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Simplify Media actually manages to achieve what most music consumers have always wanted: a chance to connect to and enjoy each other’s music without the usual problems associated with that.

Simplify Media is a new plugin for iTunes on PC and Mac platforms (with later releases coming for Windows Media Player and WinAmp). It allows your friends to connect to your music library and listen wherever they are — and you can listen to their music collections too.

Simplify Media

You can also connect as many of your own computers to the network as you like, so you can listen to your home collection at work — or connect from your laptop while out of town (something I intend to make good use of in the near future).

Genuinely social software
The great thing about it is that you’re forming your own network among actual friends and family. You can have a maximum of 30 friends in total, whether they’re connected simultaneously or not.

If I’m friends with Joe and Dave (I am, as it happens) then I can listen to their music, and they can listen to mine. But they can’t listen to each other’s music unless they actually make friends with each other.

I mean, I’m sure they’d get on fine if they ever met, but they probably both have 29 other friends of their own they can be getting on with. And it’s far more valuable and satisfying to look through and listen to the music library of someone you know and care about than to simply rummage through some stranger’s box of virtual records.

Quality streaming
The streaming just works. Brilliantly. Several of my friends are in New Zealand, which is not known for its generosity of bandwidth — and yet I managed to listen to the whole of the new SJD album ‘at a friend’s house’ while waiting for my copy to arrive via post from Smoke CDs.

The quality of the stream was great — only one or two minor glitches throughout — and the sound quality was the full 160kbps it had been ripped at. The album is superb, of course.

Peer-networking and copyright
The emergence of micro peer networks has, of course, been long awaited, and the ‘Shared’ feature within physical wired networks on iTunes has just been waiting for some bright spark to pick it up and make it work across the internet.

And there’s nothing more interesting than somebody else’s music collection. Except maybe the contents of their bookcase.

Now, before you get upset about copyright, consider this:

The only way I can think of to turn this from a bunch of friends sharing and recommending their music to each other into an infringing scam would be to charge for membership to a particular network that had a massive library.

So, for instance, I could charge £10 per head to join my group, and sell it on the basis that I have 5,000-odd CDs of a particular kind.

Perhaps there are some people whose libraries I would pay good money to be able to listen to at my discretion. Will Holland would be one such person.

But because of the limitation of 30 members, that just isn’t worth anyone’s time and energy (certainly not as a get-rich quick scheme) — and setting up multiple networks in order to get several groups of 30 just isn’t cost effective, because each network would require another internet-connected computer.

So… Quantic‘s better off inviting his own friends than charging me money.

Can I borrow this one?
This is much more like going to a friend’s house to listen to a new record. You can only listen to one person’s music at a time (who wants to listen to two songs at once anyway?) and you can only stream — not download. You already know the people you’ve invited, or have been invited by, so it’s a genuinely social thing.

Unlike MySpace — or even Facebook, the SimplifyMedia friends I have are, without exception, more than welcome to come to my house, drink my coffee and flick through my record collection.

In other words, it’s a beautifully self-regulating system that encourages the social discovery and sharing of music with all of the infringement designed out — and without the use of DRM.

I’m very impressed.

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Try out Simplify Media with your own friends, then leave a comment here letting us all know what you think of it. I’d be interested in any added features you’d wish for or problems you might encounter. Whose music collection would be your dream contact — and why?

I’ll pick three commentators at random and invite them to join my network. I have a few spare spaces and we’re all friends here…