Monthly Archives: June 2009

Unite is not Sucky Apache

Apache runs CGI scripts that do HTTP GETs, and those GETs don’t have the same power as clients that Opera does. For example, if a PHP script fetches a remote web page, it can’t execute Javascript that it finds. But that doesn’t mean it’s dumb for PHP to be able to do fetches, it just means that fetches have a different purpose in that context.

I bring this up to defend Opera Unite from what I see as unfair charges that it’s bad at file sharing, because I think it’s not designed for file sharing.

What is it? An incredibly potent extension to the toolkit of web apps, allowing them to do hacks which were fundamentally impossible in the past. For example, they could do interframe communications using RESTful interactions, by bouncing them off a local server. And they can receive asynchronous notifications! That’s a big deal.

Of course Opera Unite is sucky at doing the kinds of things that traditional web servers and file sharing tools excel at: it’s running inside a web page. Nothing you or the Opera people could do to fortify it would change the basic deal that it’s a daemon in a highly unstable operating environment. Uploading big files doesn’t make a lot of sense if the page the server is in is likely to disappear at any moment. On the other hand, uploading little things like RSS files and CVS diffs can pack a big punch.

music implications of the Opera announcement

Having web browsers act as personal web servers is a simple and profound technique that will have a big impact on internet music if it becomes common.

One of the major things this makes possible is for web apps to access your own MP3s. So the MP3 is on disk, and is managed by the OS and filesystem, but the software is any web page. This would create very healthy competition among MP3 software, ultimately upping the quality of all player software.

Another big app that this makes possible is HTML pages inside of ZIP files, which is something you’d do if you were using ZIP as an ad-hoc digital packaging scheme. It’s completely possible to use such a file to spread a virus. A clean way to block that attack method is to open the HTML page not via the filesystem but instead via a local web server.

The Opera demos include an app for listening to MP3s on your private PC from a remote location. I don’t think this will be a standard way to listen to music in the long run. You’re not going to keep a web page open all the time, that’s just not how people use the browser. Also, the network connection upstream from your house is too unreliable, and most client OSes are too flaky.

Update: some ideas for hacks

Get asynchronous notifications in web apps, like this:

  1. AJAX app sends URL of local server to remote server
  2. AJAX app polls local server
  3. Remote server eventually POSTS event notification to local server

Why can’t the AJAX app poll the remote server? Either it’s too resource-intensive, because the polling loop is on such a short timer, or it’s too slow, because the timer has been loosened to reduce resource usage.

Another thing you could do is communicate between pages on the same localhost. So for example you have a mail app open in one page and a music app open in another. They could bounce communications across the local server.

Another thing you could do is store remote data on the local machine without inventing a non-RESTful protocol.


Brett said, in a comment in the “media apocalypse” thread

People still watch lots of television. … Whenever I read that “everyone” has an ipod or “nobody” listens to the radio anymore, I take that with a grain of salt. It’s easy to become myopic and forget that there’s a world out there of people who actually lost their television service in the digital conversion because they don’t have cable, or who drive all day and leave the radio on. Some people even still read newspapers!

Logically, I can’t see how to refute the case that newspaper, tv, radio, and records are going down like Jabba the Hut in a hang glider. Except to say that these are huge enterprises and they don’t just go poof. Maybe the most elegant prediction of the future is the one that says all media will follow the business patterns established with blogs, social networks, web aggregators, and search engines. But the world isn’t obligated to be elegant.

I expect to be surprised, I guess. I have a gut feeling that all the value created by the labor it takes to do old media will still be needed, and just as many people as before will be making a living. But I can’t see how that will happen.

It’s a cliffhanger.

media apocalypse

Henry Blodget feels that television is so fucking fucked:

As with print-based media, Internet-based distribution generates only a tiny fraction of the revenue and profit that today’s incumbent cable, broadcast, and satellite distribution models do. As Internet-based distribution gains steam, therefore, most TV industry incumbents will no longer be able to support their existing cost structures.

Jerry Del Colliano feels that terrestrial radio is similarly doomed:

the last insult may not be the demise of the Evil Empire [Clear Channel] but the lure of purchasing radio stations at long last for favorable prices at a time in history when an entire generation is not available to be a growth engine.

I would buy a radio station not because it makes money or could make money again, but because it has a brand — a real strong brand – that could lead into a digital media platform.

For myself, I keep noticing how straightforward it would be to make dramatic improvements to the usability of cable television. Why not buckle down and do the work? My wild guess is there’s a clusterfuck going on among the owners, and the only thing they can agree on is to keep milking the cow until they can’t anymore.

And then what? What’s next? Where do all these dollars disappearing land?

war of the musician worlds

Bruce Warila: When the known and the unknown worlds collide, will fans still buy music?

I’m just going to speculate that as the Known and Unknown worlds collide, Middle World artists will see a significant drop in music revenue.

