Peer-to-peer file swapping websites are becoming increasingly popular across the world as the next generation of the music sharing industry is developed. Peer-to-peer networking allows users to connect with each other to search for and share information. This information is decentralized, it does not require a central database server to search for locations of music files, it requires the use of peer-to-peer client software. The client software needs to be installed on users local machines (nodes), which then gather information on media files available for sharing and stores the information into a catalogue. When the user searches for media files the client software connects to other nodes across the networks (called hops) which search their catalogues, and this process continues. If a positive result occurs the client software connects directly with the peer that has the file and the media will be transferred.
Users of the network can be both a supplier (information provider) and a consumer (information requester), the user can connect with multiple users all with the required resource, as the files transfer they can also be forwarded onto further users requesting the same files, saving time.
Advantages of peer-to-peer include the ease of setting up, the speed of transfer of information, large numbers of peers can be contacted quickly, the network is not vulnerable to failure as there is such a wide spread of data not reliant on one centralized source. However disadvantages can include the potential for bugs and virus’s during installation of client software, data is less secure, the provider may not be reliable and you may be breaching copyright and licensing laws. Peer-to-peer can be inefficient as its unknown which peers have the required information, a large number of hops can occur in a short space of time, potentially clogging the networks, but they will not be indefinite as a ‘time to live’ countdown is in place which decreases with each ‘hop’ until reaching zero at which point the search will end.
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A new internet music website is taking the industry by storm called Spotify, the site differs to normal peer-to-peer sites, you can’t buy (or download) free music, but you can create a playlist or collection of your favourite songs to listen to just as you would on a radio station. Also there is an option to create or join collaborative playlists that are independent from the site and shared via websites, these can be added to by individual users. The tracks come with some advertisements between songs. A daily ‘advert free’ listening package is an option for a small fee, or by subscribing monthly it can be entirely free of advertisements.
Because there is no downloading of files Spotify is fast to use. It has a vast collection of songs, artists and albums. This is makes it very popular, however it has recently been forced to remove thousands of songs by the record labels who maintain control of what can be played where. Spotify argue that because tracks are only being listened to this could reduce the desire to illegally download and limit piracy.
Spotify has recently released an Application Programing Interface (API) which it hopes will spread through other media devices such as gaming consoles, mobile phones and other media devices.
‘An API is a way for website or service to talk to another website or service. API’s let you mix information and media from other services into your own site or application’. (Wibbels 2009)
The API is a set of predefined programming behaviour that Spotify have developed, which they can release to programmers to enable them to develop their own products to incorporate Spotify. This enables the company to reach out to many new users with a broad range of devices, for example an Apple iphone user may discover an ‘application’ for Spotify to download to his device, having not previously heard of the service.
In recent months a mobile device HTC Hero has become available with Spotify included. The Spotify subscription is paid in with the device contract, effectively seeming that the mobile device is giving free access to songs.
With around 40,000 new users a day signing up to Spotify, there is no doubting its popularity, however does this imply that if free music is available then users will not need to make a music purchase again? There are mixed reviews, some alleged music pirates say they don’t need to download illegally now, Spotify meets all their needs, other users are saying they will never buy music again.
On the other hand some people are using Spotify to listen to music before going to purchase, on a try before you buy basis. It seems that Spotify is proving very useful for a wide spread of users.
I think the release of the API will, as in the case of the HTC Hero device, spread the word of Spotify even further, however because of the ongoing problems with the music industry and copyright and licensing issues potential manufacturers of new devices need to move with caution, if licensing laws were favourable to the music industry and caused the demise of Spotify, with no API a lot of devices could potentially be useless.
To conclude, I think that Spotify could be very successful in the future, the main barrier being its lack of support from the music industry. If more support, trust and guidance was provided by record and marketing companies then perhaps we would see developments of a more secure data transfer system, removing the chances of bugs and virus’s for the users. The programing and network system on which it is based could prove to be the future of all online music sharing. I believe that this approach to the industry is a way forward, however I believe the software developers have a responsibility to behave ethically and responsibly so not to infringe the rights of all involved in the music industry.
Spotify Ltd (2007 – 2010) About Spotify
Available from http://www.spotify.com/uk/about/what/ Accessed 7th May 2010
Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia (9th May 2010) Peer-to-Peer
Available from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peer-to-peer Accessed 12th May 2010
Kayne (2010) What is P2P?
Available from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-p2p.htm Accessed 12th May 2010
uCertify (2008) What are the advantages and disadvantages of a peer-to-peer network?
Available from http://www.ucertify.com/article/what-are-the-advantages-and-disadvantages-of-a-peer-to-peer-network.html Accessed 17th May 2010
Johnson B and Arthur C (2009) Spotify opens doors to UK – as record industry slams them shut.
Available from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2009/feb/11/digitalmusic-downloads Accessed 23rd May 2010
Johnson (2009) Spotify plots launch of new API.
Available from http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2009/apr/06/spotify-to-launch-api Accessed 23rd May 2010
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