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In the High Tatras

At the end of September, we finally went on a little trip we've planned a couple weeks earlier with a group of six friends... Although "we've" is a bit of an overstatement here, since one of us, M.G., set up pretty much everything, along with the accomodation and all the places we were to see. It's so great to have an "organizer" friend like that; Not to say that that's why I like her, because she's a lovely person all around, but I just don't think anyone else out of our group could set up a date that would suit so many people's schedules, and have everything work out like a charm!

Day 0

Getting there took a bit of patience, as we had to take two trains and a bus, starting the journey in the evening, and arriving in Zakopane at 6 am... And we only got two hours of sleep afterwards, since we didn't want the first day of the trip to go to waste; We got to spend three days there (since the fourth one was pretty much spent on getting back home), so every hour was precious to us. But it sure was worth it!

An old postcard from Zakopane, showing a wooden cafe in a park, with a mountain range in the background

A postcard bought in Zakopane

Zakopane is a town situated at the highest elevation out of any settlement in Poland; It's got a rich history, with a characteristic style of wooden architecture that you won't find anywhere else; But I'll tell you one thing right away – if you're looking for a quaint little village with a gentle stream running through it and not another tourist soul in sight – this sure ain't it. Or at least hasn't been for several decades now. It does however sit at the feet of some of the most beautiful mountains in this part of Europe – the Tatras, shared with Czechia and Slovakia. And that's more than enough to forgive it for all the Aliexpress toys at souvenir shops and expensive dinners.

Krupówki, the main boulevard of Zakopane; lampposts line a cobbled street surrounded by old architecture housing new shops; some wooden carts and tourists are standing/walking on the street

Krupówki, the main boulevard of Zakopane (source:

Day 1

So after we left the bags and took a nap in our guesthouse in the town, we immediately set out to conquer new heights and all that yada yada. First up was Nosal, an "easy" (not for us, lol) 1206 m / 3956 ft summit at the very edge of a notorious ridge crowned by Kasprowy Wierch.

Tourists climbing Nosal One of my friends, her back turned to the camera, standing on a rock, overlooking a green valley from atop Nosal

The view was beautiful, the weather was really nice up to that point and we still had lots of time. Having reached the top of Nosal and taken several group photos in all kinds of combinations, we descended and went through Krupówki to climb Gubałówka, probably the most "developed" mountain in Poland, with bars, restaurants and souvenir shops atop it. There are two ways to reach the summit: by a funicular or by a foot trail. Since the cable car option was not very cheap, and since after all we came to the Tatras to hike, we chose the latter. I gotta say though – even in good weather, the trail was really uncomfortable to climb – it only goes up in a straight, thin line; really thin, because the terrain directly next to the trail was claimed by a landowner and fenced off! Many of the rocks/planks/plates you were supposed to walk on were broken or eroded, which became more of a peeve when it started raining as we were midway up, and a torrent of mud ran down, right through the center of the trail.

View from the trail to Gubałówka; a portion of the fence consisting of colorful pieces of cloth on a string is visible in the foreground; Giewont is visible in the distance, covered in snow

View from midway through the Gubałówka trail onto Giewont in the distance

My favorite thing about that route was the beautiful view onto snowy Giewont, a mountain known as the Sleeping Knight due to its similarity to the silhouette of a man laying down on his back, and a related mountaineers' legend of a knight who got turned into stone. Once we got to the top of Gubałówka we went into a cafe with a view down on Zakopane, but by then our line of sight onto the town got blocked out by some temporarily amassing fog. Still, it felt very nice to have sat down there, at an open air table, after the "struggle" (for our untrained asses a struggle indeed) we went through. I ordered some apple pie and coffee and we shared lots of laughs about lots of dumb things, until it was time to get back down to our guesthouse, before it would start to get dark. Once we got there, we spent the evening watching a football game between Poland and the Netherlands... well... at least we had another good laugh at that one.

Day 2

View from inside a mountainside forest, with mist A fly agaric growing in a mountainside forest; rotund red mushroom with white spots.

