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  1. #1
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    [EN] Policia apreende servidores da OvH e Free

    La Gendarmerie Nationale vient de mettre un coup d’arrêt au business du tracker privé What.cd. 12 serveurs saisis chez OVH à Lille et Gravelines, ainsi qu’une machine chez Free.

    Damien Bancal
    17 Nov 2016


    C’est ce jeudi 17 novembre que la Gendarmerie Nationale, et plus précisément les militaires du centre de lutte contre les criminalités numériques (C3N), a saisi les serveurs mails, irc et trackers du tracker torrent privé What.cd. Bref, un joli nid de données que les enquêteurs sont en train d’analyser. Une première phase qui n’est pas négligeable. Même si le site est toujours actif, il ne fonctionne plus. [Mise à jour : les administrateurs de What.cd ont annoncé et confirmé le problème, sur Twitter, quelques heures après l’article de ZATAZ].

    Les utilisateurs qui utilisent ce tracker privé se retrouvent sans connexion possible aux trois millions de torrents proposés (si je calcule rapidement, cela donne 3 millions de torrents X 15 mp3 par album (dans la condition ou il n’y a que des albums. What.cd diffusant aussi singles et EP) X 13 téléchargements (moyenne constatée par des ayants droits sur plusieurs affaires) x 0,07€ (coût réclamé par des ayants droits dans plusieurs jugements), soit 41 millions d’euros de préjudice, NDR).

    Les machines ont été saisies en majorité dans le Nord de la France (Lille, Roubaix, Gravelines …). Elles étaient hébergées chez OVH.

    D’après mes informations, il s’agit d’une première phrase dans cette enquête qui a débuté voilà deux ans. Il semblerait que les Gendarmes ont été saisis par la SACEM. [Mise à jour : J’ai eu un contact téléphonique avec la SACEM ce vendredi 18 novembre, une communication est annoncée, NDR]

    L’enquête continue. Les données semblent permettre de remonter à des nombreuses personnes et administrateurs Français, mais aussi au « boss » de What.cd, basé au Royaumes-Unis. A Suivre !

    What.cd était un espace fermé, privé, accessible uniquement par cooptation ou via un questionnaire pointu sur le téléchargement et la musique.

    Mise à jour 18/11/2017 – 11h : Confirmation par Le Monde des informations de ZATAZ.


    http://www.zataz.com/operation-what-cd-serveurs-saisis/

    [bing]

    The National Gendarmerie just put a stop to the business of the private tracker What.cd. 12 seized servers OVH in Lille and Gravelines, and a machine at Free.

    Damien Bancal
    17 Nov 2016


    It is this Thursday, November 17 the National Gendarmerie, and specifically the military fight against the digital crime (C3N) Center, grabbed emails, irc, and trackers What.cd private torrent tracker servers. In short, a nice nest of data that investigators are analyzing. A first phase which is not negligible. Even though the site is still active, it does more. [Update: What.cd administrators have announced and confirmed the problem, on Twitter, a few hours after ZATAZ article].

    Users who use this private tracker themselves with no possible connection to the three proposed torrents million (if I calculated quickly, it gives 3 million X 15 mp3 album torrents (in the condition or there just albums.) (What.cd broadcasting also singles and EP) X 13 downloads (average a rights holders on several cases) x €0.07 (cost claimed by rights holders in several judgments), or 41 million euros of damage, NDR).


    The machines were seized in majority in the North of France (Lille, Roubaix, Gravelines...). They were hosted by OVH.

    To according to my information, this is a first sentence in this investigation that began two years ago. It would seem that the Gendarmes were seized by the SACEM. [Update: I got a telephone contact with the SACEM this Friday, November 18, a communication is announced, NDR]

    The investigation continues. The data appear to be linked back to many people and French directors, but also to the 'boss' of What.cd, based in the United Kingdom. Follow!

    What.CD was a closed, private, accessible only by co-option or space via a sharp questionnaire on download and music.

    Last updated 18/11/2017 - 11 h: Confirmation by Le Monde of ZATAZ information.
    Última edição por 5ms; 18-11-2016 às 11:51.

