Anontune: How Anonymous Hopes To Change Music On The Internet

    April 20, 2012

Music has changed.

That’s the message from Anonymous in their latest video announcing the creation of Anontune, a social music platform that puts discovery and innovation at the forefront. It’s being built in such a way to avoid any potential disputes with rights holders.

Here’s how Anonymous describes the ambitious new service:

Rather than focus on the music itself Anontune will instead focus upon information about the music. Information like where music is being distributed, how it is being used, and how it is discovered. This information will place Anontune in a prime position for new research and innovations into online music. The information can also be used to play and centralize pervasive music across the internet on one platform. Overtly, it will be seen as no different to any other infringing platform, covertly it will be fundamentally different and more similar to search engines or torrent trackers. Most importantly, this time the law will be on our side.

That last part about the law being on their side is the most interesting. Anonymous claims to have “learned from the mistakes of its predecessors.” They’ve learned that “supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” It’s the kind of attitude that Anonymous has taken up recently with many of their protests. Say what you will, but DDoS attacks are the digital equivalent of a sit in protest.

Anonymous have also released a white paper that goes into more detail about their supposed immunity from the law. It’s an interesting read which you can do so here, but here are the key points. Anonymous finds that the major problem with services like Limewire and Napster was that the user downloaded the music to their hard drive and unless they had some kind of protection, it was easy to track who was downloading what.

Anontune hopes to circumvent this by never hosting links to copyrighted works. They propose to do this by integrating “systems that do potentially provide such infringing content but not overtly so.” By this, they mean services like YouTube, Soundcloud and similar services. Anontune will give developers the ability to add these services as they see fit, but it will never allow the actual hosting of information. The white paper says that this fact alone makes Anontune more like the Internet itself.

The actual technical might behind Anontune is equally ambitious and intriguing. They hope to make it a Facebook of music, but be entirely Web-based. This would allow users to have their own unique URL for their own profile. Users would in turn be able to connect with friends and other people via their own unique URLs.

The networking for the music engine is the most ambitious part of it. Here’s how the white paper describes the technology:

For this to work a highly flexible and powerful engine needs to be created to locate and play music. This requires the engine have access to networking features. Client-side, this is currently impossible. To overcome these limitations a bridge will be constructed providing a BSD-style Socket API to Javascript applications. The bridge will link up with a specialized Java application which will service API requests.

Once constructed, it will be possible to talk to arbitrary services on the internet from the music engine. This allows developers to create standalone enhancements called “routes.” Each route describes a way to find, filter, and play music in a particular way. A route for YouTube would search YouTube for music, filter out invalid results, and play the most accurate result when required. In this way the music engine can be dynamically extended to tap pervasive music across the internet.

Once complete, developers will be able to submit routes targeting particular music niches. Thus overtime, more and more music will be available for listening. This architecture requires simplifying and understanding the process for developers and users. Users will be able to control the routes they use and customize their experience. It will also be possible to easily create many other networked applications with this networking technology thereby drastically expanding what can be done with the web.

There is a demo available right now for Anontune. It’s very crude at this point, but they’re working on it. For such a system to work, they have to get the basics down before they can make it look good. I’ve played around with it a little bit and can confirm that it works. Create a playlist, add an artist, track title or both for best results and just hit play. The service finds those songs on YouTube or Soundcloud for your listening enjoyment.

I have run into one potential problem though. It seems that if a video has been blocked from being embedded then it won’t play on Anontune. I ran across this problem when I searched for an artist on a major label, in this case Skrillex. You can still watch the video, but you have to go to the actual YouTube video where you will be bombarded with ads by Warner Music Group.

It’s an extremely intriguing concept and their legality is sound. I’m sure if it becomes bigger that somebody might try to bring a complaint against the service. The only complaint they would have though is that the music would have to be removed from services like YouTube or Soundcloud to be removed from Anontune. It’s the kind of Internet magic that finds the loopholes in current laws.

[h/t: Wired]