We got up at half past 6, and a little over an hour later we were already going uptrail, firmly set on conquering Kasprowy Wierch (1,987 m / 6,519 ft) that day. The trail started easy, with the weather a pleasant balance between cool and calm. As we climbed the soft incline, we were soon surrounded by a dense pine wood clutching to the mountainside. The groundcover around us was blooming with all sorts of mushrooms, edible and not: slippery jacks (Suillus), Boletes, fly agarics (Amanita); Mushroom picking being one of the average Pole's favourite pastimes, it was tough to resist gently twisting one of the shrooms from the mossy soil... We were in a national park though, and so it was forbidden to interfere with nature – hence why the mushrooms were still even there for me to see so near to the route.

We were taking the scenic route to Kasprowy, so to say. It was one that was to lead us up a minor ridge and back down to a valley and a glacial lake (yellow trail), then up another ridge (black trail) onto our destined summit. Up to that point the only snow we'd seen that week was miles away on top of Giewont and Świnica. As we reached a higher altitude though, and the woods gave way to a rarely spread bog pine cover, we gradually started to see more and more frost on the grass and rocks. At the same time, a milky mist began to envelope us.

View of dense fog floating upwards from a mountainside covered with bog pines K.M. from my friend group, overlooking the foggy mountainside from the trail

Climbing on, we reached a height at which patches of snow started showing up on the ground and shrubs. Soon enough, it was going to become apparent that we would've done well to prepare more thoroughly for this trip... But for now, we reached the top of the ridge and took a couple photos there, most of them either of us or of the fog wrapping around rocks and trees. After a small descent, we arrived at Hala Gąsienicowa. A large mountain meadow, it once used to be a wild plain covered entirely in bog pines, only for those to be cut out at some point by the highlanders, so that the terrain could be used for the cultivation of sheep. That period gave rise to the charming wooden huts peppered through the part of the valley known as Rówienki. Those buildings used to serve as temporary housing for the bacas (heads of a local sheep grazing economy) or juhases (their younger apprentices), when they led the sheep out into the mountain meadows for grazing. Now that the valley hasn't been used anymore for grazing in many years, it's once again filling up with bog pines.

A view of Rówienki, a part of Hala Gąsienicowa; Multiple small wooden huts in the meadow, which is covered in snow in its entirety; 3 figures on the trail in the foreground, with their backs turned to the camera: 2 guys and a girl in the middle; they're my friends K.M., M.G. and W.K. :) In the far background you can see dense woods, and yet further: fog.

Rówienki, a part of Hala Gąsienicowa; My friends in the foreground

Through Rówienki we arrived in the mountain shelter of Murowaniec, our first stop, where we had a hot meal and some mulled wine to wash it down with. The hot, strong wine made me feel butterflies in my stomach, except those butterflies were ablaze with raging flames... in a pleasant way, though.

Murowaniec: a 3-floored mountain shelter built with large, heavy stones

Murowaniec, a mountain shelter in Hala Gąsienicowa (source:

The impressive building and the routes connecting it to lower plains were constructed by four platoons of the Polish army in the 1920s. I can only imagine the titanic struggle that went into transporting the building materials to a place like this!

From Murowaniec, we continued our ascent by a fairly easy trail. The layer of snow and ice on some of the rocks underneath our feet was however beginning to thicken, and every now and then you could feel your step slip on an unexpected frozen patch. Next, we arrived at Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy (roughly "Black Gąsienica Pond"), a beautiful tarn (Wikipedia told me that that's what you call a lake formed with glacial water inside a cirque) surrounded by steep mountain walls.

Czarny Staw Gąsienicowy; a wide view of a slightly rotund lake surrounded by steep mountainsides reflected in the water; everything covered with snow; in the foreground: a random woman in the bottom right corner, and in the bottom left corner a large boulder covered with moss on its right side and snow on top

On our way to the lake, we passed multiple tourists. It's a custom for people on trails to always say "Hi" or "Good day" to each other when passing by, which felt really nice. Apparently the reason for this is not just a usual greeting, too – originally, getting a greeting back from someone on the trail is supposed to be a sign that they are well enough to go on, while the contrary calls for checking on their wellbeing.

Up one of those steep walls around Czarny Staw, at the right hand side when coming from Murowaniec, led the black trail to Karb. Karb is a mountain pass between the Little Kościelec and Kościelec peaks, and on its other side is the final approach onto Kasprowy Wierch. In a spur of the moment decision, we decided to take that trail, shorter but steeper than the blue one. Looking at it from the bottom, we could already see that there barely was anyone to say "Hi" to up there, which perhaps we should have taken for a hint.

