🍓reberrymemberering #2

Grooveshark

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 .

source: grooveshark.com/about

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. Grooveshark.com, 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.

source: grooveshark.com/about

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...?

source: grooveshark.com/about

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.

source: rokkers.com.mx

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.

source: ichi.pro

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.

source: thenextweb.com

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.

source: grooveshark.com/about

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: phandroid.com; 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 | rte.ie

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.


---

source: nydailynews.com

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.

source: angel.co/p/samtarantino

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.


-wilton


Sources and further reading:




🎵 playing: Röyksopp – What Else Is There?
Feb 17th, 2022

Not My Birthday 🤨

The most unexpected thing happened to me yesterday and it served to remind me how much I love my friends.

At the end of last week, I tested positive for COVID, so I've been stuck in isolation at home with my parents for a week now, unable to smell even the most intense garlic sauce on my pizza (surprisingly my sense of taste is entirely intact though). Unfortunately this ruined some cool plans... A good friend of mine, J.'s birthday was on the 8th and we got her a cool plant and an imported Monster flavour (guess you could say she's a collector).

Aglaonema spotted star, the cool plant in question

We were supposed to throw her a surprise party on Friday along with 2 other friends and give her the gifts then. They were able to go through with the plan, but needless to say, I couldn't make it. So I was feeling a little down, knowing we don't get an opportunity to see each other that often and probably won't again for a while, due to work and uni... But while I was sitting in my room making my eyes rot from online overexposure I got a message at 10 p.m., from S.: hope you're not asleep. I replied with a nah, thinking they probably just wanted to call me from the party or something, which honestly I wasn't feeling super hyped about.

But not too long has passed before I heard someone calling my name outside. Putting 2 and 2 together, I put a mask on and went to the balcony to see them. It's hard to describe how nice it felt of them to come down to my place just for us to see each other for a moment, even from a distance. All 3 of them were there: J., S. and M.; I wished J. a happy birthday and we chatted for a while. I saw that they were holding bags but I assumed those to be the gifts for J. and maybe leftover food.

But then they wished me a happy birthday too and J. walked up to the balcony and reached out with one of the bags (for the record - I live on the ground floor). Now, it's probably worth mentioning my birthday isn't even in more than a month; So I wasn't sure whether it was a joke or they got their calendar mixed up, but I reached over for the bag and was pretty damn surprised by how heavy it was.

- Just don't drop this on my head...

This is lowkey how it felt, sans the hot pitch, arrows and crusaders

No doubt... I wasn't really feeling like having the blood of a friend's on my hands at that moment so I made sure to put every single puny muscle to use while lifting that shipment of cement or dumbbells or whatever it was up.

When I opened the bag and reached inside it, I couldn't help but let my incredible oratory skills take over:

- Yooo... Yoooo what the fuck!!!

It was a goddamn boxset of the 6 original Dune Chronicles books! A boxset I saw in a bookshop a couple weeks back and drooled at how awesome it looked but thought I'd probably never get it! So many thoughts... Why did they get me a gift this good for my birthday!!! What did I do to deserve this!!! AND IT WASN'T EVEN MY BIRTHDAY!!!!!

But that wasn't even all. They also gave me (half) a Silent Hill-themed cake!!! What!? With a frickin Pyramidhead on top!

Promised myself never to be a soyjak, but c'mon, at this point it was impossible not to at that stuff

I was so shocked at how too good to be true this whole situation seemed (plus, again, it wasn't my birthday) that I probably couldn't even accurately express how overjoyed I was, but I did thank them about 29 times. Apparently, the party which I blew was supposed to be a two-way surprise for J. and me, since we probably wouldn't be able to schedule another one in late March. M.'s mom even made a split cake (a Monster-themed half for J. and the SH-themed half for me).

I don't want this to sound like expensive gifts are what matters in friendship, but words just cannot express how thankful I am to have friends this amazing, to go out of their way to specifically find something I'll love and bring it to me despite the whole COVID scare... It made an otherwise shitty week one of the best in a while and I absolutely can't wait for an opportunity to hang out with them in normal circumstances and make it up to them somehow!

Oh, and apparently Pyramidhead is a lot sweeter in person than Team Silent would have you believe.

-wilton


PS - I'm currently working on the next reberrymemberering article, which will be about Grooveshark. I'm mostly done gathering material so stay tuned :)




🎵 playing: Akira Yamaoka – The Reverse Will
Feb 12th, 2022

B.U.M.P.

Yep... it sure is a new year. Been for quite a while now, actually. I finally got around to restoring the background music on /dreams.html, which stopped working when Vocaroo started returning a 403 Forbidden when you try to directly stream a file from their site :/ Also copied a new/old entry from last October from the dream journal on my phone while at it.

I've been pretty busy with uni work lately, as the semester's coming to a close; but before it got all hectic I started working on a little project that's brought me a lot of fun so far. It's a silly Half-Life 2 fandub with some random retexturing thrown into the mix, which basically aims to make HL2 an Average Day in Poland Simulator (as if the original wasn't close enough already).

