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Orb turns MySpace into personal radio station

Drag, drop, stream

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Exclusive Just as you thought the MySpace phenomenon was running out of steam, tomorrow will see the biggest innovation to the site since it launched.

This one doesn't come from MySpace itself, however, but Orb Networks. Orb already allows you to listen to or view media stored on your home PC (music, playlists, photos or TV channels), at work, or on a mobile via it's "MyCasting" service. Now it's added MySpace integration to the list of features. Using the Orb client MySpace users can upload songs to their MySpace page - and stream them.

A drag and drop client makes the operation trivially simple.

Last year, El Reg was the first to notice how MySpace is really a radio set of sorts: you push a button, and out streams music. There's only four songs per station, and there's millions of stations - but it's still radio.

Where Orb's MySpace integration could prove interesting, is that it greatly expands the radio set's "playlist". MySpace users can add their own favourite tracks to their home page and stream them.

There isn't really a snappy name for this: Orb talks of "jacking a user-powered radio network into an artist-powered radio network", which once you've got past the Americanism is as accurate as you can succinctly get.

As for legality? Well, we reckon it skirts the boundary of the law but stays on the right side. Most of the users will be limited by a 128kbit/s uplink, which means in practice only three or four people will get a decent stream concurrently.

But it is likely to increase the pressure on MySpace to pay royalties to the artists. There are some similarities with Mercora, the ad-supported person-to-person streaming service. And Mercora calculates the royalties and pays the appropriate rights holders.

(Sling Media, Mercora and MP3Tunes Oboe all offer variations on getting stuff at home to you anywhere).

So why haven't more people noticed the significance of this trend outside the pipes industry? (Orb won the best of show at 3GSM).

Partly, we suspect, because everyone has a baked-in preconception of what MySpace is: in the US it's a teen site, in the UK it's a music site. But more than that, almost every digital media pundit has been obsessed with the idea of "User Generated Content", which increasingly looks like a gigantic red herring.

Orb's own statistics seem to bear this out.

Orb users use the MyCast for 90 minutes a day, in contrast to the average internet user, who uses the net for just 31 minutes a day. Orb says that's twice as long as its users were spending six months ago.

As for "User Generated Content", it's been around since the early days of the public internet - from the Hamster Dance (sic) and Mahir to All Your Base - and it will surely be around until the last router on earth is turned off. But the "digital revolution" it was supposed to represent really looks like a utopian wet dream, as what most people would rather use the net for is listen to stuff they've already bought. Most pundits don't realise the good ship UGC has already left.

That could be because it doesn't have a snappy name, yet. OrbSlingCoraOboe?

Reg readers get a sneak preview here. A formal announcement will follow tomorrow. ®

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