The University of Southampton

Spectacular success for ECS graduate

Published: 
31 May 2007
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ECS graduate Richard Jones has achieved spectacular success from his third-year computer science project. In 2002 Richard devised Audioscrobbler, which became a crucial part of Last.fm a year later. Yesterday (30 May 2007) Last.fm was sold to CBS for $280 million.

When Richard undertook his third-year project in 2002 he wanted to develop a system that would create a way of discovering new music, allowing the popularity of new artists to grow by word-of-mouth via a website dedicated to music enthusiasts. His ideas built on previous programs by including technology that could assess people’s tastes through monitoring what they actually listen to rather than relying on what they said they listened to.

‘Users of the system need to download software on to their computer that monitors the artists they listen to,’ Richard explained to the University Dolphin magazine in 2003. ‘The data is then collated and a pattern emerges by way of a technique known as “collaborative filtering”. The results are recorded against a username and can be compared with the listening tastes of other members.’

At that time Audioscrobbler had 3000 users and Richard was planning to undertake a PhD in ECS to develop the service further. But the service became so successful that he decided to concentrate on expanding it after his graduation.

Audioscrobbler became a crucial part of the technology of Last.fm, a UK-based internet site combining radio and social networking, and Richard joined its founders, Martin Stiksel and Felix Miller on its board. The three board members of Last.fm were yesterday reported in the Financial Times to have gained $38 million each as a result of the sale to CBS.

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