Platform Death

The other week there were rumors about Soundcloud shutting down. They cut 40 percent of their staff, and word was that they’d run out of money within 100 days.

I was going to write something at that time about the trend of platforms dying, not because they lack vibrant communities, but because those communities fail to hit current astronomical revenue expectations (e.g. Vine).

While talking about this with some of the DAT community, we quickly had the idea to create a js module and page which could scrape Soundcloud pages into DAT archives. So, instead of writing about it, I made a page using Mafintosh’s module (soundcloud-to-dat) to provide a tool to archive Soundcloud tracks and introduce a few people to DAT.

Not only did it back up tracks to a DAT archive, it also created a small json file, which when paired with some included javascript and html was able to create a fully p2p webpage, viewable with Beaker Browser.

Now that some time has passed, and we have seen how this particular instance has played out, it seems ok to circle around and mention a few passing thoughts on this.

Soundcloud is a good example of a project with modest ambition gaining traction with subcultures who then elevate it to a place of relevance. As that growth is recognized, the gears of homogeneity start to turn, and the intent shifts from being one of creating something interesting to creating something larger.

In a case like Soundcloud, the platform can not grow to the scale expected by investors without alienating the underground cultures credited with making it relevant in the first place.

This isn’t a criticism of Soundcloud as much as it is the status quo. Growth is necessary for success in such a competitive market, but it currently feels a bit excessive.

Anyway, the response to the Soundcloud archive project made it personally clear that there is a demand for projects touching on these ideas. Specifically, projects which grow outward and not just upward.

After sharing the Soundcloud project, I started working on a way to expand on the included simple html and json page. This led to working on a few ideas I’ve had in mind for a while, and that has taken form as Enoki. I’m looking forward to sharing more about that soon.

  1. I also suggest reading Mat Dryhurst’s interview in Wire for a more involved set of ideas about Soundcloud and ownership.