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Permanent link to archive for Thursday, July 13, 2000. Thursday, July 13, 2000

Pointers for the day 

Jimmy Cliff: The Harder They Come.

TheStreet: Content lives to see the end of its heyday. "Did payroll go through? Great. Got to get back to our booth."

Dartmouth.Edu is a Frontier site. (More info here.)

US Senate: Witness List for Tuesday's hearing.

BBC: "Chart-topping band The Corrs have joined the international campaign to outlaw music piracy on the internet."

Alphanumerica: On Friday August 18th, Alphanumerica and are sponsoring the Second Mozilla Developer Meeting at Netscape's campus in Mountain View.

Wired: Ballmer Bombs on Keynote.

O'Reilly interviews the editor of FuckedCompany.Com.

News.Com: Oracle's Inside Story. "I asked him if he wanted me to leave," Lane said in a series of interviews with CNET this week.

News.Com: Recording industry calls Napster defense "baseless". "The brief reiterates the industry's appeal to the court to pull all major-label content off Napster while the two sides move into what could be a lengthy trial. That would effectively close Napster's digital doors for months, an eventuality the young company is desperately trying to avoid."

I sent an email to Senators Hatch and Leahy tonight.

Earth to Dave 

A feature in Napster I never noticed.

First, search for an artist you like. Sort by user. Find a user with lots of songs in the search results. Select one of the songs. (Screen shot.)

Click on Add User to Hotlist, in the lower-right corner of the search window. Click on the Hot List tab. Click on the user. Voila, a list of all the songs that user likes. (Screen shot.)

Primitive collaborative filtering, primitive browsing. Should be quite powerful.

Are there any other key features I'm missing?

Gene Kan 

The Gnutella developer talks about distributed profiteering, an idea that becomes clear from browsing member collections as described above. Each music collection is the starting point for a whole Web, with discussions, lyrics, pointers to other sites, more music, and who knows what. Each of these sites acts as a distributor, and why not put some money into the mix, flowing it back down the chain to the originating artists. His verbal testimony on Tuesday was not that clear, so I just spoke with him on the phone to verify that I understood the idea. Interesting.

PS: I got another email from Gene today!

Hatch on music 

Washington Post: Senators threaten to force music licensing.

Inside.Com watched Tuesday's Senate testimony too, and heard Utah Senator Orrin Hatch lecture the music industry on their attempt to control music on the Internet.

"Chairman Hatch threatened -- in surprisingly direct terms -- to force the music labels and publishers, by legislation, to make their content digitally available for a standard fee if the record business continued to ensnarl e-music with lawsuits."


eMusic, wipe that grin off your face 

Also testifying was eMusic CEO, Gene Hoffman.

What a character! He speaks like a radio announcer, a little Rush Limbaugh-ish, and at first I was right there with him, then he started talking some VC-speak, and I had no idea what he was saying. Then it got even worse, he started trashing Napster.

The MP3.Com guy did it right. Yes it must piss him off that Napster did what he didn't dare, and for now at least, is getting away with it, swamping his efforts to work with the music industry, and drawing all the attention his honorable efforts didn't. The difference is that eMusic's Hoffman took some cheap shots at Napster (don't remember what they were) and in doing this, he's making the same mistake that the music industry is making.

As product and service developers, we all must understand the users' point of view, and be in harmony with it. If we lose Napster it's going to be bad, for eMusic too. There's a market developing here, understand the market, and be part of it, serve it. It must be tempting to focus too much energy on Napster, but don't let that get in the way of connecting with the users, Napster's too.

(How many eMusic users also use Napster?)

To his credit, Hoffman was concise and convincing in explaining the new technology. He travels with his entire music collection on a small hard drive. I want to do that too!

Metallica could make history 

Hatch asked Metallica's Lars Ulrich if he had a plan for making his music available on the Internet. He had no plan. That's half the story. Now, how long should the users wait? The users waited quite a long time. That's the other half of the story.

I've thought about the questions some have asked about Frontier, and I have an answer. If a Napster-like system for software developed, and it included everyone else's software, you're damned right I would want Frontier included.

