When Whyd opened to the public in November it offered music bookmarking functionality along the lines of recently launched Songdrop, which we described as a “Delicious for music“. However, the Paris-based startup’s broader plan is to become a music-based social network, and today it’s flipping the switch on its recommendation engine to match users with similar tastes.
Like Songdrop, users install the Whyd bookmarklet to their browser to begin adding tracks from various sources online, such as YouTube, Soundcloud and Vimeo, for later playback. And although the service already lets users subscribe to the streams of other users, today’s update sees the company making that process more efficient by recommending users to connect with based on the tracks they bookmark, and a whole host of other data that Whyd is capturing. In other words, this is a now very familiar play: Give us enough usage data and we’ll give you recommendations in return.
Applied to music, the idea isn’t new of course. Last.fm was a pioneer in music-based recommendations with its music “scrobbling” service which mines a user’s listening data to surface similar music based on the tastes of other Last.fm users who algorithmically match. And in the early days of Napster, when it was an illegitimate file sharing service, one of its best features was the ability for a user to discover new music by delving into the music collections of potential taste-makers who matched their own tastes.
Whyd’s recommendation engine seems to be attempting to follow in the steps of these two trailblazers. Piggybacking the bookmarking habits of its users, it combines data drawn from multiple sources such as artist data, track data, affinity of subscriptions, listening history, and more. Appropriately, users can also connect their Last.fm account to Whyd if they have one.
Here the on-boarding process is paramount, however. Without any initially seeded data, the engine won’t be able to accurately recommend who a user should subscribe to. “We worked just as hard to make it effective at recommending other similar people for you to subscribe to even if you are new to the site”, says co-founder Gilles Poupardin. “Obviously the more tracks you add the better, but it should still give you good results if you add at least three songs.”
It’s the focus on social and discovery that Poupardin says sets Whyd apart from others in the music streaming space, such as Spotify, Deezer, rdio, and whatever Apple and Google are planning, along with more direct competitors such as Songdrop and Musicplayr. “We do not intend to be a full service music consumption destination,” he says, “but rather a social network built around music, where new music lovers collect and share tracks that touch them.”
That’s undoubtedly oversimplifying the battle lines somewhat. Spotify, for example, is de-emphasising its reliance on Facebook’s social graph by rolling out its own user and artist “following” features, which is essentially the same as subscribing to a user in Whyd, even if there is less focus — for now — on finding users with similar tastes to follow.
However, it may be that the two services (and others like it) can complement each other. “We see that today, people discover music on Whyd and then add it to Spotify or whatever service they use for offline access, even though it happens frequently that the music is not (nor will ever be) on Spotify,” says Poupardin.
Whyd’s only funding to date is a €150K French government Innovation grant to research different ways that people connect to each other around music data, along with winning support from Réseau Entrepreneurs, a French mentorship and support organisation.
The company isn’t talking monetization, for now, but hints that the logical step after connecting music consumers to each other is to enable them to connect with and “support” the artists they enjoy.