Other minuscule tweaks I've made to the site include adding ARandomSite's button and fixing a certain inconsistency between pages 1 and 2 of index.html (yep... the pagination is handmade because I only keep up appearances of having a functioning website, without really knowing how to do any coding whatsoever lol).

Stay tuned for more substantial posts in the near future as I aim to update the website on a semi-regular basis from now on... I even wrote up a neat little schedule that I've already missed at least 3 deadlines on. Welp. Next entries in the reberrymemberering series which will chronicle now-defunct or obsolete websites that used to be near and dear to me are the first priority!

Hope you'll like em once they drop, and in the meantime, have a nice day/night and keep the grind up out there, dear reader B)

-wilton




🎵 playing: The Smile - You Will Never Work In Television Again
Jan 23rd, 2022

Update

Every now and then, upon refreshing the page, you'll see one of a couple different easter eggs in the header ;)

-wilton




🎵 playing: nuffin rn
Sep 27th, 2021

🍓reberrymemberering #1

OMGPOP (f.k.a. Iminlikewithyou)

Iminlikewithyou.com was founded in Manhattan, in 2006, by Charles Forman and Dan Albritton. It was one of the many so-called Web 2.0 startups that were all the craze at the time.

source: gigaom.com

Their website launched in 2007, originally a concept dating network built around the premise of 'auctions' where suitors (dudes) could use special points to bid for their desired partners (chicks). How ostensibly mid-noughties... It was also equipped with a messaging and anonymous calling service and most of the usual features you'd expect from a social network, not unlike some other Myspace/Facebook wannabes of that era.

A curious project at the time, perhaps, but nothing too amazing. As the invite-only service wasn't shaping up to be a giant success from the get go, the owners would work on a strategy to make it moreso.

In late 2007, a large update was launched, adding numerous features such as a news column, a rich, overhauled chat and comment system, increased customization and privacy controls; all packed in a new UI that looks fairly impressive to this day. Thus, an interesting aesthetic style that the website's many iterations stuck to was established.

source: M A N D A @ flickr

But what i'minlikewithyou would truly become a widespread phenomenon for, was yet to surface.

As the now-public website's popularity slowly grew, its target demographic was shaping up to be young adults and teenagers of the (then) new 'Facebook era'. The update, which introduced a seamless Flash experience, had laid groundwork for the next big thing to reel them in... Games. Eventually, their in-house-developed titles such as Draw My Thing, Jigsawce, Balloono or Dinglepop brought hundreds of thousands of weekly players to iminlikewithyou. The dating/auction functionality's importance gradually waned in favour of the socializing/casual gaming aspect of the experience. With the addition of leaderboards, items, microtransactions and numerous social features alongside the games, iilwy became the perfect environment to drown hours in for (mostly) young people around the globe.

This led to iilwy transitioning into a full-time casual multiplayer Flash game studio in order to keep adding new exciting titles to their roster.

But with the new focus set far away from flirting, the startup's unwieldy name became something of a baggage for i'minlikewithyou. With the election of a new CEO came a new name, one that may be more familiar to most nowadays:

,

which proved to be both easier to type and popular with the kids, apparently - further fueling the website's growth.

Screenshots from Hover Kart Racing and Draw My Thing, my favourite games on OMGPOP :D

For me, circa 2011-2013, OMGPOP was one of the best places to hang out for hundreds of hours with my friends from Sploder, playing Hover Kart Racing or Hover Kart Battle and Draw My Thing, all while talking on Tinychat.

In 2012 Draw My Thing was rehauled and made into a standalone app, rechristened "Draw Something". The game quickly became OMGPOP's biggest hit to date with tens of millions of downloads and attracted new, tempting business offers...

And that's the year the company was acquired by Zynga, the casual gaming giant best known for Facebook's Farmsville, for a whopping 210 million dollars.

As you may expect, it's also where the trouble began.

Zynga bought out OMGPOP at the height of its success, but constant clashes between the parent company and OMGPOP's staff, Zynga's own financial troubles and dissatisfaction with OMGPOP's ad-less, microtransaction-fueled business model's low profit margins led to the website being permanently shut down in June 2013, no more than a year after the acquisition. Not only that, but, disgustingly, the news of the shut down were only passed on to the employees through social media...

An attempt was made by ex-employees to buy back the company from Zynga following their own bankruptcy, unsuccesfully. Further efforts to revive the site would later be made by fans (and perhaps ex-employees?) more than once, the latest one being a clone called MOBCPOP; An admirable and inspiring effort, albeit lacking many of the original games and most functionality.


OMGPOP had the best live casual multiplayer UI and social infrastructure I've seen to date and its loss is symptomatic of this sad downgrade of online life we've all been subjected to since the optimistic times of Web 2.0; Can we really never get anything nearly as good again...? Or is this just my nostalgia talkin'?

Either way - here's to you, OMGPOP Panda.

-wilton




🎵 playing: Drop Nineteens - Reberrymemberer
Sep 22nd, 2021


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