At this elevation, the layer of snow was already very thick. In some places it was compressed into hard, slippery ice, in others a misstep could reveal a deep hole underneath. All this on the steepest incline we've been on yet, full of gaps between the rocks, which would normally be easily visible but were now obscured by the snow. AND we didn't have crampons (spikes you put on your boots for ice climbing), which every single one of the few people who passed us now had, aaand we were totally unexperienced...

A view down on Czarny Staw from atop the black trail to Karb

It may feel silly now, but my heart was beating like crazy when I took this photo because I was convinced I might die any moment

Slipping and tripping repeatedly were really exhausting, and at the same time we were constantly anxious about either falling off, or having the thick mass of untouched snow on the mountainside above us come down in an avalanche. One of our friends apparently had a fear of heights too (wish I was aware of this beforehand :|), which must've made this experience an absolute nightmare for him. At one point, a couple little snowballs rolled from above. As they came down, they accreted more and more of the sticky snow which covered the side of the peak. Lucky for us, they went directly behind us and continued on to the foot of the mountain uninterrupted. At the moment they came close to our group, they were big enough that had they hit someone, they'd have – at the very least – knocked them out of balance.

Eventually, after a little more than half an hour, we got to the top of Karb, all pumped up on adrenaline and relieved that the road was gonna be smooth sailing from here. Relatively speaking. Three of us, including K.D., the friend with a fear of heights, decided to return to our guesthouse in Zakopane without reaching Kasprowy Wierch. Can't blame them – my mind was almost set on going back with them, but in the end my stubborn side won over. However, getting down the other side of Karb, where we were to split, was no easy task either. Everything was so slippery that I don't think I've made more than 3 steps in a row at any point without slipping or falling onto my butt.

A view down the other side of the Karb; multiple tiny lakes visible in the valley; 3 tiny people down there are highlighted in the picture with a red circle with the caption: 'people here :D' Triple waypost at a crossroads of trails; uppermost plaque says 'Karb: 30 minutes' and points to the left, one underneath it says 'Dolina Gąsienicowa: 40 minutes' and points towards the viewer, the bottom plaque has its back turned towards the camera as it points in the opposite direction from the viewer. Note: Dolina Gąsienicowa translates to Gąsienica Valley.

left: The valley between the Karb and the trail up Kasprowy Wierch; right: A crossroads waypost in the valley

After making our way down to the valley, we found ourselves surrounded by lots of small lakes and ponds, most of them filled with crystal clear water, but some small enough to be entirely frozen. Here, at a crossroads, we split into two groups: the three marauders taking the walk of shame back to the guesthouse through the Gąsienica Valley, and the four summit pushers about to eat a hot meal in the shelter atop Kasprowy Wierch.

The way up Kasprowy Wierch was yet steeper, but much safer than the wall of Karb. The only danger here was, again, constantly slipping on the steep ice. It quickly became apparent that my stamina at this point was the worst of our bunch. I felt guilty as my friends got further and further away from me, and even made two stops so I could catch up to them. I knew that time was valuable here, because we wanted to be back home before it gets dark. Perhaps I should have gone through Gąsienica Valley instead of slowing them down? But at least, during one of those stretches where I lagged far behind M.G., K.M. and W.K., I met a cool guy from Silesia. It was really nice talking to him for a while as we climbed together at a snail's pace.

Views from atop Kasprowy Wierch; the smaller building on the left (at the very summit of the mountain) is an observatory, and the larger building further down is the mountain shelter and terminal station of the cable car to Kasprowy Wierch

When we entered the shelter, we could literally wring sweat from our clothes, our cheeks red with a cartoony flush. I stripped down to my t-shirt and ordered dinner consisting of some blood sausage, fries and beets. It wasn't cheap, but at that moment I could very well sell a kidney for a hot meal. And boy, was it delicious... Be it for the actual quality of the food or just on account of how hungry we were. The road back down the mountain to Kuźnice, and from there to our guesthouse in Zakopane, took us around 3 hours. The conditions were more or less the same as during the ascent, though there were places where the trail was just as steep and narrow as on the Karb, except this time it was going down... Same direction that gravity pulls you in, coincidentally; This made it practically impossible to take a step without crampons on, so of course, we slid down most of the icy part of the road on our sore asses... But I'd say the views on the second, snowless part of the way back were even more breathtaking than the way to Kasprowy! Especially since the weather improved.

