Spotify is a client-based music streaming site, offering over 10 million tracks to 15 different countries including the US.
- Bandwidth (Why High?): Music files are typically large and to have the best music listening experience with the best latency, a high bandwidth is required from both Spotify and the user to stream those larger files.
- CPU (Why Low?): Spotify doesn’t do too much on its end which would demand much computing power except for generating basic algorithms for the radio and locating peers to draw music from.
- Disk (Why High?): Spotify has over 10 million tracks and counting. To save the personal information and all of these tracks while adding hundreds more every day, it requires a large amount of disk to house this data.
- RAM (Why Medium?): To locate tracks with little to no delay and begin streaming takes a sufficient amount of memory, especially from the production stage.
- Scalability (Why High?): Spotify’s hybrid P2P/direct streaming architecture is much more scalable that most other streaming services at a very efficient cost.
Spotify is a music streaming service offered on a downloadable client and mobile app. Marketing over 10 million tracks, including the most popular music from big name record labels in the music industry, Spotify has made its unique name as one of the most widely used streaming services in the world. It offers a unique approach to music streaming by integrating a basic peer-to-peer distribution and a clever integration to the Facebook network.
Spotify was founded in 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon in Stockholm, Sweden. Daniel Ek was formerly the CTO of Stardoll and Martin Lorentzon was the co-founder of TradeDoubler. As the company grew, the headquarters were eventually moved over to London, England while the offices in Sweden became in charge of research and development.
Until October 2008, Spotify was on an invite only basis, although both free subscriptions and paid accounts were available. This was to help manage the server load as well as help cut costs on the licensing fees. In February 2009, Spotify began offering free, but limited, access to its services, starting off in the UK. Due to an influx of free users, Spotify decided to shut down the open registrations in the UK on September 11, 2009. On June 17, 2011 Spotify reported having received another $100 million of funding which it used to support its US launch, occurring on July 14, 2011. Since then, the free access has been restarted and is available in fifteen countries.
The name Spotify comes from Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon’s brain storming session. They were trying to find an original name with no hits on Google. Martin shouted out a name and Daniel mistook what he heard for the word “Spotify.” When searching Google, they found no hits and the brain child was given a name. To give the name some meaning, they maintain “Spotify” means to spot and identify.
Spotify is a very basic and user-friendly platform. The service is only available as a client on personal computers or as an app on mobile devices. The client functions on Mac and Windows products and the app is offered for all mobile platforms. To access the client, Spotify has partnered with Facebook for verification. It also allows users to post on their profiles what tracks they have listened to that day and users can also see what their friends are listening to with a ticker located on the right side of the client.
Users can search for artists and tracks in a search bar, assign those tracks to playlists or add them to their library. Like Pandora, users can also use the tracks they have downloaded to their account to start a radio station which plays tracks similar or of the same genre. Users also have the option to vote the track up or down using the same thumb icons as other music streaming sites.
Spotify also offers three different versions. The free version allows users to listen to music with the occasional advertisement in between and free radio for mobile devices. Spotify Unlimited gives users uninterrupted music listening with unlimited streaming of music plus free radio for mobile devices. This service costs $4.99 a month. Spotify Premium allows full mobile usage, offline mode for playlists, no advertisements, on top of unlimited streaming and free radio and costs $9.99 a month.
Spotify is noted for offering almost instantaneous playback of their offered songs with little to no latency. Its architecture is a very basic hybrid, combining basic P2P schematics with streaming from a larger database directly.
Spotify’s systems are broken into 3 main parts: peer-to-peer (P2P), production storage, and master storage. The P2P network in place allows easier scalability, less servers (not as expensive for Spotify), less bandwidth, and increased uptime. If a track isn’t available from a peer, the command proceeds to the production storage. The production storage is a cache packed with fast drives and chock loads of RAM. They store the most popular content, giving users quick access to music with low latency. Should the request for a certain track not find anything in the production storage, it will then send a command to the master storage. The master storage functions as a DHT and contains every available track. But the drives are on the slow end and there isn’t a ton of memory located in the master storage, which means the master storage doesn’t provide the best latency rate.
Spotify saves its over 10 million tracks of music in a master storage facility of over 290TB. Those songs are distributed to one of two production storage facilities located in London, England or Stockholm, Sweden. Each facility containing about 2.4 million tracks. The music is then shared to the clients where, when played, will usually save the song to individual computers as a cached copy.
The P2P network functions like most other P2P networks. In order to minimize the impact of sharing tracks between users, only about 15 seconds of one song are shared by multiple peers who have that particular track cached on their computers. Mobile devices are not included in the P2P network. Since the music is provided by Spotify and can only be played using the client, it is not considered an illegal pirate file sharing network.
Spotify is one of the most popular music streaming service. Offering its downloadable client and integration with the Facebook network, it also offers a legal alternative to file sharing. Containing over 10 million tracks and being used by even more millions of people, Spotify is further evidence that the future of music listening experiences is moving towards online streaming.
Ek, Daniel. “Spotify: How Did Spotify Get Its Name?” Quora. http://www.quora.com/Spotify/How-did-Spotify-get-its-name. (August 10, 2012)
“History of Spotify.” It All Makes Sense.
Santos, Ricardo. “Behind The Scenes.” Slideshare. http://www.slideshare.net/ricardovice/spotify-behind-the-scenes. (August 10, 2012)
Strowes, Stephen D. “How is Spotify So Fast?” Quora.
http://www.quora.com/How-is-Spotify-so-fast. (August 10, 2012)