The founders of Last.fm have resigned. In a blog post today Felix Miller, Richard Jones and Martin Stiksel announced that “After two years running Last.fm within CBS we feel the time is right to begin the process of handing over the reins.”
Last.fm has had a rocky road to where it is today. Starting out as a music community site in 2002, it incorporated Richard Jones’ Audioscrobbler project for recording and charting users’ listening habits in 2005. The early days of the service were marred by regular database crashes and users lost listening data on several occasions.
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When they were bought by US media giant CBS in 2007 they maintained their London base and much of their independence. The corporate backing meant the site became more stable and partnerships with companies such as Vodafone and Microsoft were announced.
The first signs hinting at a strained relationship between Last.fm and CBS came earlier this year when Techcrunch ran a story accusing Last.fm of passing data about users who had been listening to the as-yet unreleased U2 album to the RIAA.
Last.fm replied with a firm denial but the episode showed a lack of communication between CBS and Last.fm, especially in the area of public relations. Last.fm had reportedly handed all PR duties to CBS in New York, not a good situation when there’s a media storm brewing that needs a quick response. The Techcrunch story recently returned, this time accusing CBS of taking the data from Last.fm without their knowledge.
Miller, Jones and Stiksel haven’t revealed the reason for their departure but their post today pays tribute to the staff and users of the service. The question remains as to who they will “hand over the reins” to. Will the company be absorbed deeper into CBS? Will that affect the spirit of fun and user-centric innovation the company has? We can only hope not.