hit, git and split

In Rolling Stone’s current piece on the best music blogs of 2008 (update: link corrected), three out of the four winners which do MP3s are using Yahoo! Media Player. That’s a pretty good score, and it shows that the media player has found a place in the world. I feel great. It’s like seeing your kid graduate from college and get a decent job. To see that the software has grown up, or at least reached its decadent 20s, means the completion of a long project.

Early work on the software now known as Yahoo! Media Player began in fall of 2004 as version 2.0 of Webjay. My vision was to move outwards from Webjay’s centralized form, and rather than have a site for authoring playlists have any old web authoring tool on any old site be able to create playlists using HTML. The difference would be ease of use — rather than go to Webjay, it would come to you. When Webjay got acquired by Yahoo! this unreleased software was picked up and began a new life as a project codenamed “goose.” During my first year at Yahoo!, while Webjay proper was going down, the new version was coming up, and right around the same time that we officially shuttered webjay.org we also bootstrapped a good development team for goose.

The first goose release went live on July 31, 2007 in the most modest way I could arrange — as a player for 30 second samples in an easter egg page within Yahoo!’s massively trafficked music site. The power of an AJAX-based player was evident in a subtle way, though, in that it supported Yahoo’s subscription service in off-the-shelf Internet Explorer on Windows. The subscription service wasn’t an impressive product, but the underlying code was truly hair-raising and couldn’t have been done with a traditional Flash MP3 player.

The next major iteration was in January of 2008, when we released a version of the player which could handle third-party content and run in third-party pages. It was a dramatically more open piece of work and we got great buzz right out of the gate, with articles all over blogdom and a warm reception from users. From there we picked up the pace on the release schedule quite a lot, turning the crank on a new rev a month later. Along with user interface changes based on feedback, we introduced the ability to open XSPF playlists that weren’t available to straight AJAX or Flash apps, as well as an integrated screen scraper that could turn almost any page on the web into a playlist just by linking to it. A month later we did the last rev of the first version of the player. This had many fit and finish improvements, auto-attribution for MP3 hosts being deep-linked, a buy button with an affiliate program for web publishers, and a “Find in page” button to help you associate a track with the place in the page that it came from. The first major version was complete. We went into quiet mode to work on version 2.0, which will be out in alpha form very soon and will have significant improvements.

And with that, my part in this is done. There is an excellent team to run the show, the product has good support on the business side of Yahoo!, there is a healthy user and developer community, and the software has good market share. It’s time for me to let go and move on, and so today is my last official day at Yahoo!

I don’t know exactly what I’ll do next, though I do have general ideas about areas to explore. What I do know is that tomorrow morning I’ll sit down to start work on whatever comes next.

Thanks for everything, y’all. See you on the flip side.