Who? What? How?

Who is Spotify?

Spotify is based in Sweden, home also to the infamous torrent website The Pirate Bay, and was founded by two entrepreneurs, Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. Most interesting, though, are some of the people involved in developing the program. These include Ludvig Strigeus, creator of the extremely popular Bit Torrent client uTorrent, which has become popular largely due to its small memory footprint - something Spotify definitely shares. Little wonder, then, that Spotify is being touted as the legal alternative to music piracy.

What is Spotify?

Spotify describes itself as "A world of music. Instant, simple and free" and this is very apt. Once you've downloaded the client and created an account, you're then free to browse its library of music with no restrictions whatsoever beyond those created, unsurprisingly, by the music industry and its license agreements. Music is streamed, more or less instantly, using Peer-to-Peer technology at 160Kbps Ogg - equivalent to 192Kbps MP3.

In exchange, your listening is only occasionally interrupted by adverts, coming in the form of banners around the player, short audio clips, links and, only recently, a pop-up advert upon launch - in this instance for U2's latest album. Alternatively, if you don't fancy the adverts, you can pay for an advert free day pass for 99p, or a monthly subscription for £9.99.

Most importantly, though, while the music collection isn't completely comprehensive and is subject to some regional restrictions, it is nonetheless very large. Currently the service can boast the support of major labels such as Universal, Sony BMG, EMI and Warner Music, as well as independent labels and distribution networks like The Orchard, Merlin, CD Baby, INgrooves and the classical music label Naxos. Unlike Last.fm, meanwhile, you can listen to music as many times as you like.

How does Spotify work?

Unsurprisingly, given the background of at least one of its developers, Spotify leans heavily on Peer-to-Peer technology for its distribution and though the company has spoken about how it works, it remains cagey about the amount of bandwidth it consumes to achieve its lightning fast operation. Speaking to TorrentFreak, Andres Sehr of Spotify described it as using "a hybrid P2P system where music is delivered both by our servers and using P2P". He added that "this allows us to deliver the long tail of music which may not be very popular. As well as quickly serve the latest hits that majority of users listen to".

It's a system that clearly works very well, though Spotify is wary of overloading its system quickly, the UK being the only European region where Spotify isn't invite only, while North America is excluded completely at present. Spotify's move to mobile handsets, something we've already covered, is also bound to present some challenges, too, and there's still the issue of how its bandwidth usage might affect those on limited bandwidth packages.

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