April 23, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Why Peer.fm Is Doomed

peerfm youtube api

A new open-source music streaming service called Napster.fm had to change its name to Peer.fm at the behest of Rhapsody, which owns the Napster brand, as reported by TechCrunch.

However, the service has a bigger problem that will probably shut it down for real — or at least force it to re-source its entire music catalog. Our guess is that it’s only a matter of time until this happens, so enjoy Peer.fm while you can, if that’s what you’re doing.

The problem: All of the music comes from YouTube.

That’s fine, on a general level. YouTube’s API allows app developers to build whatever they want out of all the music on YouTube, so long as they follow a few basic guidelines (which is one reason YouTube could be bad for music, even though it claims “free” can pay as well as “paid”).

But on a specific level, Peer.fm is screwed. It clearly violates the part of YouTube’s API that commands app developers to display video along with the music, rather than just stripping out the music and delivering it directly, as Peer.fm openly admits to doing.

“As far as the streaming music, I’m essentially just grabbing existing content on YouTube based on metadata (titles, artists, etc.) from the Discogs database,” writes Peer.fm developer Ryan Lester in the FAQ.

YouTube does not recommend doing this without displaying the video, in addition to expressly forbidding it.

“I think applications integrating music is a great idea, and there are plenty of robust music services out there,” YouTube product manager Phil Farhi told Evolver.fm the last time we wrote about this, in 2011. “I think it’s better for an application developer to… make sure they’re complying properly, versus thinking that they can temporarily and maybe inappropriately access our platform. They’re going to get shut down, and it’s going to be a bad user experience because the YouTube videos won’t play anymore one day.”

And that is what will likely happen to the music on Peer.fm if the service continues to pick up traction. So, why is Peer.fm still working at all? Well, these things take time.

When we wrote about an app that grabbed music from YouTube in a way that violated the API terms, that app, Youtube Radio, was deleted from iTunes in a matter of days. Considering Peer.fm’s coverage on TechCrunch and now here, we don’t give it much time at all. As soon as labels and/or publishers complain to YouTube, it will cut off Peer.fm’s access to the YouTube API, and that will most likely be that — unless Lester can transition Peer.fm to Rdio, Spotify, or another service, or unless it decides to start showing the videos, along with whatever ads YouTube wants to include.

If not, we’ll soon find out whether Lester’s claim that “If Peer.fm were ever abandoned or shut down, the community could immediately rehost it” is accurate.