last.fm’s rise to fame

By on Sunday, 5th August 2007 at 8:12 pm
 

last.fm logolast.fm is just my favourite sort of company. It’s a new-ish, young, hip technology company that uses social networking to find new music for people. Just about all my favourite topics. (Yes, how geeky, I know!)

I’ve been using last.fm since December 2003, making me distinctly older hat than a lot of members. For an explanation of the site, Wikipedia is our biggest help to explain it simply:

“Last.fm builds a detailed profile of each user’s musical taste by recording details of all the songs the user listens to, either on the streamed radio stations or on the user’s own computer or iPod. This information is transferred to Last.fm’s database (“Scrobbled”) via a plugin installed into the users’ music player. The profile data is displayed on a personal web page.”

Since their early start back in 2002, the folks behind Audioscrobbler (the technical backend) and last.fm (the pretty, social networking front end) have worked tirelessly (even camping out on the roof of their offices when money was so low that they couldn’t afford accommodation). They only completely merged in 2005, and their growing popularity often caused database overloads, with close to 10 million tracks being “scrobbled” each day.

last.fm screenshotTheir original roots had the site as a simple way to show your listening tastes on screen, and use the last.fm radio to listen to new bands their recommendation engine believed that you’d like. Since merging the two sites both the forward-looking social networking crowd and the geeky graph lovers have praised their innovative site.

This year they’ve gone from strength to strength, thanks in part to the explosive growth of social networking sites like Myspace and facebook (their facebook widget is one of the most popular new facebook applications). The mainstream British press has (in part) jumped on board, with the Guardian heralding it as one of the top 10 UK dotcoms to watch. Big agreements with the likes of Sony BMG that are mutually beneficial have helped grow the site, and finally their sale to US conglomerate CBS has meant that they’re right up there with the main web 2.0 players.

Thanks to staying true to their roots (the founders have committed to keeping their multi-nationality workforce in London for the future), and maintaining their sense of humour (their staff page makes for some amusing reading. Notice The Hoff at the bottom…). last.fm is one of my favourite companies of recent years – granted, they haven’t got the ethics commitments of Howies or Innocent, but they are pioneers in their area, and completely unique.

For more reading, there’s an interview with the founders over at Media Guardian.

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