  2. #2
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    Accusé de piratage, le site de partage musical What.cd ferme ses portes

    Le service, consacré exclusivement à la musique, particulièrement fermé et sélectif, permettait à une communauté d’internautes de s’échanger illégalement une très grande quantité d’albums et de morceaux rares.


    Morgane Tual et Florian Reynaud
    18.11.2016

    L’annonce, placardée en petites lettres sur la page d’accueil du site, puis partagée sur Twitter, a créé la déception chez ses adeptes. Le service de partage musical What.cd, considéré par les internautes férus de musique comme la bibliothèque la plus riche et variée d’Internet, a annoncé jeudi 17 novembre sa fermeture, après neuf ans d’activité.

    Due to some recent events, What.CD is shutting down. We are not likely to return any time soon in our current form. 1/2
    — whatcd (@What.CD)

    A l’origine de sa fermeture, la saisie de serveurs lui appartenant situés en France, par la gendarmerie nationale, ou plus précisément son centre de lutte contre les criminalités numériques, a appris Le Monde, confirmant des informations de Zataz. Tout est parti de la Sacem, qui a averti la gendarmerie fin 2015. « Ce site avait été identifié par la Sacem depuis plus de deux ans », explique au Monde David El Sayegh, son secrétaire général. « En matière de contrefaçon musicale, c’est largement le plus important », affirme-t-il, soulignant que le site permettait l’accès à « plus de 3 millions de fichiers ».

    « Un préjudice à plus de 40 millions d’euros »

    What.cd était ce que l’on appelle un tracker torrent, c’est-à-dire un service qui coordonne des échanges de fichiers entre utilisateurs, en utilisant le protocole BitTorrent, et permettait notamment de télécharger plus rapidement.

    « On a évalué le préjudice à plus de 40 millions d’euros pour les créateurs que nous représentons », précise David El Sayegh, qui se réjouit d’avoir « fait tomber le Megaupload de la musique ». Mais le travail des gendarmes n’est pas encore terminé : si le site est désormais inaccessible, l’enquête est toujours en cours. David El Sayegh espère que les responsables du site seront retrouvés « et jugés », affirmant que « les serveurs saisis ne sont qu’une partie émergée de l’iceberg » et rappelant que le site est d’une ampleur internationale.

    Une réputation élitiste

    What.cd, de son côté, a précisé que toutes les données de ses utilisateurs avaient été supprimées. Géré par une équipe discrète, ce site était souvent considéré comme « la bibliothèque musicale définitive », comme le déplore un internaute sur le forum Reddit. Le service était réputé pour proposer les albums et morceaux les plus rares, introuvables ailleurs, avec des fichiers de la meilleure qualité possible.

    Cette réputation de richesse, la communauté l’a également obtenue en fonctionnant de manière très fermée. Contrairement à des sites comme Megaupload, supermarché du piratage fermé en 2011, que n’importe qui pouvait utiliser. Pour rejoindre What.cd, il fallait soit être invité par un autre membre, soit passer une sorte d’entretien, par tchat, où l’on était interrogé sur ses connaissances en téléchargement, mais aussi en qualité de son, etc.

    De nombreux internautes ont fait part de leur déception. Adrienne Charmet, coordinatrice des campagnes de la Quadrature du Net, une association française de défense des libertés numériques, a déploré sur Twitter la mort « d’un trésor ». « Nulle part ailleurs en ligne ou en magasins en France il n’y avait autant de diversité et de qualité », a-t-elle ajouté, regrettant « qu’en 2016 on [ne soit] toujours pas capable de comprendre que ce qui fait vivre la musique, c’est le partage ».

    http://www.lemonde.fr/pixels/article...6_4408996.html

    Service, dedicated exclusively to music, particularly firm and selective, allowed a community of Internet users to illegally trade a very large amount of albums and songs rare.


    Morgane Tual and Florian Reynaud
    18.11.2016

    The announcement, posted in small letters on the homepage of the site, and then shared on Twitter, has created disappointment among his followers. What.cd music sharing service, considered by tech-savvy users of music as the library the most rich and varied of the Internet, announced Thursday, November 17 closing, after nine years of activity.

