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What is Pandora?

In classical mythology, a box that Zeus gave to Pandora, the first woman, with strict instructions that she should not open it. Pandora’s curiosity soon got the better of her, and she opened the box. All the evils and miseries of the world flew out to afflict mankind.
She closed the box but what she left in the box was the only good thing in the box. Hope!

The myth of Pandora is ancient, appears in several distinct Greek versions, and has been interpreted in many ways. In all literary versions, however, the myth is a kind of theodicy, addressing the question of why there is evil in the world.

But what is Pandora in the world of technology? Any idea?

Pandora is an automated music recommendation and internet radio service created by the Music Genome Project. Users enter a song or artist that they enjoy, and the service responds by playing selections that are musically similar. Users provide feedback on approval or disapproval of individual songs, which Pandora takes into account for future selections.

While you are listening, you are offered the ability to buy the songs or albums at various online retailers. Over 400 different musical attributes are considered when selecting the next song for the user, isn’t that amazing. These 400 attributes are combined into larger groups called focus traits. There are 2,000 focus traits. Examples of these are rhythm syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies and displayed instrumental proficiency.

The media player is based on OpenLaszlo. OpenLaszlo is an open source platform for the development and delivery of rich Internet applications. It is released under the Open Source Initiative-certified Common Public License.

The service has two subscription plans:

  1. a free subscription supported by advertisements, and
  2. a fee-based subscription without ads.

A free account user may reach the streaming limit of 40 hours per month, and continue unlimited streaming by paying $0.99. There are also advertisements in “Pandora Mobile” for mobile phones and the “Pandora in The Home” computer appliance.

Usage:

The first step is to set a station. A station is set by specifying an artist or song, or a combination of multiple items of any kind in a single station. Listeners can tune into pre-made genre stations and other users’ stations.

Listeners can respond to each song by either pressing the “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” button. This acts as a feedback and is used to determine whether to play the song should be played or not and how much should similarly classified songs be played in the station. A second thumbs down would mean that the artist can be banned from playing in that station until the artist got a positive response earlier from the user.

In addition, a menu is provided with the choices like:

  • Don’t play this song for a month,
  • Why was this song selected?,
  • Move song to another station,
  • Bookmark, and
  • Buy.

From there, listeners can click on links to buy the song from iTunes or Amazon.

There is a setting in each member’s account regarding whether the user wants songs with explicit lyrics played. An example is “Jet Airliner” by the Steve Miller Band, which had one word censored for radio play. With explicit lyrics off, that version will play, despite the album itself not having a PA label.

Drawbacks of Pandora:

  1. Pandora serves users in the United States. Initially this was enforced lightly, by requiring a US ZIP code at registration but since May 3, 2007, Pandora has blocked foreign IP addresses.
  2. The Vista sidebar gadget does not affect the listening limit.
  3. Rewind or repeat is not possible.
  4. Until May 2009, six skips per station were allowed per hour (up to 72 skips every 24 hours), giving a “thumbs down” response, or a “don’t play for a month” response count as “skips.”
  5. On May 21, 2009, the skip limit was altered such that it counts total skips from all stations with the limitation of twelve total skips every 24 hours (an average of one skip every two hours).
  6. If a listener gives a song a thumbs-down or “don’t play for a month” after the limit has been exceeded, the song will continue to play – afterwards, it will be subject to the listener’s restrictions.
  7. Play of a single artist is limited.
  8. Pandora provides similar music, not a play-on-demand service.
  9. As of 2009, the mini player is only available with Pandora’s subscription service.
  10. Free accounts include advertising. These include simple interruptions, with the ad listed on the stream; advertising skins, which do not interrupt the stream; and Java popup ads.

New kids on Pandora’s Block:

Pandora has launched mobile applications that enable users to stream their Pandora Stations to their iPhone or iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile, and Palm Pre devices using either their cell phone provider’s network or WiFi.

The Pandora Mobile for Blackberry application is limited to AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile US carriers, but visiting the Pandora website directly from other providers’ Blackberry phones has allowed successful download of the fully-operational application. Likewise, the Windows Mobile client is limited to a select number of handsets.

Additional features:

Some of the recent additional features are as follows:

  • A Facebook application has been developed to allow users to put their Pandora radio stations on their Facebook profiles. Thus spreading the word and also enabling widespread use.
  • Pandora Podcast, a musicology show updated every few weeks in the form of a podcast.
  • Pandora released a sidebar gadget for Windows Vista. This gadget is compatible with Windows 7.

The future will so whether the Hope that was left in the box is able to keep Pandora media player alive in the minds and heart of the users.

In addition, a menu is provided with the choices: Don’t play this song for a month, Why was this song selected?, Move song to another station, Bookmark, and Buy. From there, listeners can click on links to buy the song from iTunes or Amazon.

There is a setting in each member’s account regarding whether the user wants songs with explicit lyrics played. This, however, does not apply exclusively to albums with the parental advisory label, as other songs with censored versions will have that version played. An example is “Jet Airliner” by the Steve Miller Band, which had one word censored for radio play. With explicit lyrics off, that version will play, despite the album itself not having a PA label.

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