What about building on top of the provisioning work the users are already doing? As things currently stand, the most common playlist application involves a user pulling together media from all over and then putting it together into custom playlists for local listening, organization, and sharing using desktop music library software (read: iTunes). Right now these playlist applications are almost entirely offline, but what if there was an avenue into them for any enterprise that wanted to offer services on top of this existing media library?
Picture this: imagine if iTunes could resolve xspf against a user’s local music library and provide a programmable interface for other vendors to provide additional information services keyed off the available metadata. A whole spectrum of services would bloom which are currently hobbled by the legal and economic obstacles an enterprise encounters in having to create b2b relationships with the existing rights holders: playlist sharing, universal metadata-based search, music discussion and annotation, etc.
One unique advantage that the users have over any private business or public open source effort when provisioning is that they can travel both the lightnet of music bloggers, band sites, etc. as well as the darknet places forbidden to enterprises such as p2p networks and hand-to-hand exchange of CDs. Since the latter is where much of the most popular (and most protected) music resides (specifically, the RIAA’s releases), users always see a gaping hole in any catalog based entirely out of the lightnet. The application I’m imagining would allow them to fill that hole for themselves while still staying networked enough for enterprises to be able to provide them with additional valuable services.
The Songbird project is kind of the closest thing to what I’m picturing here, but its slow pace of development, confusing licensing situation, and choice of high barrier to entry technologies for extension has prevented it from being usable and useful enough to really scratch this itch.
But, I do think that one of the big implications of your description of this territory is that it points out a major vulnerability in the iTunes empire: the wealth of services and value waiting to be built on top of an accesible networked content resolver media player.