German students' homework project aims to teach MTV a lesson

Logo Semsix[Germany] For years the music industry said that video killed the radiostar, but now the homework of two 7th semester students from Stuttgart could do away with MTV. Their website plays music videos too, but Semsix is more convenient than Viacom’s TV station that tortures with crappy tunes and annoying ads while you have to wait for one good song. A product of the 80’s, MTV still lacks the personalisation and interactive features fit for the internet age. That’s why at Semsix the user is the VJ and can choose the songs that play. It’s kind of like Last.FM but for music videos, or similar to Simfy or Spotify in that the user is in charge of the playlist. As of yesterday, Semsix is also available in English.

The free web application searches online video platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, MyVideo or Sevenload for music and displays the results by artist and album. Everything is programmed in Flash, with Adobe Flex as the development framework so that it works on nearly every modern browser. Users simply drag their search results into a playlist and see the videos immediately without leaving Semsix’s website. There is no registration or login required, a small button on the upper right plays the videos in full screen and all playlists can be saved or sent to friends via a link.

Semsix' video app plays Lady Gaga

Semsix' video app plays Lady Gaga

In addition, Semsix evaluates the quality of music videos and lists the best version available for a specific song. For instance, an official music video will always be preferred to a mobile phone recording. The two computer science students of Stuttgart Media University, Martin Jakobus (23) and Ingo Schock (28), developed an algorithm which takes the user ratings on video websites into account and compares the recording’s duration to the original.

Semsix is also useful if you can’t remember the name of a song or an artist. The built-in lyrics search finds a song by entering just a few words from the vocals. For Karaoke fans it displays the lyrics alongside the song. Also web radio can be searched by station name, music genre or by the city in which a station is based. To top it all, Semsix will suggest other songs that fit the music taste of the user. Suggestions come from LastFM and the radio databank Radio Time is used for the web radio search. Meta information for albums and artists is drawn from the music database MusicBrainz and Lyrics are provided by lyricsfly.

That’s a really great mashup for a side project started by two students as recent as March. In only weeks Ingo developed the user interface and the server application while Martin coded interfaces to third-party video websites and the search algorithm. The result looks better than the music searches from Google, Yahoo or Bing. And of course it has less annoying ads than forefather MTV: just one skyscraper banner beside the Semsix player to cover the server costs.

Although their website looks like a professional project (with 5,000 unique users daily), Ingo and Martin have not funded a company. Only now are they beginning to think about the issue because the first investors have knocked on their door. “We have turned down all offers because investors were only acting upon only their own interests and not the interests of our users”, says Martin. “Semsix shall always be free and usable without login.”