In other words, if I were Ulrich, I'd set up a server at Exodus or AboveNet and load every Metallica song onto its hard disk. I'd put a copy of Napster on the machine, log on, and let the magic happen.

Business model for Salon 

As you know I've been thinking about future business models for high integrity Web publications like Salon.

I'm intrigued, it's a puzzle, using Salon as a case study is helping me chart the next steps for UserLand.

I see the Web as an integrated application, of people. We have writers, nerds and music lovers here at UserLand. Same at Salon, but in different quantity and proportion, with different focus.

I see the Web playing an important supporting role in the evolution of music-on-the-Internet. In the Dr Dobbs interview (below) I said that music is the next most compelling application, that we'll spend the rest of our careers exploring it, it's so big.

How will the Web contribute? It's already doing it. For every song on Napster, there's a page you can find with Google that has the lyrics. The Web is pretty complete now, as Napster's database is. It's surprising that in the rage over MP3, we're overlooking that a couple of years ago it was considered controversial to share lyrics on the Web.

But the Web can do more, and therein lies the business model. There's a new explosion in software tools and hardware coming, it's quite fluid right now, the emails I'm getting on new product teams forming to create portable players and software is incredible. I have trouble wrapping my mind around all this, but I totally love it. Keep those ideas flowing.

We need places to share our ideas openly, and we will have them, but we also need integrity and a good name to hang the new ideas on. As we discuss new products, we'll gather communities of people interested in those products, and when they're available, we'll buy them. Let's ask users to reconsider some premises about the freeness of software, as we debate the freeness of music. Why should software be free? Think about it. It probably shouldn't.

We've really gummed up the feedback loop between users and developers, adding lots of mindless publicists, icons, lawyers, VCs, and then (lost somewhere in space) software developers. We have the opportunity to collapse out all the middlemen. Users and developers, connected, one and the same, money flows one way, joy flows the other. This is nirvana.

Clearly, ultimately we're going to realize that we must always pay for our music, at the same time, let's reform the software industry in the other direction, let's have money flow to software artists as it does to musical artists. No more working for free, for software too.

So where is the business model for a high integrity publication like Salon? First, they keep doing what they do so well, keeping their eyes and ears open for the next big thing, and they do something new, when something huge like music on the Internet comes along, start new publications, work with vendors (like Napster) to first organize their user community, forming a farm system, and take the best of what they produce and make it a centerpiece of the market.

As money shows up in the market, sell the products to the users, with the necessary separation of publishing and editorial function. Latch onto anything with growth that is exciting. The bet is that the Internet will produce many of these rushes over the coming years, and that being in position to study and report on them is where the value is.

I have more thinking and writing to do here. Thanks, as usual, for listening.

PS to Napster 

If it shakes out this way, then Napster can answer the persistent How Do You Make Money? question.

Charge money for the software and charge a monthly fee for access to the servers.

Keep it simple.

Interviews, past, present, future 

Irish Times: "'It's totally OK to be a chief executive and a writer,' says Mr Winer, whose daily, often deeply influential DaveNet and Scripting News columns have tens of thousands of readers and subscribers, including many of the technology industry's leading figures and pundits."

My comments on the interview, 6/17/00.

Yesterday afternoon I did a 40-minute radio interview with Dr Dobbs Technetcast. Next week they'll interview Brian Behlendorf, Andy Hertzfeld, Paul Everitt, and Tim O'Reilly. Requires RealAudio.

I also was interviewed by Business Week yesterday on the prospects for Mac OS X. As Karlin says in the Irish Times, I told them what I think and it was all on the record. Net-net, Apple bit off a big one, I wish they had embraced Linux, user interface migration is the hardest problem, esp with an installed base that's tuned into UI, but the company is healthy, they have the time to get it right.

The reporter, Peter Burrows, who I had talked with for many years while I was a Mac-only developer, and he was covering Apple, said their coverage of Apple had dried up because his sources either left or refused to talk.


Last update: Thursday, July 13, 2000 at 9:55 PM Eastern.

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