If you haven’t tried [[http://pandora.com|Pandora]] yet, do give it a spin. Its pretty good. (not to be confused with [[wp>Pandora|the Greek legend]], this time your curiosity will be well rewarded!)
Till a few days back, I had been using [[http://last.fm|Last.fm]] as my online radio. I had seen Pandora before, but never seriously tried it. I mean last.fm is pretty good — it has plugins for almost all music players out there, so you can very quickly build up a good profile for yourself. And if you’re willing to shell out a few bucks (and I wasn’t), you can listen to your own personalized music stations. If not, then you can always listen to artist radio or neighbor radio and they are also generally quite good.
The other nice things about Last.fm is the web interface, the community and the whole tagging shazam. But for free loaders such as myself, the lack of a personalized radio station was probably the biggest gripe.
Enter Pandora. Born out of the [[http://pandora.com/mgp.shtml|Music Genome Project]], Pandora does a really good job of selecting music that you might like. You can seed Pandora with a couple of songs and/or artists that you like, and then let Pandora find similar music for you. The classification has been done painstakingly by humans, and it shows. You’ll listen to songs and artists you’ve never heard before, but you’ll like them. The other really cool thing about Pandora is that you don’t need a music player. Just a web browser with flash enabled, and thats pretty much any web browser these days. I must admit the flash interface is actually really nice. The sound quality is nice, and it doesn’t take up too much CPU either (mostly).
But I think whats Pandora is missing is exactly the thing Last.fm excels at — plugins for music players to quickly help build a profile, find people who have similar tastes with you, a comprehensive community website where people can collaboratively share playlists, reviews and such. The classification process should still be how it is — done by a group of specialists.
The current website is pretty bare bones, not enough to build up a good user community these days IMHO. The Pandora team has promised a slew of new features in the coming months, so all my wishes might still come true. Nonetheless, I’m discovering some great new music via Pandora, so thanks!
**Update**: As I sat listening, I realized that there are a lot of things I’d like to know about Pandora that I have no clue about. Like how many users typically are listening concurrently? What kind of bandwidth does it consume? What kind of infrastructure is required? Is it all centralized? How do they deal with network latencies? Exactly what happens when I add something to my radio, or say I like/dislike a particular song? What kind of algorithms are involved?
I think it would be nice to have the Pandora folks blog a little bit about all of the above. I’d say its actually a really good way to get potential recruits interested in your work! ;-)