The genius of Turntable.fm is the way its design is perfectly reflective of its function. The first time you visit it, you can tell that this is a place where people gather to play music to each other.
Turntable.fm isn’t as hyped as it once was — in fact, it has become nearly as popular to bash the service now as it was to use it last year. Nonetheless, Turntable.fm has plenty of funding behind it and a concept that still makes as much intuitive sense as it did when it launched, regardless of what pundits are saying about it.
This mirroring of form and function is what separated Turntable.fm from other early group listening rooms. It’s also what distinguishes these Turntable.fm alternatives to a lesser extent, because they didn’t come up with the idea (and neither did these guys, apparently).
Each of these web apps uses a graphical design to depict group listening, just like the grandaddy of them all. Sometimes the DJ is in the back of the room, sometimes there’s video, and sometimes there are extra features you won’t find on Turntable.fm, but really, each of the following upstarts owes a huge debt to Turntable.fm.
Here they are, these Turntable.fm-inspired web apps, in order of perceived (by us) excellence:
Plug.dj makes no secret of its inspiration, but it goes beyond Turntable.fm in a number of ways. Most notably, plug.dj (pictured above) works internationally instead of just in the states; it lets you DJ video; the avatars dance; it includes a more elaborate system for accumulating points (you also score when people add something you played to their queue, and when you vote); and you can change the settings in the rooms you create to limit the number of people who can join, as well as setting other rules. An API lets geeks customize their listening rooms even further.
For starters, you get more handsome avatars in this one, which look more like actual people than the little cartoons in Turntable.fm. Also, cred.fm runs entirely within Facebook, although you have a good amount of control over how much posting it can do on your behalf. Its deep Facebook integration means that not only can you invite friends to join your room, but you can recommend any song you hear in the service to any of your Facebook friends, in addition to your followers within the service.
The first Turntable.fm clone to catch our eye, this app, created by a former Google engineer, seems to focus mainly on dance party music, and we’ve seen it fill up with people from various universities. It might be considered the college houseparty of Turntable.fm clones.
Like some of the other Turntable.fm clones we’ve seen, PicoTube relies on YouTube for its content, rather than inking label deals on its own, the way Turntable.fm did. On the upside, this means your avatars get to watch video as songs play, instead of just dancing. Also, PicoTube moves the DJ to the front of the room… innovation at work!
BeatRobo is a lot like PicoTube; in fact, we encountered both on the show floor at SXSW Interactive, and both come from Japan. The design departs a bit from the usual, and it also includes neat features like the ability to leave shout-outs for friends. If they encounter the same song later, they’ll see your shout-out.
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