Early Adopter: From the Hacker Who Brought You YouTube Instant–Instant.fm Launches Today

Internet fame is fleeting. But techies with memories longer than their daily Twitter feeds probably recall some fuss last year over the Stanford University junior who created YouTube Instant–a riff on Google’s then-new instant search function.

Twitter went nuts. So did the hacker forums, and YouTube Instant earned creator Feross Aboukhadijeh over one million hits in 10 days, and a job offer from YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley himself.

Aboukhadijeh didn’t take the job, and this morning, he and co-creator Jake Becker launched Instant.fm, a service that marries YouTube Instant to music playlist sharing, forming a mash-up so obviously cool that one wonders why Apple or YouTube haven’t done it already.

The idea is simple: drag a playlist from someplace, iTunes included, and Instant.fm queues up YouTube videos of the songs in the list, playing them in the playlist’s order.

“I wanted to make it the easiest place on the Internet to share a playlist,” said Aboukhadijeh.

Users can even make a playlist right on the site, and, in a few clicks, anyone within tweeting distance can be listening to the same songs.

Depending on the user’s needs, though, Instant.fm delivers a little more than just playlist sharing.

Users can hit play, blow up the YouTube window to full screen, and instantly have their own nightclub-style music video machine.

“You even get artist and song background info thanks to a few publicly available music information APIs,” Aboukhadijeh added.

The whole thing is fairly polished, especially compared to YouTube Instant, but a decent user interface doesn’t quite make Instant.fm an iTunes killer.

Instant.fm users are at the mercy of YouTube’s large but incomplete music video library. And depending on the quality of the uploaded video, the audio won’t be up to MP3 standards.

So, why give up the Silicon Valley dream of being another famous Stanford drop-out?

Aboukhadijeh said it wasn’t just about seeking more instant success.

“I definitely want to get my degree, and I guess right now I’m really excited about building things really fast and iterating,” he said.

As for the future, Aboukhadijeh is thinking a little larger about Instant.fm than he was about his first viral hit, even if he still has no plans to turn it into a business.

(In any case, he has accepted a summer internship at conversation start-up Quora.)

“If you think about it, playlists are just lists of your favorite songs. And if you add them all together, you get your music library,” said Aboukhadijeh. “So, eventually, you just have a whole library in your Web browser. I know there are a lot of cloud services trying to do the same thing, asking you to upload your mp3s, but we can do it easily.”

I met up with the excitable Aboukhadijeh, and co-creator Becker, on campus at Stanford University. Watch the video to hear the development story straight from the hackers’ mouths:


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