|Developer name||Mercora, Inc.|
|Size||Installation archive size is 2621440 bytes|
|Operations systems||Installation of this software is supported on Windows All|
Are you looking for a way to share digital music without the risk of a lawsuit?
Look at Mercora, a new music-sharing service that adheres to the letter of federal law. Billed as "P2P Radio," Mercora lets you broadcast your music collection across the Net and listen to broadcasts from thousands of other music lovers.
But you needn't worry about broadcasting copyrighted material and running afoul of the major recording labels.
Mercora's parent company pays the labels a rights fee for each song the service streams.
Mercora doesn't work like Kazaa, eDonkey, or any other peer-to-peer file-sharing service. You can't download songs from other machines. You can only stream them. And you can't always just log on to the service and find a particular song or artist.
It really does work like a radio. You search for a broadcaster you like-a station, so to speak-and listen to whatever songs it plays. It may sound a bit odd, but once you stumble onto a station that suits your tastes, it's a quite enjoyable way of listening to music.
When you install the application, available for free from the company's Web site, it immediately scans your hard drive for digital songs and collects them into a single library.
Then, the first time you launch the app, it randomly chooses ten of these songs and notifies the Mercora network that they're available for broadcast. Other users can then stream any one of those ten songs to their desktops.
As long as the service is up and running on your machine, it will continue broadcasting songs in this way. After advertising the first ten for awhile, it will switch to another ten. And so on. If the program is running, you can't stop the service from broadcasting tunes, but you can easily add and delete songs from your li-brary, create your own playlists, and change the number of songs it advertises at any time.
As you broadcast songs, of course, thousands of other Mercora users are broadcasting theirs. According to the company, 300,000 people have signed up for the service so far, and at any given moment, anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 are logged on. Tapping into all this music is a breeze. You can browse a catalogue of songs currently available for broadcast. You can do a keyword search, looking for a particular song, album, or artist. Or you can pick from a list of the service's most popular artists and broadcasters.
Searches, however, don't always turn up exactly what you're looking for. At any given moment, there are far more broadcasts on offer than you'll find on an ordinary radio dial, but unless you're looking for the latest Top 40 hits, your chances of stumbling onto a particular tune are slim. During PC Magazine Labs testing, for instance, when we keyed in "The Beatles," we usually turned up three or four different Beatles songs. But when we keyed in "Hey Jude" or "I Am the Walrus," the search typically came up empty.
That said, Mercora isn't about finding a particular song at a given moment. You really have to think of it as a radio dial. In searching for a song or an artist, you're trying to find a station you like, a broadcaster that's playing the kind of music you enjoy. Once you find one, you sit back and enjoy whatever song might pop up next. And if you get tired of a broadcaster, you can always switch to another.
Furthermore, over the course of an hour, the service won't let you stream any more than four songs from the same artist, or any more than three from the same album. Such are the vagaries of digital-rights laws. Again, this isn't a huge problem if you're in a radio frame of mind. When you tune into the radio, you don't expect to hear song after song from the same artist.
If you're particularly enamored with a station, you can easily save it to a Favorites list and return to it in the future. Similarly, you can save keyword searches to the list, so you needn't repeat them over and over again. You can also invite friends to join the Mercora network, add them to your Favorites list, and create your own private listening groups. There's even a built-in chat client that lets you trade messages with other broadcasters.
In short, Mercora is a cross between peer-to-peer file-sharing and Internet radio. It gives you access to thousands of different online broadcasts, but the broadcasters are people like yourself. Their playlists are eclectic and idiosyncratic, not always what you'd expect from a radio station. Plus, in its own way, the ser-vice builds a sense of community. You can freely interact with other broadcasters, meeting people who share your tastes.
The service isn't for everyone, but if you're a music lover, it's certainly worth trying. It's not only free, it's free of spyware and other bundled apps. Currently, Mercora makes its money by letting you purchase the music that you're listening to through Amazon, as well as posting unobtrusive Google-supplied ads to the application. Use Mercora P2P Radio for a few days and you may be hooked.
· PC running Intel Pentium/Celeron family or AMD K6/Athlon/Duron family processor with 300 MHz or greater clock speed
· 128MB or greater RAM
· Windows 2000 or Windows XP (Home or Professional)
· At least 10MB of available disk space