"Mercora is a person-to-person network that enables you to find, communicate and share interests with friends and family. Mercora has built a framework for sharing digital content using peer-to-peer technologies to directly connect you with your friends on the network. You do all these things through the simple interface of the Mercora applications. (mercora.com)"

Mercora is currently the newest music sharing service to hit the street: a p2p streaming radio application with many bundled messaging and social networking features. The big draw is that the service has a "non-interactive" web broadcasting license from the US FCC, allowing you to legally stream files from your media library to any number of other users!

The catch is the rather miniscule requirement that you can't stream anything anyone wants when they want it. The website lists their license's prohibitions.

"You are not allowed to do any of the following things:

  • Publish advance program guides or use other means to pre-announce when particular sound recordings will be streamed or the order in which they will be streamed (this is because we are a non-interactive webcasting service)
  • Webcast specific sound recordings within one hour of the request by a listener or at a time designated by the listener
  • Webcast audio content for which you do not have the legitimate legal rights for use (music you have ripped from CDs that you own or music you have downloaded from a legitimate online music store like Apple iTunes is considered legitimate, music downloaded using file-sharing programs like KaZaA are not legitimate) (mercora.com)"

In this regard, Mercora does not intersect the "illegal" file trading aspects of a Napster or a Gnutella client at all. It enhances the benefits that file traders claim made their services legitimate like: sampling CDs before you buy them, learning about new artists in your favorite genre, getting more exposure to independent artists than Clear Channel or the RIAA could ever provide. At the same time, it decreases the likelihood of illegitimate uses such as downloading and burning copies of entire CDs to avoid lawsuit-inflated RIAA price fixing schemes. Then again, if you really need to download a back-up copy of your scratched Metallica - Master of Puppets CD, this is not the service you're looking for. You broadcast either the playlist you're currently listening to or a random sampling of files from your shared library.

The interface breaks cleanly from what a typical KaZaA or Gnutella user might be used to, though... at least from their p2p music service. The application panel looks more like an instant messenger dock with sections for individual friends and groups, as well as links to the program's main functions. All of the sub-function windows such as search, chat, and music playback have very useful shortcuts, making this the most user friendly music service I've ever tried, regardless of its current beta status.

The group system allows for both BBS-style threaded forums and interactive chat. Individual users can share profiles, weblog entries, instant messages, and a gallery of pictures. Security options allow you to limit who has access to view various pieces of information, including: what stream you’re currently listening to, your online status, profile, and friends list. *I just found a "My Listeners" tab! Apparently all my usual message forum basic smilies work in chat as well. ;)

random tip: get an mp3 mass id3 tag editor. the trick is to rename all your song titles that you share to include the track number (w/ leading '0' if necessary). any free program you can get to work that out will make it easier to view. /msg me if you have one you'd recommend.

I found out about Mercora through a Wired.com article entitled: "Former McAfee CEO Takes on P2P". Apparently, the music service is headed by Srivats Sampath, former CEO of McAfee.com. Their plan is to not only offer the connection point for the streaming client/servers, but to also sell downloadable singles, apparently in WMA format, through an embedded music store service. According to the Wired article, "Mercora will make money by taking an undisclosed piece of the revenue from music sold on its service. It also plans to sell market research to studios about users' listening habits." Slashdotters, don your tin foil hats now.

I personally like the concept of everyone DJ'ing their own 24/7 radio station much better than the current text search scheme requiring you to know what you want to listen to ahead of time. The "Insert voice from your microphone" button is hillarious! In theory, you could pre-record your own talk radio sessions, mix advertising sound bytes into your playlists, band together to form promotion groups to get local music on popular streamers' broadcasts, etc. The random broadcast option seems to be a poor choice unless you're lazy or just filling airtime. It will be interesting to see how this falls out legally once it hits the mainstream.

(both: as viewed June 11, 2004 at 12:00 PM CST)

I'm on Mercora as ifatree, same as my username here. If you start an E2 group, please let me know and I'll add it to my writeup. =) </shameless plug> * - i'm so cool, I added myself as a friend of .. .. myself. :P

* - edit: found new functions. :D

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