may or may not know but who have musical tastes similar to yours.

Two of my neighbours, and our shared artists
Two of my neighbours, and our shared artists

You can also listen to streaming music from – 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

In exchange for all this functionality, however, I’m essentially giving (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 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 imploded – see ma.gnolia – and lost all that data?

(Technically I propogate the ‘recently played tracks’ stream as part of an aggregated lifestream at, so I keep my own copy of the data as well – but most 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:, current in alpha release:

You could say is to as is to Twitter.

Like the code behind, the code running 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, the folks at are leveraging existing clients and APIs. replicated Twitter’s API, enabling clients which had been built for Twitter to be easily adapted to point to instead, and even created a “bridge” function enabling users to autofeed microblog status updates to Twitter from The 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 by use of a hosts file redirecting the scrobbler server address.

The intial site is in alpha – you can request an invitation to become a user or you can explore popular artists in the current users’ playlists. (I’m jeckman there as on

See also: – Building an Open