Last.fm turned 20 years old over the weekend and users are still tracking their music playback hundreds of thousands of times a day Jacob Kastrenecks of The Verge wrote: Last.fm seemed somewhat revolutionary when it first launched in the early 2000s. The site’s plug-ins — originally developed for a different service called AudioScroller — tap into your music player, note what you listen to, and then display all sorts of statistics about your listening habits. Plus, it can recommend tracks and artists to you based on what other people with similar listening habits have been interested in “If it catches on, such a system would be an effective way to discover new artists and find people with similar tastes,” blogger Andy Bio wrote in February 2003 after trying it for the first time.
It was a precursor to the algorithmic recommendation systems that are built into every music streaming service today. Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal — whatever you’re listening to, they’re all tracking your habits and using it to recommend new tracks to you. But in these services, your data is hidden behind the scenes. Using Last.fm was like having access to your year-end Spotify Wrapped but available every single day and always updated.
Automatic recommendations of streaming services have largely obviated the need for a platform like Last.fm (I certainly haven’t scrubbed anything in over a decade). But I poked around, and it turns out there are still corners to build vibrant communities around Internet properties. A big use of Discord is where third-party developers have created a service called .fmbot that integrates scribbling data into the popular chat room app. Thom, a Netherlands-based backend developer, said the bot has a total user base of more than 400,000, with 40,000 people engaging with the service every day. It’s especially popular on Discords based on specific music artists or genres — where people “want to compare their stats to each other” — and among smaller friend group servers, so they can “dive deeper into what everyone’s listening to,” he said. . The bot pulls up fun stats that people can brag about: the date they first heard a given song, how many days’ worth of music they consumed each year, or a list of their top albums. In 2008, we ran a story from Slashdot reader Rob Spengler about Last.fm’s “mountain of data.” Not only did he note how Last.fm was “the largest online radio outlet” at the time, surpassing Pandora and others, but he questioned (ironically, in hindsight): “What makes Last.FM sit on a mountain of information? Take a stand against the record industry. Strong enough for?”