My friends walking on the snow-blanketed edge of an abrupt cliff; a dense fog makes it impossible to see how long of a fall it is Forests and mountains seen in the distance; in the foreground some snow covered in footprints and bog pines

Snowy Giewont seen from the trail; the surroundings of the viewer are free of snow, with lots of trees and grass. A large steel truss support of the cable car line takes up the left hand part of the foreground A view back towards the undulating cobbled trail up Kasprowy Wierch; many fallen trees in the foreground; the sky is blue, almost cloudless

Views from the green trail from Kasprowy Wierch to Kuźnice

Day 3

On the 3rd day of Tatermas the active team of summit pushers had shrank yet again, on account of yours truly. The plan for the day was to reach the Dolina Pięciu Stawów Polskich (Valley of the Five Polish Lakes) through a beautiful route near the Siklawa waterfall. I knew it would be the highlight of the trip but my body just gave up on me that morning :/ Not only was my entire lower body sore as hell, but I also desperately needed more than 4 hours of sleep. So, I stayed in with M.R., K.D. and M.K. in our guesthouse.

Eerie masks hanging on the lobby wall in our guesthouse

Yeahhh, the owner made sure we clung for our dear life during every nightly excursion to the basement fridge...

Therefore, I don't have much of a hiking story from the final day of the trip... But here are some snaps taken by M.G. that showcase what we'd missed out on:

A small, rocky waterfall surrounded by snow, with some rare shrubs on top; in the foreground K.M. is walking on the trail A large lake; in the background snowy mountainsides set against a blue sky with puffy white clouds, and in the foreground bog pines

left: Siklawa waterfall; right: Wielki Staw Polski, the largest tarn in Dolina Pięciu Stawów Polskich

However, that doesn't mean that us Four Horsemen let that day go to waste altogether. What would a trip to Zakopane be without a souvenir hunt on the Krupówki...? And what better souvenir than 2 kilos of smoked sheep cheese???

An oscypek; the smoked cheese pictured is shaped like a cylinder with cones on either end and pressed with a pattern of rhombuses and stripes

I kid you not, this traditional type of highlander cheese is called an oscypek, and no true Pole can go to the mountains and NOT bring back a couple of these for their family. Absolutely heavenly when grilled (melts beautifully on the inside, stays hard on the outside) and a wonderfully aromatic hard cheese if eaten cold as well. Interestingly, the name "oscypek" is protected by law as a traditional product, so it's illegal to call your cheese an oscypek if it doesn't follow the regulations based on ancient local tradition.

I got three of those for my grandma, parents and uncle (who's also brought one for us when he went to Zakopane the previous month), plus some more personal gifts for grandma, mom and dad. With wallets nigh turned inside out, we arrived at an inconspicous place we'd decided to check out earlier. The green sign above a narrow doorway, wedged between two buildings, read: Myszogród (Mousegard). From the outside it definitely looked underwhelming, but entering the door reveals a downward stairwell, which leads to a massive basement... a basement which is home to 3000 mice!

They're locked in though, so don't worry. And not in just some cage; these mice probably live better than I'll ever be able to...

A large night scene diorama of a charming lamplit town in the mountains with a cable car... all this for mice to live in! Two white mice around a model house, one white mouse inside it; all three turned towards the camera, probably sniffing

Inside massive, picturesque dioramas built by artists, spread across multiple rooms, you can see various species of mice here, just chillin' and mousin' around in their favourite cozy places. The employee who sold us our tickets wes eager to answer any of our questions regarding the mice, and clearly had an impressive amount not only of trivia and knowledge, but also personal attachment to the little rascals. She even told us a story about one mama degu mouse who had such a strong parental instinct that she seemed genuinely depressed when she had to be temporarily separated from her children for relocation. We were all really impressed with this place, and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone visiting with kids, thanks to the various awesome facts about rodents they can learn here to impress their playground friends back home.