    Due to some recent events, What.CD is shutting down. We are not likely to return any time soon in our current form. 1/2
    -whatcd (@What.CD)

    The origin of its closure, the seizure of servers belonging to him located in France, by the national gendarmerie, or more precisely its fight against digital crime Center, taught the world, confirming information from Zataz. Everything started from the Sacem, which warned the force end of 2015. "This site had been identified by the Sacem for more than two years", explains to the world David El Sayegh, general Secretary. "For music infringement, it is largely the most important", he says, pointing out that the site allowed access to "more than 3 million files".

    [B] "Injury to more than EUR 40 million" [B]

    What.CD was what is called a torrent tracker, which is a service that coordinates exchange of files between users, using the BitTorrent protocol, and allowed including download faster.

    "It has been estimated the damage at more than 40 million euros for the designers we represent", says David El Sayegh, who is pleased to have «dropped the music Megaupload» But the work of the police is yet to complete: If the site is now inaccessible, the investigation is still ongoing. David El Sayegh hope that the site will be found "and judged", stating that "the seized servers are just a part of the iceberg" and recalling that the site is international in scope.

    An elitist reputation

    What.CD, for his part, said that all the data of its users had been removed. Managed by a team of discreet, this site was often considered to be "the definitive music library", as a surfer on the Reddit forum deplore it. The service was known to offer the albums and tracks the most rare, not found elsewhere, with the highest possible quality files.

    This reputation of wealth, the community also got it running in a closed manner. Unlike sites like Megaupload, supermarket closed piracy in 2011, anyone could use. To join What.cd, you had to be invited by another Member, either pass a sort of interview, by chat, where one was questioned about his knowledge as a download, but also its quality, etc.

    Many Internet users have expressed their disappointment. Adrienne Charmet, Coordinator of the Quadrature of the Net, a French association of digital liberties campaigns, lamented on Twitter the death "of a treasure. "Nowhere else online or in shops in France there is as much diversity and quality", she added, regretting "that in 2016 [is] still not able to understand what makes live music, is sharing.

  3. #3
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    What.cd Shuts Down Following Reported Raids in France

    The hugely popular private music torrent tracker What.CD has shut down. After a reported raid on several of its servers in France, The tracker says it has destroyed all site and user data. What.cd itself hasn't confirmed any police action but cites "recent events" as the reason for its drastic actions.

    Earlier today the popular music tracker What.cd became inaccessible.

    While the reason for the sudden outage remained a mystery for a while, a message that was just posted on the site and official Twitter account shows that the downtime is likely to be permanent.

    What.cd appears to have shut down effective immediately, and the site’s operators say they’ve destroyed all data in the process.

    “Due to some recent events, What.CD is shutting down. We are not likely to return any time soon in our current form. All site and user data has been destroyed. So long, and thanks for all the fish,” the announcement reads.

    According to the French news site Zataz, the cybercrime unit of the Gendarmerie (C3N) raided twelve servers operated by the tracker at hosting provider OVH, and one server that was stored at Free.

    TorrentFreak spoke to Damien Bancal, the author of the article, who noted that the information came from credible and trusted sources. Also, C3N confirmed that there was a police operation this morning, but didn’t specifically mention What.cd.

    The French music industry group SACEM was reportedly involved in the investigation, which has been ongoing for two years. No arrests have been reported, and it’s unclear if any of the seized data is readable.

    TorrentFreak reached out to SACEM, What.cd’s hosting provider, and one of the site’s operators, and we will update this article if a response is forthcoming.

    With the apparent demise of What.cd, the torrent world will lose one of its biggest icons.

    What.cd first appeared online in the fall of 2007, just a handful of days after the demise of the largest music tracker at the time, OiNK.

    What.cd’s founders wanted to give nearly 200,000 homeless music fans somewhere to go, a place they could call home – a torrent site to fill the void left by the closure of the Pink Palace.

    In the years that followed, What.cd grew beyond all expectations, outgrowing OiNK and establishing itself as the greatest music-sharing torrent site the world has ever known.

    Today, this journey appears to have come to an end.

    https://torrentfreak.com/what-cd-shu...france-161117/

  4. #4
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    What.CD ‏@whatcd 14 hours ago

    Reports of our database being seized are not factual.

  5. #5
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    World’s largest music torrent site goes dark

    Sam Machkovech
    11/18/2016, 2:59 AM


    It took nearly 10 years, but authorities have finally targeted and taken down What.cd, which had risen to become the Internet's largest invite-only, music-trading torrent site.

