The Advantage Of Copycat Startups: Will Rolling.fm Keep Turntable.fm Innovating?

from the one-can-hope dept

We've written a few times about the wonders of Turntable.fm, one of the first new music services that really seems to get the fact that part of what makes music so enjoyable is the social experience. It's a wonderful service. However, as with anything that gets a lot of users and attention, it isn't long before copycats come along. And, as Eliot van Buskirk has reported, Turntable.fm has a copycat in the form of Rolling.fm, a service that almost certainly chose to copy an awful lot from Turntable.fm.
Of course, as with many "copycats," it appears that Rolling.fm has tried to add some features that sound useful, "such as the ability to see who is in a room in one big list, and a private chat feature that lets you speak directly to Facebook friends even if they’re in a different room." But I tend to agree with Eliot in noting that this is not a bad thing:

Who cares? The world needs all the neat ways to listen to music it can get, from where we’re standing. It’s a case of “the more the merrier” — even if Rolling.fm is quite possibly the least original web app we’ve ever seen.

It’s also a case of “different strokes for different folks.”

The Rolling.fm group-listening web app differs from Turntable.fm in that many of the most popular rooms correlate to specific colleges and universities (although anyone can join those rooms). And so far, we’re hearing far clubbier and less indie music than we generally hear on Turntable.fm.

Who knows — we could be just about to witness an explosion of group listening services, each with its own twist on the Turntable.fm concept that will appeal to a different demographic. While Turntable.fm deserves ample credit for coming up with the concept, it can’t really be bad for music fans if that concept continues to be replicated as it has been here…

I'd go even further than that. Copycats like this actually help everyone, including Turntable.fm. Not only does it help spread the concept even further, but Turntable.fm can just as equally learn from the "improvements" a copycat makes. On top of that, this will help keep Turntable.fm on its toes. As much as I love the service, and as much as I understand that it's very much in beta and at times struggles with the amount of usage it gets, the service has been really buggy at times and having some direct competition in the rear view mirror can only act as an incentive to improve as quickly as possible.

Last year, we wrote about Oded Shenkar's excellent book Copycats, which argues, persuasively, that our cultural distaste towards companies that copy one another is misplaced and not very sensible. There are tremendous benefits to be had when two or more companies copy each other, mainly in that it continues to push all players to innovate and to provide better overall offerings. While I haven't been able to test out Rolling.fm yet (it was down when I went to check it out), I think this development is really good news for Turntable.fm and hope that the company is willing to recognize that as well.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 7:37am

    So when will we read about the inevitable patent lawsuit over a patent for "streaming music to a group of people"?

     

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      Matthew Tenks, Aug 4th, 2011 @ 7:49am

      Re:

      Does anybody actually have a "streaming music to a group of people" patent?

      If someone does, it certainly isn't Turntable because this is hardly a new concept.

       

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        E. Zachary Knight (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 7:52am

        Re: Re:

        Who knows. Certainly not the patent office. That is one of the biggest problems with the state of patents. It doesn't matter what you do, it is 100% likely that it has violated someone's patent somewhere.

        So, I would not doubt that there is a patent that covers "streaming music to a group of people".

         

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      Old Fool (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 10:47am

      Re:

      The first was Ogu-ugu when he discovered bashing a hollow tree trunk with a stick made a nice rhythm, as did all his stone-age mates as he streamed it to the group.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2011 @ 7:37am

    Innovation by avatar color. Yup, we really move ahead.

     

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    drewmo (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 8:14am

    Ha, cool. I finally used Turntable for the first time just yesterday and I thought it was really fun.

    But one of the things I was surprised was missing WAS the ability to just view a list of everyone in the room. It seems obvious that you'd want to see how many people are listening to you, and scan a sorted list to see if so-and-so is still in the room. Instead you have to mouseover everyone's avatar to see who's there, which is annoying.

    So yeah, if a copycat helps spur the creation of features like that, I'm for it.

     

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    mattarse (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 8:15am

    It's innovative to let in non-US users.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 4th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    "companies that copy one another" -- Like the "news" industry?

    Same stories from every source, just repeating the press handouts with the official line, effectively constraining the area of debate, especially with pundits who are Establisment shills.

    Copying is just the manifestation of mediocrity.

