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Why Did Dropbox Buy Audiogalaxy?

Audiogalaxy_home-313x214By Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.fm.

Most companies making strides in the cloud are big. Apple (iCloud) and Google (Drive) are front-runners in the general cloud storage space. If you count the music cloud, Amazon’s also a factor, especially with its newfound abilities to autorip all the CDs you’ve ever bought there and sell music to iOS users.

Then, you have Dropbox, which has amassed over 100 million loyal users, in part through an Amway-like approach that gives people free upgrades if they convince their friends and/or coworkers to use it too. Dropbox is social in a way that other cloud storage services are not. Sharing is baked into the way it expands, and the way people using it, designating files or folders as shared.

There’s even an app, DropTunes (for web and iOS), that turns Dropbox into a sharing-friendly, cloud music player for iOS and the web.

Clearly, if DropBox were to release something that did what DropTunes does, without agreements with labels, publishers, or artists, they’d have to lawyer up pretty fast.

So what is DropBox doing with Audiogalaxy, which it purchased late last year?

For the uninitiated, Audiogalaxy began as a file-sharing network in the Napster era, distinguishing itself by surfacing results from users who were offline. This was great, because it let you find super-rare stuff; when the user hosting it logged back on, your download would commence.

In its latest iteration, Audiogalaxy is a “place shifting” music app whose main function was to let people listen to the music on their computer from wherever they are — up to 200,000 songs, for free, either on-demand or in smart radio stations. This is the “DIY cloud,” because the music still lives on your computer, rather than in a data center somewhere. Your computer at home, or wherever, needs to be on in order for it to work.

We’re unclear on what it will look like when Dropbox rolls out whatever it is planning to do with Audiogalaxy, if anything, because Dropbox is a “true” cloud service, in that your data lives in a data center somewhere, and Audiogalaxy is all about the DIY cloud.

Most obviously, Dropbox would use Audiogalaxy — or maybe just the people who built it — to add some sort of music functionality to Dropbox. We can think of two reasons this might take a while: 1) Negotiating the licensing for something like that will be tough, especially considering that Dropbox is as much a collaborative tool for file sharing as it is an online repository for individual people’s data; and 2) Audiogalaxy and Dropbox are sort of apples and oranges, for the reasons mentioned above.

We asked DropBox to give us a hint about what it is up to, and heard back the following, from an outside spokeswoman:

“At this time, we don’t have any insight into what Dropbox is planning around this, but we’ll add you to our media list and keep you posted if/when more information is available.”

So much for the direct approach.

Anyway, watch this space. Nobody — not Amazon, Apple, or Google — has begun to dominate the music locker space. Dropbox, with its hordes of users/salespeople, could make a big dent fast, assuming it has the will and legal resources to make that happen.

 

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