Over the weekend I rediscovered Flickr. For those of you who don’t know, Flickr is like a repository for photos. Users can upload their own photos onto the site and share them with everyone or designate them for friends and family if they desire. There are also alot of photo groups dedicated to the photography of a particular topic. I haven’t looked to see if there’s a sea turtle group or a skyline group, but odds are that they exist.
Sites like Flickr are great. They can help enhance the quality of our lives by enabling us to share our memories with other people. They also provide a platform to meet new people with similar interests. And although these technologies can be used for evil (there have got to be tons of stalkers on Myspace), the good purposes usually prevail.
Which is why I’m so conflicted about Last.fm. Last.fm is like Flickr, but for music. Using plugins for media players, Last.FM can track what a user has been listening to and list the statistics. Want to know what artist you’ve listened to the most in the past 7 days? Last.fm can tell you. Which Orbital track do Last.FM users listen to most? As of this writing, P.E.T.R.O.L. Want to be part of a community that has members that listen to the same unpopular and obscure music you do? It’s got that, too.
There are pros and cons to this.
Pro: The potential of this site can provide us with the MOST ACCURATE and UP TO DATE charts we’ve ever seen. Because of the REAL-TIME stat tracking I can get a recommended list of other artists that I may also like. This is great! This is likely done by merging all the data on the site together to see what other people with similar tastes in music listen to. I can see what other people are listening to. They can see what I listen to as well!
Con: OTHER PEOPLE CAN SEE WHAT I’M LISTENING TO!!!
It’s not really the people I’m afraid of, it’s the companies. I do not want Last.FM to turn into some huge music marketing haven. I don’t want to log onto the site and get intrusive popups like “We noticed that you like Death Cab For Cutie! Here’s another WHINY BAND for you to buy from our major label! Limited Time ONLY!” all over the place.
On the other hand, it’d be great if a site like Last.FM can turn that kind of thinking around. If, for some miraculous reason, it stays unobtrusive and community oriented like it is now, then I don’t see how that would do anything but help the recorded music industry. It could be like the record store downtown where you can hang out, listen to tunes and discover new music.
And that’s cool…because that record store never existed for me.