Detail of a microscopic dollhouse room for mice, inside a fake tree log


I'll spare you the details of our packing and way back home after this massively overstretched post... But bear with me yet through this wrap-up: Although our trip was really short, as my first time hiking in the mountains, I would have never traded these wonderful couple of days for anything in the world. The incredible sights, demanding trails, and last but not the least beautiful, amazing people I'm lucky to call my friends: they all made this experience something I'll carry dear in my heart forever :)

An old wooden building housing a bar named 'CZIKAGO'; underneath the name of the bar, on the sign also, an inscription which reads in Polish: 'Grill / Bar / Pizza / Dreams of a visa'.


[photos taken with my phone unless source otherwise specified]

🎵 playing: Fax Gang - Rabbit in a Hat
Oct 27th, 2022

Postcrossing II

Now that I've been postcrossing on and off for over half a year, I think I can finally say I've found something of a long-term hobby for the first time in years. It may not be the most adrenaline-pumping one out there but there are lots of joy to be found here; Picking the right postcards for the right people, writing them out, the anxious wait for them to arrive and, on the other side, finding awesome cards from the other end of the world in your mailbox and gathering a sizeable collection of all kinds of them from all kinds of countries. It may be difficult to describe but it really all makes for a great experience.

To keep things neat, I got a grey photo album for storing the postcards, which sits on a shelf in my book cabinet. In a similar manner I thought it could be fun to make a virtual, interactive sort of an album where I could showcase the cards people send me, on the website.

My Postcrossing archive

You can check it out by clicking the caption above or the envelope icon on the sidebar! There's already over 40 cards overall in there and counting - I'll try to keep the archive up to date as time goes :)

Note: Please have some patience for the page though, especially if you've got a slow internet connection... I guess I'm not very good at optimization :/


🎵 playing: Title Fight - Numb, But I Still Feel It
Sep 4th, 2022


It's almost hard for me to believe it's already been 46 days since the last post. 43 horrible days have passed since the first Russian airstrikes and missiles hit cities all around Ukraine (or, in other words: it is now the 42nd day since Kyiv was supposed to fall according to American intelligence). The train stations are always full of queues of women and children carrying multiple bags, backpacks, some of them with pets; The silver lining is that every institution I can think of, my university, my mom's school, our church, the local supermarket and hotel (you name it), and most importantly the people are doing what they can to help as many of those fleeing from war as possible: accepting refugees, collecting food, medical aid, toys and books. This outpouring of support is unlike anything I've ever seen in my country.

Ukrainian refugees leaving train at Poznań Main Station Humantarian aid post manned by volunteers at Poznań Main Station

left: Ukrainian refugees leaving train at Poznań Main Station (src:; right: Humanitarian aid post manned by volunteers at Poznań Main Station (src:

It's even harder to believe it's already been 19 days since I saw my grandpa. He sent me to the shop for milk and a kilogram of kiełbasa. When I came back I played with Igor, his dog, and then we watched a silly docudrama about cops (of course, he still calls them militsiya instead of police, even though it's been 32 years...).


It's one of his favorite things to watch, along with eye-rolling Steven Seagal movies and CSI: Miami. He was as happy to see me as ever but at the same time he clearly wasn't feeling well. He said his back was hurting really bad and he couldn't sleep at night because of it. I was worried about him but hey, back pain isn't anything unusual when you're over 70; right? He was going to go to the hospital soon for a couple routine check-ups anyway so I was hoping they could see what's wrong then. Right?

17 days since my mom called me to say the results of grandpa's CT came in and it looked like there might be a tumor in his lung. She was worried sick and so were I, but I tried my best to comfort her and pretend I was calm. But I moved on with my everyday business. Because things can't happen this quickly; Right?

15 days since her next phonecall telling me grandpa had numerous cancerous metastases in pretty much every major part of his body. There was no pretending anymore.

14 days since I last talked to grandpa on the phone after he went to the hospital. He sounded a bit odd... later I found out it was because of how much morphine he was on. He told me he was being treated well and that he hoped he would be able to leave soon and tend to his roses. I agreed and broke down in tears as soon as I hung up. I couldn't tell him the truth, at least for the time being, because his heart was in too fragile of a condition according to the doctor.

