The VICE Channels

    The Behind the Scenes Genius of Spotify

    Written by

    Michael Byrne


    Daniel Ek, CEO, Spotify.

    For streaming media to win it has to be fast—and not just fast but blazingly, bafflingly fast. No latency. Spotify does this. Actually, sometimes it seems like it even knows some short cut to my hard drive. Spotify’s current median latency time is 256 microseconds. That’s kind of amazing, and why people love it.

    How exactly Spotify does this is fascinating. First, note that Spotify CEO Daniel Ek was formerly CEO of BitTorrent. What Spotify does is essentially an advanced modified form of torrenting. In fact, Spotify itself is providing you at any given time with only a very little bit of data: 8-percent. The rest comes from your own computer as cached (temporarily stored on your hard drive by Spotify at a limit of 10-percent of drive space or 10 GB; least requested data is erased first) data and via other Spotify users as small bits and pieces of song information. Spotify basically manages the flow of all of that based on an elaborate scheme of prioritization and contingencies.

    So, Spotify is in the organization business as much as it is in the storage business (though watch them become one and the same). It’s the best advertisement yet for the capabilities of the cloud: super-maximized efficiency. One could imagine some version of the strategy being used for other media, like TV and movies.

    This is what it looks like, courtesy of Spotify engineer Ricardo Santos:

    So there’s levels of storage, starting with your computer, then the P2P network, a “front line” of superfast Spotify servers, and, finally, the slower master server. 256 microseconds. Meanwhile, the record industry is still trying like hell to sell you CDs.

    Reach this writer at michaelb@motherboard.tv.