When ten thousand free, just-as-good songs [from Unknowns] (about 600 hours of listening time – created annually) find a mass-market of receptive (key word here) music consumers, the Unknown World is going to sponge up a lot of the ‘enthusiasm’ that fans previously allocated to Known World artists. It makes me wonder: with 600 hours of just-as-good, free music available, will music fans still buy music?

The perfect disruptive business in this industry combines the following: free-sorted-sifted-just-as-good music coupled to repetitive mass-market exposure (for each song), combined with minimal overhead and zero legacy music industry legal friction.

I think it’s possible to create the business I just described, and this is the reason why I don’t get excited about businesses that intend to sell music (now yes, future doubtful). There are just too many artists with lots of just-as-good songs that deserve to be in the Known World club.

One bottleneck with creating the business Bruce just described is finding a way to attract a critical miss of listeners for no-label music. Listeners will steer towards stuff they already know, which is Known and then Middle World musicians. Why would the listeners go to your site for unknowns?

The other bottleneck is finding a way to cover your costs without having a big listener base to start with, since you’ll need to grow slowly, in tandem with the musicians and listeners.

These issues are what I’m thinking about when I gibber about cool netlabel activity like Phlow. Phlow is part of its community, no larger and no smaller, and the space it’s exploring is the disruptive angle that Bruce is thinking about.

Note: I trimmed Bruce’s post way down, and I lost a lot of the flavor. Check out the original.

don’t know that band, nope.

Or that one.

Or the other one either.

And it’s not because I’m old and out of it, it’s because there are that many bands. I mean, I *am* old and out of it, but even if I wasn’t the answer would be the same.

MP3 blogs are a never-ending series of blockbuster microbands.

I’m not bringing this up to put down MP3 blogs or blockbuster microbands, but to point out that it almost never makes sense to think somebody else should have heard of an act that you know. The act might be huge in its genre, but genres are very thinly sliced. Every day of every year I hear another five new bands mentioned. The only thing that’s wrong with this picture is when you have to say “no, I don’t know them,” because that is almost always going to be the answer.

cc0 #2

The main theme in conversation related to yesterday’s post about the CC0 license was that it reduces the amount of trouble it takes to publish music under a permissive license. Commenters differed on whether that was valuable or even a good thing at all.

Crosbie Fitch:

The GPL is a license that restores liberty to the public (otherwise suspended by copyright and patent), albeit at the expense of friction (easily surmountable by coders used to it). CC-SA is somewhat similar.

The CC0 is a license/waiver that unencumbers the art from constraint by the author’s copyright, and friction due to (well intentioned) licensing conditions, albeit at the expense of not being able to liberate anyone apart from the immediate users. It may be that opprobrium will be enough to prevent derivatives of CC0 works from being re-encumbered with copyright.

There is a similar issue (and confusion) between manumission and laissez faire between the GPL and BSD licenses (as between CC-SA and CC0). The GPL is actually freer (in restoring more people’s liberty), whereas the BSD is least encumbered by licensing conditions (the licensee is free to suspend others’ liberty).


why complicate something that’s really not necessary yet? I am frustrated seeing a new license when I don’t fully understand the old ones yet. Or more accurately, I have never really seen a real example of a CC license giving more or less musical freedom to anyone yet. In theory yeah but honestly, no.

Secondly without attribution, data gets lost. If I like a sound I hear in a work and want to find it, CC0 won’t help or most likely misinform me of it’s origin. CC0 in my opinion will mess thing up and make people lazy.

Mike Linksvayer:

CC0 means attribution is not legally required. It doesn’t mean attribution is automatically lost or that releasing under CC0 is the equivalent of publishing anonymously. … Whether you want to legally require attribution depends on how much being able to legally demand credit is worth to you in creating more friction around uses of your work.

For myself as a musician, I’m a white collar worker who makes music purely as a hobby and I’m damned happy when my music is used at all. But then again I work hard to play well and the biggest constraint on getting better is that I don’t get compensated for playing time. If only I was in a position to impose friction I might be able to make better music.

advocacy for CC 0 over BY-SA

Victor Stone: Consider: Zero

Earlier this year Creative Commons formally introduced a license waiver called CC0 (CC Zero). I urge musicians, as strongly as I can, to consider using this license waiver for the audio samples they put into the Commons.

Audio samples licensed with CC0 with a CC0 waiver are the most flexible and least restrictive. Put another way, they carry the most freedom. Isn’t it hard enough to be creative?

No matter how highly I consider my musical work on my best days, I would like to think there is balance between my personal desires and choking off my great granchildren’s freedoms to speak creatively.

I’ve been putting most of my own recordings into the public domain lately, but mainly because it’s the only license certain to be compatible with anything that somebody might want to remix with. Also, there’s an issue of license obsolescence that I worry about. All I care about is being heard.

Victor’s point about freedom is compelling too, though. That’s kind of a revelation to me. I remember Gordon Mohr of Internet Archive and Bitzi saying something similar 7-8 years ago, and I wasn’t ready to get it. Gordon, you were right.

Also, there’s an issue with music that’s different from code: musicians just don’t understand copyright in any way. Burdening them with the difference between the different flavors of CC license is a non-starter.