12 days since I called grandpa again. No answer.

9 days since my birthday. It was an eventless one. Another fruitless attempt at a phonecall.

7 days since the doctor informed my mom that grandpa wasn't responding to treatment and that he would have to be transfered to a hospice.

6 days since he passed away.

2 days since his funeral.

how? why? why did he hide how bad he felt for so long? could I have stayed longer? had 1 more coffee with him? watched 1 more episode of CSI?

2 months since I was supposed to help him clean up his basement. But I always had something more important to do. We always postponed it for the "next weekend"... because there's always going to be a next weekend; Right?

🎵 playing: Przemysław Gintrowski, Jacek Kaczmarski, Zbigniew Łapiński - Modlitwa o wschodzie słońca (A Prayer At Sunrise)
Apr 8th, 2022

Postcrossing I

Recently, I picked up what I think might be a cool new hobby; Back when my brother was in high school (or middle school?) he got into something called Postcrossing. He would get pretty postcards from strangers from countries all around the world and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. At the time however, I guess I also thought the very little birthday/Christmas pocket money I had was better allocated in goods such as chips, gumballs and sour candy.

Image of 'Maczugi', a Polish brand of cheap ketchup-flavoured chips Image of 'gumy kulki', or cheap Polish gumballs Image of 'Center Shock', a type of really sour candy

I haven't really thought about it again for several years until I was reminded about the concept by my friends J. and M. last year, who apparently are very much into postcrossing and/or penpalling. Finally, after procrastinating it for another couple of months, I decided to try it and signed up for an account on the website.

The way Postcrossing works is that when you press "Send a postcard" (and agree to the terms of service), you are randomly assigned a person from another country, their postal address and a unique ID for your postcard. When you write out the postcard, you have to include the ID number (eg. PL-1234567) on it. Once it arrives at its destination, the person registers that they got the card by entering your number on the website, and then it officially shows up in your stats as "Sent". For every postcard you've sent you're eligible to receive one as well, meaning that next up when another random person chooses to send a postcard, your address will be chosen!

I've only been into it for about a month; so far 3 out of the 5 postcards I've sent out have arrived at their destination and I got a little thank you e-mail from each of their recipients :) The cards I've been sending were just your standard tourist ones, from both my hometown and my university city, although I tried my best to give each of them a personal touch with the messages I wrote. Just last week though, I saw a couple of cute cards with pictures of pets and some cool vintage illustrated ones on sale, so I ordered those plus a couple of nice themed stickers, and I'll be writing and sending them out as soon as they ship!

So if you enjoy collecting stuff and travelling the world without leaving your home, do try out Postcrossing! It's absolutely addictive :)

Now, the 1st postcard for me should arrive any time soon and I can't wait :D I'll make sure to share a photo update once I get (and send) a couple more of them.


🎵 playing: Silver Jews - Trains Across The Sea
Feb 21st, 2022

🍓reberrymemberering #2


In March 2006, an ambitious startup was founded by three undergraduates at the University of Florida. One that was to fill a void left in the mainstream between the time of P2P services like Napster and Limewire – and the total domination of streaming giants. Enter Grooveshark.


It all started with Sam Tarantino’s and Andrés Barreto’s vision. Inspired by a trip to a buy-sell-trade CD store, Sam thought taking that concept online could prove to be a potent business model. Brainstorming with their friend Josh led them to gradually add onto this idea and in a process of evolution deviate, or broaden it, from an online buy-sell-trade into a user-driven on-demand music service.

source: Beatniks Records Norwich

Josh Greenberg, Grooveshark’s future CTO, would focus on finding a technological solution to bringing it to fruition by analysing various existing legal music download services such as iTunes and Rhapsody for their pros and cons. From the get go, however, he did not intend for their website to be a direct competitor to those paid services. Grooveshark was supposed to be something different, a „third way", if you will, between P2P music sharing and online music stores. Their direct competitor, as Sam and Josh themselves claimed, were the pirates.

