Thursday, May 31, 2007
Webjay Closing 
Probably of interest to some ed-tech folks, although it's not really news anymore: Webjay is closing the doors. This bums me out -- it was one of those simple, cool earlier web apps that I really embraced because it was useful and fun. Over the years I put a lot of work into my Webjay playlists, collecting songs, podcasts and videos from all kinds of sources. The interface was quirky, but got the job done, and the page-scraping import function was invaluable.

Saving my old playlists will be easy enough (as m3u files, or archived at grabb.it), but another bummer of losing the service is that all the connections and comments will disappear. In a few years of use, I must have hundreds of comments on my playlists and ones I've left on others. It's not that there's such rich value in them, but those comments formed my networks within the system, and it sucks to have them vaporized as if they never existed.

From my perspective, the beginning of the end happened when the MySpace masses discovered that they could run a flash-based player of their Webjay playlists on their profile pages. A diverse, supportive Webjay community was soon flooded by whining teenagers and derivative Top-40 and emo songs, making it much harder to find the really interesting, unique stuff. The crowds seem to kill the experience, and site performance suffered badly.

I suppose that the increased traffic caught the attention of Yahoo, who snapped it up. I was stoked for Webjay creator Lucas Gonze, a very smart (and nice) guy with a great vision. It sounded like Yahoo intended to keep it around, but I'd say that the quality of the site has been in decline ever since -- occasionally the speed has been ok, but at other times the service has been intermittent and the "popular" lists were often static or broken. The forums seemed to be largely ignored and I think many of the old-schoolers drifted away. Traffic seemed to be on the general decline as well. Farewell, old friend.

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I used WebJay when I created Ed Radio - which was in my mind a direct fore-runner of podcasting, and the first application to mix RSS and audio playlists.

So it is sad for me to see the end of Webjay.

Though, of course, I think WebJay ended with the purchase by Yahoo. Just like we're seeing the long decline of Flickr.

I think a lot of these purchases are attempts to prevent the ongoing development of an idea, rather than to further it.

There were all kinds of reasons to love WebJay -- the import function (back when it worked) made cool experiments like Ed Radio easy to assemble and use. It's too bad (for us, anyway) it wasn't released as open source (a la Elgg) instead. Even just a stripped-down version that let you import, edit, copy and publish playlists.

I kinda doubt that Yahoo bought Webjay to make it go away -- I think they were buying Gonze's smarts and vision for user-generated playlists and collections...which they'll fold into some proprietary Yahoo Music tools that I'll probably not bother to learn or engage with the way I did with Webjay.

My heavy-use web apps are Webjay, Flickr, Blogger, Gmail and Bloglines. Webjay is dead, with Flickr likely to suffer a similar fate at some point, Blogger and Gmail don't play nice at all (signing in to one seems to kick me off of the other, requiring constant sign-ins) and the switch to Blogger Beta mucked up most of my blogs pretty badly. Bloglines has been fairly reliable.

Aside from the unnecessary and irritating sign-in switchover (which also afflicted Webjay, I believe) on Flickr, do you really feel that it has been in decline? I'm still a heavy Flickr user and can't say I've been disappointed with it, although I do worry about its future.

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Welcome to Jeremy Hiebert's instructional design and technology blog. Feel free to comment on postings, or e-mail me. Check out my personal/family blog at your own risk.

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  • Lifestylism
    I'm also studying how people envision their future lifestyles as the basis for a new web application.


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