Muse.Net Beta Turns PC Into Internet Jukebox

With digital audio quickly becoming a staple in connected households, it is no surprise that organizing a virtual music library has become quite a chore. Hard drives reaching epic proportions and families with multiple computers have led companies to create centralized music storage devices that integrate with stereo equipment.

Microsoft will even debut a version of Windows later this year -- called Windows XP Media Center Edition -- specially designed for digital media.

But such innovations have yet to take advantage of the Internet's distribution power, say the developers of a new Web service dubbed Muse.Net. Created by former Nullsoft co-conspirators Rob Lord and Ian Rogers, Muse.Net brings a user's music collection online, allowing playback from any connected device. Instead of storing actual audio files, Muse.Net simply copies information about each song, which can be browsed via the Web.

When playback of a song or playlist is requested, Muse.Net communicates with an application on the client system that in turn begins streaming the audio. Multiple computers can run the application simultaneously - each synchronizing their song lists to a user's online music database. The resulting infrastructure turns every networked PC into a potential jukebox or playback device.

"We are living with giant media management problems," Muse.Net co-creator Ian Rogers told BetaNews. "Big collections, lots of computers around the house and knowing that all of that music should be available everywhere, always. We were totally surprised to find that every single media player is for a single collection on a single machine."

Muse.Net, which recently entered public beta testing, is based on completely open Web services standards such as XML and SOAP. Rogers notes that Muse.Net can thus be integrated into Web sites, applications, media players and even instant messaging clients. Developers are encouraged to program their own interfaces using an open-source software development kit.

With digital media veterans like Rob Lord at the helm, it is not surprising that Muse.Net is only a small part of a much broader idea called Mediacode. The Mediacode platform strives to level the playing field and create a distribution model that is of benefit to everyone - unlike illegal file sharing and restrictive subscription services.

"In the physical world, there is a value chain from creator to consumer. In the middle there are labels/studios, distributors, promoters, and retailers. File-sharing services are the consumer end of this value chain trying to grow into a vertical and own the whole chain. Subscription services such as Pressplay are the label part of this value chain trying to blow up and own the whole chain. It's clear that neither is desirable for both artists and consumers," Rogers explained.

Instead, Rogers says that Mediacode proposes an open infrastructure and sets of services for distributing digital media that allow for all kinds of creative businesses, on both ends of the supply chain. "Muse.Net is the first step in this direction," said Rogers, "coming from the place where it matters -- the consumer side."

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