The service’s public beta launch came in September 2007. At that point, the main focus was still on the buy-sell-trade side of the project. The original Grooveshark was a file sharing community which allowed users to freely buy and sell tracks from each other., the website, was a front-end for a downloadable application called Sharkbyte, which scanned through folders selected by the user for music files, compiled them and put them up for download on the user’s profile on the main site.

source: Grooveshark offers P2P music downloads -- but is it legal? | VentureBeat

Why did every website have to be blue back then...

So… How exactly was that any different from the way the buccaneer-infested P2P networks operated? Well, the trick to make it „legal" was in the monetization. Grooveshark operated on a model where every song download costed 99 cents – 70 of which went to the record label and the remaining 29 was split between the uploader and the service itself. Isn’t that genius? Everybody wins! Especially small artists uploading their own music would be able to reach a big audience and get a much bigger cut from it than from any other service at the time or, say, present day streaming services.


That’s in theory. In practice however… the business model’s legality was a murky ground to say the least. First of all, it of course required the consent of the record labels in question. Admirably, the owners were able to sign licensing deals with multiple small-time indie labels. However, none of the Big Four (the main players of the time: Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner) would budge. This, of course, meant that the catalogue of music that could be uploaded to Grooveshark was (again, in theory) extremely limited. But neither Sharkbyte nor Grooveshark had any sort of a „Content ID" system in place that would keep anyone from hosting whatever they pleased, or automatically remove anything from the service upon receiving a copyright strike.

Grooveshark's line of defense by reaffirming that they would work to manually remove any track that receives a DMCA takedown request (which was sluggish and they did not always do it anyway) was not very strong. Looking at it from this perspective, it’s actually curious why the Big Four or the RIAA did not elect to crash down on the company with full force right away. In fact, a couple of years would pass before, unavoidably, the lawsuits would start coming in. The most likely reason for that was that they preferred to wait around a bit and see what happens with the sales model; perhaps it could actually turn out to be profitable for them? Or maybe they thought it wise to let them work up a small fortune before they could hit them with a heftier suit...?


For the time being, however, Grooveshark thrived. In fact, the service was doing so well that Tarantino and Greenberg, 21 at the time, were listed as 2008 finalists in Bloomberg BusinessWeek’s “America’s Best Young Entrepreneurs".

source: BusinessWeek

In April of that year, a Flash media player called Grooveshark Lite was added to the front-end, which allowed for users to stream songs directly on the site without downloading the song files or the Sharkbyte app altogether. An important aspect of it was that it would also autoplay recommended tracks according to an algorithm, which was a totally fresh concept at the time.

Things were looking up, as the streaming functionality caused the website’s popularity to skyrocket and became the main focus, as opposed to the earlier paid download model. The service would now generate revenue off visual ads embedded in the free version and allow users to remove them with a $3 monthly payment. Not bad for practically unlimited access to music streaming. Another crucial feature added soon after in 2009 was the Grooveshark Artists platform which allowed free access to data analytics for those whose music was being streamed on the site, reaffirming the company’s focus on artist-friendliness and boosting its public image even further.

source: EMI Drops Suit Against Grooveshark (...), Licenses It Instead | WIRED

Eventually, a bump was bound to appear on the road; a sizeable bump, in the form of EMI Group, the London-based fourth largest record label conglomerate in the world. In June 2009, a breakdown in licensing talks between the two caused the major to pursue legal proceedings as a means of intimidating the small fry into submission (at least that’s Grooveshark’s version of the events). The lawsuit alleged copyright infringement, against which Grooveshark would defend by underlining that they were merely a music seeking, recommendation and sharing service, but by no means a file host – a common strategy for similar companies of that era, which sadly just wouldn’t fly today.

However, a mere few months later in October, the lawsuit was dropped altogether in favour of a licensing deal – a vital first for Grooveshark’s efforts to convince the Big Four to allow it to exist. To put in perspective how big of a deal this was, keep in mind that EMI’s rights catalogue boasted, among others, legends such as The Beatles, Sex Pistols, Frank Sinatra, Iron Maiden, Depeche Mode, Kate Bush or the Pet Shop Boys.


Oi bruv, you really thought we were gonna let you get away with that, didn't ya?

With the rights to EMI’s music secured and licensing talks with the other three moguls underway, Grooveshark seemed to be back on track to become the premier music streaming service in the world, well ahead of the then Europe-exclusive Swedish startup Spotify.


