Google buys music service Songza to take on Apple and Beats
Google announced today that it’s acquiring the streaming-music service Songza for an undisclosed sum. Over the coming months it will be integrating the company’s smart playlist creation into Google Play Music and perhaps YouTube. Songza will remain an active and independent app for the time being. The purchase highlights the increasingly competitive landscape emerging around music, as Apple, Amazon, and Google all seek to differentiate their mobile products by offering top-notch streaming services.
When Beats Music launched in January of this year, it offered users the ability to build a playlist based on variables like their mood, location, and activity. Songza actually offered this kind of contextual playlist creation way back in 2010, when it was still web-only. The company launched its mobile app in 2011 and has since grown to serve 5.5 million active users. Sources familiar with the deal say that the purchase price for Songza, which had raised a total of just $6.7 million to date, was far less than what Apple paid for Beats. Earlier reports on the acquisition from the New York Post said Google was offering around $15 million.
Google’s music service already included a radio feature that generated a playlist based on a user’s taste and a song or album they selected as the starting point. It also has a very complex and computer-driven approach to figuring out what music to recommend, one that relies on dual-sided machine-learning technology and advanced machine listening to analyze not just people’s taste but the component parts of the songs themselves. Songza, by contrast, offers up simple hand-picked mixes like “Indie Music That’s Not Too Weird” and “Easy, Breezy, Summer Songs” that are created by real people and geared to match a person’s mood.
In that sense, Songza is closer to Pandora, which uses human musicologists to decide what songs go well together. Beats Music also has a team of editors hired from places like Pitchfork and XXL to create playlists for its users, and even Google’s machine learning gets a little help from an in-house record store geek. Across the board, what’s valuable is removing the effort of deciding what’s next when there are tens of millions of songs to choose from. “Every jukebox in the sky needs curation to be valuable,” says David Pakman, a tech investor and former digital music entrepreneur. “Google is admitting humans have a big role to play in that process.”
‘Overwhelmed’ FCC extends Net neutrality comment period
A surge of traffic is crashing the agency’s electronic filing system, so it’s bumping the feedback deadline on the controversial proposal from Tuesday to Friday.
The Federal Communications Commission has extended today’s deadline for filing comments on its controversial Net neutrality proposal due to a last-minute wave of traffic that’s crashing its site for some.
“The deadline for filing submissions as part of the first round of public comments in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding arrived today,” said FCC spokeswoman Kim Hart. “Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website that is making it difficult for many people to file comments through our Electronic Comment Filing System.”
“Please be assured that the commission is aware of these issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record,” Hart said, adding that the new deadline for submitting comments is midnight Friday.
The proposal, spearheaded by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, would reinstate regulations over how Internet traffic is treated by Internet service providers. The FCC’s prior open Internet rules were tossed out by a federal appeals court in January. This latest effort has ignited a firestorm of protest among consumer advocates who feel it caters to big broadband companies by allowing so-called fast lanes for priority traffic on the Internet.
As of last night, the FCC had received more than 677,000 comments on the proposal. Today, the agency said that number has topped more than 780,000 comments.
Aereo turns to Congress to reverse Supreme Court decision
Last week saw the Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, effectively wipe Aereo off the map by making the company’s streaming service illegal. The decision had swift ramifications, with the company alerting customers over the weekend that it would suspend its offerings until it worked out next steps with the courts. In a last-ditch effort, CEO Chet Kanojia today sent a letter to customers urging them to notify Congress that they want the decision reversed.
“Tell your lawmakers how disappointed you are that the nation’s highest court issued a decision that could deny you the right to use the antenna of your choice to access live over-the-air broadcast television,” Kanojia writes. “Tell them your stories of why having access to a cloud-based antenna is important to you and your families.”
The company also recently updated its advocacy website, ProtectMyAntenna.org, to address the decision and call on users to write to their elected officials.
Moving forward, congressional lawmakers would need to change telecommunications and copyright law to allow for Aereo’s business to start up again. In the short term, that seems unlikely; even though cord-cutting has gained traction in recent years, the court’s decision concerned how content is distributed. “This is not about new technology,” The Diffusion Group president Michael Greeson told The Verge. “Aereo wanted to make it about new technology… but the justices really didn’t want to talk technology.” However, the company’s fight may not be in vain, since the broadcast industry can expect more Aereo-like services cropping up in the future.
Google+ will stop forcing you to use your real name
After years of receiving complaints that its policies put users at risk, Google said today that it has eliminated the requirement that people use their real names on Google+. The real-name policy, which debuted with the launch of Google+ three years ago, was designed to create a network that looked like Facebook. “But it also excluded a number of people who wanted to be part of it without using their real names,” the company said today in an unsigned post on Google+. The policy generated criticism from privacy advocates and journalists who argued that it threatened to expose people who had valid reasons for wanting to use pseudonyms.
The company noted that is has gradually relaxed restrictions on the policy, allowing YouTube users and brand pages to pick any names they want. But that only made the real-name requirement more confusing for Google+ users. “We know that our names policy has been unclear, and this has led to some unnecessarily difficult experiences for some of our users,” the company said. “For this we apologize, and we hope that today’s change is a step toward making Google+ the welcoming and inclusive place that we want it to be.”
Geek This Week:
Aaron: Grill Timer app. Halt and Catch Fire. Doctor Who season 8 trailer.
Gozer:Retron 5 review & Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Feedback and items of Note:
Hi guys, when you mention John Connor, you gotta know, that Terminator to me is like back to the future and ghost busters to the two of you. I’m a huge Arnold fan, and so far the few times we’ve been out of the house, with my parents baby sitting is to see Arnold movies, (and x men).
Speaking of WAF as it goes to smart home stuff. After I coded presence detection, which is where the system knows that both mine and my wife’s cell phones are not home, and it turns off the lights, a couple of weeks later, my wife tells me, of I’m loving this not having to turn lights off when leaving the house now. I did the motion detection for lights on the stairs and laundry room, big hit with my wife. Now I’m getting requests to add a schedule for the motorized blinds in the playroom.
There are hit and miss things, like having the house talk … I have speakers and tablets on walls, so I can send commands which will generate speech, but that falls under, we think it’s cool, they don’t, which means, try it, get yelled at, turn it off.
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