Last.fm is a really clever idea. You install a plug-in for your media player, that automatically uploads a list of songs you’ve listened to. Based on your preferences, the music you’ve listened to and other users preferences, the service can make recommendations for you, for instance, based on similarity.
Quote from the Last.fm website:
Last.fm is a music engine based on a massive collection of Music Profiles. Each music profile belongs to one person, and describes their taste in music. Last.fm uses these music profiles to make personalized recommendations, match you up with people who like similar music, and generate custom radio stations for each person.
The service can also generate a custom radio station, again based on preferences, that can be listened to using the Last.fm Player. The Player can, for instance, be set up to play music that is similar to a certain artist. The Player can be downloaded once you’ve signed up for the service.
The really clever bit, is that the Player and the plug-in are integrated with your personal Last.fm page, and the list of tracks you’ve listened to are updated right after you’ve listened to a track.
Check out my personal Last.fm page.
I’m a bit worried about the plug-in, since it tastes like spy-ware – the whole concept is somewhat Big Brotherish – but the Player does work quite well, and has a nice simple interface with only 5 buttons. The Last.fm Player is a bit like having an online version of the iPod shuffle.
But the really cool thing is the community aspect of the service.
The service will automatically generate a list of neighbours – e.g. users with profiles/preferences/taste that are similar to yours – once you’ve listened to enough tracks, for the service to make qualified recommendations. The FAQ states that this will happen, after you’ve listened to approximately 300 tracks.
I also like the links to the artist pages, where you can buy albums by the artist, link to Wikipedia articles and artist homepages. And the amount of amusing statistics that can be generated from the listening habits of the users are really impressive, for instance the statistics page for Denmark.
All pages can be reached through nice permalinks, much like Wikipedia articles, for instance: http://www.last.fm/music/Bruce+Springsteen
I expect to see similar features find their way into iTunes, as a matter of fact it’s strange that they’re not there already, since iTunes must be the most widespread “rich” Internet client on the market.
I suppose that Apple has stayed away from implementing similar features in iTunes, because of the possibility of being accused of putting the privacy of iTunes users at risk. I must admit that I was a bit worried about installing the Last.fm iTunes plug-in, for the same reason.
The Last.fm Player is OpenSource, so it should be possible to unmask, if it has any nasty spy-ware tricks up it’s sleeves. I’ve started using the service, and I’ll keep you posted.