Riding on the wave of success, the company introduced another huge revamp of the site, modernizing its layout, expanding its social functionality and emphasizing the powerful search engine.


Buh-bye blue, hello orange

It was now easier than ever to discover music, share your playlists with friends and interact with theirs. Perhaps… too easy. So another lawsuit came their way in early 2010, this time courtesy of Universal Music Group, with whom the licensing negotiations didn’t go over smoothly either. The lawsuit alleged that Grooveshark maintained illegal copies of UMG’s pre-1972 catalogue. In perhaps their greatest judiciary feat, they were able to beat those allegations in July 2012 when a NY State Supreme Court Judge ruled that pre-1972 licenses were covered by a “safe harbor" provision in the DMCA.


The early 2010s were a time when the great switch from feature phones to smartphones was starting to pick up pace and in seeing that, Grooveshark released an official app in both the iOS App Store and Android Market. However, under strong pressure from Universal, the iOS app was pulled from the store after only a few days.

Less than a year later the Android app was taken down as well, following another lawsuit from UMG, this time one that alleged Grooveshark’s direct culpability in uploading over 100,000 illegal copies of UMG-owned recordings. UMG requested a whopping $150,000 penalty per song, which amounted to an estimated… $17.1 billion. Dark clouds were truly starting to gather over the website (especially since one of the accusers was the bane of all copyright infringers – none other than King Crimson founder Robert Fripp).

source: left:; right: Strefa Music Art @ facebook

Seeing ahead of the curve though, Grooveshark rewrote their entire website and streaming service front-end in HTML5, effectively nullifying both Apple’s and Google’s decisions by allowing all mobile users to use their site nonetheless.

With the new UMG lawsuit still above their heads, the legal costs forced the company to downsize. In spite of that, the numbers it was pulling were enough to not only keep it afloat well through the early 2010s but even allow Grooveshark to still innovate with new features (such as the Broadcast functionality or customizable profile themes) and to organize exclusive recording sessions with indie artists.

At the height of its popularity the website streamed well over 1 billion sound files per month, contained tens of millions of songs and had around 40 million users, broadcasting their own radio-style playlist channels and socializing in a rich-featured Community section. But it was also at that moment that the music industry finally decided to go guns blazing...

First, EMI dropped their license agreement in January 2012 and sued Grooveshark over non-payment of royalties.

Later that year, Facebook removed their application page due to a copyright infringement complaint. Then, in 2013, the NY Supreme Court of Appeals reversed the 2012 decision in the pre-1972 catalogue lawsuit from UMG, saying that the licenses were in fact not covered by the DMCA.

And hammering the final nail in Grooveshark’s coffin in September 2014 was the court’s decision in favor of the record companies in the big lawsuit demanding billions in penalty fees; with damages yet undetermined.

On April 30, 2015, it was announced that Grooveshark would be shutting down completely, effective immediately. The intellectual property, service and website would be transferred to the labels as part of a settlement between the company and Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group (EMI was at that point defunct and absorbed by the aforementioned 3 companies, the Big Four no more).

source: Music streaming site Grooveshark shut down |

Thus, the 8 year long run of what was perhaps the best-UX music streaming service to date, was abruptly ended. Had their ambitions not been set too high, had their licensing negotiations not fallen through – who knows? Perhaps they’d be the household names of streaming to this day instead of Spotify? But at that point, after living in the shadow of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit for several years... the outcome must’ve pushed a massive sigh of relief out of Tarantino and Greenberg.



Josh Greenberg was found dead in bed by his girlfriend on July 19, 2015 in their shared home in Gainesville, Florida. He was in full health at the time of death, but the possibility of suicide or foul play was rejected by both the authorities and his family and friends, citing Josh’s relief about the settlement and autopsy results.

On April 18, 2016, Greenberg was honoured in a small celebration, the first annual Josh Greenberg Day, at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce on University Avenue. The event was held one day after what would have been his 29th birthday.


Sam Tarantino went on to found Chromatic FM, a "social radio discovery platform for listening to music broadcasted by music lovers in real time". Currently, he is the CEO of Auguron Systems, a provider of end-to-end encrypted, distributed Web based cloud storage.


Sources and further reading:

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Feb 17th, 2022

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