    And as a business tactic, it may not work because the market for that kind of website is small, so none will be able to reach sustaining.

     

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      Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 8:39am

      Re: "companies that copy one another" -- Like the "news" industry?

      I would love to see the detailed research report in which you determined the size of that market.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2011 @ 9:09am

      Re: "companies that copy one another" -- Like the "news" industry?

      Actually, it makes me wonder. evolver.fm comments about rolling.fm and turntable.fm - I have to wonder if they aren't all owned by the same people.

       

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        Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 9:11am

        Re: Re: "companies that copy one another" -- Like the "news" industry?

        You are aware that .fm is a fairly common TLD, right?

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Aug 5th, 2011 @ 7:33am

          Re: Re: Re: "companies that copy one another" -- Like the "news" industry?

          Yeah, but to get a cluster of them all talking about each other seems a little weird.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 4th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Turntable.fm sounds great, too bad it's US only.

     

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    mattarse (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 8:36am

    Ok.....not sure of the relevance but Ok.

     

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      Marcus Carab (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 9:16am

      Re:

      not sure of the relevance of what, exactly?

       

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        mattarse (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 12:21pm

        Re: Re:

        sorry - that was supposed to be in reply to an earlier comment from eejit "It's also innovative to be a true democracy, but we don't have that either."
        Not sure what that had to do with me commenting that rolling.fm allows those of us outside the US to access it whereas turntable.fm does not.

         

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    Malibu Cusser (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 8:57am

    We should be seeing a lawsuit from the Rolling Stones soon, since the site is called rolling, and it's about music. That makes is similar enough doesn't it?

     

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    David Liu (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 2:41pm

    At the very least, the copycat looks like a cheap ripoff. I don't know about anybody else, but the kiddie art on Rolling.fm is a huge turnoff to me.

    Which is probably a good thing for Turntable. That means that it can pick and choose the features to better itself, while having a design that attracts more users.

     

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    Nicedoggy, Aug 4th, 2011 @ 3:08pm

    Copycats also create something that is invaluable.
    Choice!

    They also act as natural growth inhibitors for individual entities and as growth factor for the entire market.

    People tired of "too big to fail" should appreciate that.

     

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    Jose_X, Aug 4th, 2011 @ 7:33pm

    one step back, two forward

    .. as concerns software development advantages:

    If any firm (eg, turntable) can't keep up with a more efficient other firm (or firm with more investment money spent on software development) that might have "copied" key ideas, then it might help this first firm to open source the software efforts (allowing for even more competition but, at the same time, leveling the playing field against these firms that can pose significant threat, eg, because of significant $$ backing).

     

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    mrtraver (profile), Aug 4th, 2011 @ 8:31pm

    Competition spurring improvement

    As Mike noted, turntable.fm is buggy. I have not used it enough yet to enjoy it, because I cannot get it to work with my browser of choice (which happens to be the browser with the largest market share, even if it is still in vogue to bash the browser, its company, and its users).

     

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      Marcel de Jong (profile), Aug 5th, 2011 @ 1:54am

      Re: Competition spurring improvement

      But are you using version 6, 7, 8 or 9 of said webbrowser?
      That makes a big difference.

      For instance, Google+ does not work with IE6 and 7, for a few very good reasons. The biggest one being the fact that both those browsers have horrible support for common web standards. And it would cost anyone a lot of energy, time and resources to get these sites to work in just one of those browsers?

      If you're still running 6 or 7, why is that? Why would you willingly use an outdated browser? If it's because you're not allowed to install a newer version on your office pc, then what the heck are you doing on a music site like turntable.fm during work hours? :)

       

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        mrtraver (profile), Aug 6th, 2011 @ 3:31pm

        Re: Re: Competition spurring improvement

        I'm using version 9 (although Yahoo and some other sites keep telling me I need to upgrade to 8!) I've tried compatibility mode with no luck. It does work with Firefox and Chrome; I just never have been a huge fan of those even after using each for several months. But even if I use turntable.fm with those, the plurality of users (and possibly the majority of facebook users) probably use some version of IE. The problem may be something unique to my system, but I have not found a place to report it as an issue (and the forum post I tried just turned to an IE bash, with nothing useful).

        At work we just finally upgrade to IE7 last year, so i guess no Google+ for me there. :) (As iff our web filter would let that pass anyway!)

         

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