I’ve been running Brandon Watt’s Now Playing plug-in for Windows Media Player for ages. I like seeing what music interests other people and discovering new music, and want to return the favor. Today I discovered a website that take the “now playing” concept and expands on it, creating a very clever social community of listeners — aptly named last.fm.
When you register for last.fm, you download a plug-in for your favorite media player. They provide plug-ins for iTunes, WMP, Winamp and most popular media players, with support for both Windows and Mac OSX. As you play your music, last.fm keeps track of what you’ve listened to and displays it on your user page (here’s mine).
Once you’ve built up some history, you begin to see some neat extras. Last.fm identifies your musical “neighbors” — other users who share your musical taste. You can tag your music, and search for other music based on those tags. You’ll get recommendations of new music, based on the songs you’ve previously listened to. And everything you play gets added to the Last.fm charts for complete stats on what’s hot. Last.fm also includes a forum (of course), friends (track what they’re listening to), groups, your own journal, and the ability tune into 128kbps MP3 streams.
What is last.fm missing? I’d love to be able to access my “recently played tracks” via RSS so I could parse and display on my blog or website. Maybe a dynamic image in various formats (for a blog, or a forum signature), with album art for the “now playing” track. But they have a very good start — the best I’ve seen for this type of site — and I recommend checking out last.fm.