Sunday, May 20, 2007

Web 2.0: Leveraging Community
by Ron Lichty

Anyone remember when you put a music CD into your computer and what you saw was always, ALWAYS blank: "Track 1, Track 2, Track 3, ..." unless you typed in the names of the tracks yourself?

Today, things are different. When you use iTunes today, there's a brief wait when it tells you it's checking with "Gracenote". And voila, there's the name of the CD, the artist, the tracks.

But there's no more information recorded on today's CDs than there was 15 years ago. There's no information there. None. So where did it come from?

What a couple guys in a garage started doing sometime over a decade ago, about the time the web was emerging, was to keep track of type-ins of the CD names/artists/tracks -- they made it easy to remember other people's type-ins as well. And they saved them in a database along with a "fingerprint" of the CD -- the length of the CD itself, the number of tracks, and the EXACT length of each track. The next time someone anywhere in the world inserted a copy of that CD, its fingerprint was sent to Gracenote, Gracenote sent back the content information to the Gracenote-enabled player, and it would magically display the CD's name/artists/tracks as though they were recorded on the CD's laser-pitted surface.

What started as a couple guys in a garage became Gracenote, the technology behind iTunes and almost every other playing technology not just for CDs but also MP3s as well.

Newsweek just posted a little story online (may be in the print magazine next week, but not sure they're always the same) called "To Catch a Sneak", in which Gracenote Chief Technical Officer Ty Roberts explains how Gracenote helped expose a fraud in the music industry -- the classical pianist Joyce Hatto, who was briefly called "the greatest pianist that no one had never heard of" until Gracenote technology played a role in exposing that CDs issued as hers by her producer husband had in fact been performed by others.

The fraud and the expose story are fascinating. And the article helps explain what Gracenote does in just a little more detail, if you’re interested.

"Web 2.0" in part references the power that letting readers and users of a site contribute to the site's content can bring. Gracenote is an example of one of the earliest of user-content-generated content, and of that power. Much as Wikipedia is a user-generated encyclopedia, Gracenote was and is user-generated music identification technology that shares the contributions of the first with all the rest of us to make our lives easier.


At 1:51 PM, June 06, 2007, Blogger Sarah said...

Hi Ron, any interest in attending PUSH this weekend (June 10 -12) as a blogger? I see that you covered TED last year and PUSH also speaks to innovation and how power shifts are affecting the future. We have a discount rate of $300 for folks who come to participate and also document the conference online. Last minute, yes, but exciting too. Check out for more info.

Let me know how I can help you get involved.

Sarah Jones

At 4:54 AM, September 09, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that was a nice post

i luv the info

At 11:40 PM, November 16, 2008, Blogger jobs said...

Very good information and very use full


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