It’s a little bit of software that, once running on your computer, continually and invisibly uploads details of what MP3s you’re listening to (a little too invisibly actually; the only way I can tell if it’s running is to look at the current processes). You end up with a page of your own — here’s mine — listing your most recent tracks, most played artists and most played songs (which will obviously require a fair amount of listening to build up meaningful numbers).
The best bit, however, is that everything’s clickable. Click a song name to find out which users have listened to it most. Click an artist name to see their most played songs and biggest fans. Click a user name to see what they play most..
The copious overall charts and stats and forums are nothing compared to all the linkage. The point is, it’s kind of a social networking tool without really trying. With music as the social lubricant, you have something by which to gauge other people. Never mind those dumb lists of ‘My Favourite Music’ that Friendster et al suggest you populate. You can see which bands someone actually listens to. After browsing to, say, mechajesus’s page, I’m almost interested in getting in touch simply because we share lots of tastes and he also listens to things I’ve never heard of. For anyone who’s all High Fidelity-esque about judging people by their musical tastes (and, let’s face it, you can’t take anyone seriously who isn’t), this is like the proverbial crack cocaine. Well, maybe if you could just download an MP3 with a click… then I’d have problems leaving my computer to take care of essential bodily functions.
In fact, one problem with the site could be that it tries to do too much automatically… eventually they hope to populate my ‘network’ page with people who have similar tastes to me. I’d certainly be intrigued, but currently there’s no way for me to manually add someone to my ‘network’. Just having a way of internally bookmarking someone would be handy. Why automate something I can do better myself (as Clay has said somewhere I can’t find)? But, quibbles, and maybe the Group functions will answer some of this manual aspect. It’s a fun site/service in the same way as all those social networking things, but you don’t have to decide who is or isn’t your friend. You just have to listen to music.