    The news was confirmed by the tracker's official Twitter account on Thursday via two posts: "We are not likely to return any time soon in our current form. All site and user data has been destroyed. So long, and thanks for all the fish."

    ...

    Ars has received a response from the operator of What.cd's Twitter account. The respondent would only identify him or herself as "an administrator" of the former site, but the person alleges that the torrent site's operation was shut down by its administrators, not a police or government force.

    "The facts are pretty skimpy right now," What.cd's representative says. "We have no official confirmation that servers were seized, but all available evidence does support that, so we are operating as if it is true." That being said, What.cd's administrators are confident that its major database of user information was not seized by French authorities: "The site was operational until we shut it down."

    That shutdown decision was made by What.cd's operators out of heightened precaution, as opposed to being forced by an authority to do so, the representative tells Ars. That person also noted that issues with the site's IRC server match up with information gleaned from today's Zataz report.

    "I wouldn't be surprised to see some other site try to fill the void, but for now, we have no plans to try to return," the What.cd administrator says.

    What.cd's representative declined to answer specific questions about the site's legality but offered a personal statement about his or her role as an administrator: "We've never profited at all from this; all the funds [donated by users] were used for servers or services. That might not be very ethically convincing to some, but it was personally important for me. You can find all kinds of torrent sites that are run for profit, and that's something none of us would be comfortable with. Collectively, we invested quite a lot of time in the site, and it's safe to say we all did that because we loved what What.cd was."

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2...seize-servers/

    Já contei essa estória aqui no WHT-BR, resumidamente: Muitos anos atrás eu estava usando um provedor cujos HDs dos servidores foram apreendidos pela policia francesa. A OvH não informou absolutamente a razão dos servidores estarem down e somente após o provedor ter contratado um advogado francês tomou conhecimento da apreensão. Alegadamente, os HDs foram retirados sem ordem judicial. Por alguns dias a OvH não respondeu os tickets de suporte abertos pelo provedor e posteriormente tentou cobrar o valor dos HDs retirados e "lucros cessantes".

  6. #6
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    Spotify Will Never Replace What.cd

    Nicholas Deleon
    November 18, 2016

    Just like that, and it was gone.

    What.cd, an online music community that had operated in the shadows of the private BitTorrent underground piracy scene since October 2007, suddenly shut down on Thursday, leaving its estimated 150,000 former active members memorializing the site’s place in the short history of online music consumption.

    “What I will miss the most was the biggest, most complete, and most carefully curated music library that ever existed,” one former member, who, like many others quoted in this story, requested anonymity in order to speak freely about his time on the website, told me. While What.cd’s library numbered around one million “unique music releases,” it was partially the sheer variety of available music, just a quick BitTorrent download away, that kept the faithful coming back over its nine-year existence.

    “Say I had a hankering for some Nigerian Disco,” another former member told me, “specifically recorded in the years between 1975-1979. I could go find a [collection, or “collage”] made by some user featuring Nigerian Disco releases. It was all right there, neatly categorized and sorted by release type and file format.” (Music on What.cd was typically uploaded in multiple file formats and qualities, including varying levels of MP3 fidelity and lossless files encoded in formats like FLAC.)

    “The niche interests of the users,” this former member added, “and how they vocalized those interests with collages or just straight up recommendations in the forums, was one of the site's biggest assets.”

    For many of the site’s former members I spoke with, having access to a vast library of music that could be downloaded instantly, and for free, was merely an added benefit of being a part of a community of diehard music fans who took pride in being part of the exclusive, invite-only clubhouse, one that in some cases required passing an interview to be allowed entry.

    “The thing I’ll miss most about the website was the community spirit,” a third former member named Andrew told me. “That was facilitated by the unbelievably dedicated staff, many of whom invested more effort and manpower in maintaining the site than I’ll ever be able to comprehend. Ultimately, they made it possible.”

    “Everyone was super knowledgeable, almost everyone was really nice and helpful,” said a fourth former member. “Never to be replicated. It was honestly my favorite website on the internet.”

    “This is a huge cultural blow to our generation,” added a fifth former member.

    To understand the importance that What.cd holds in certain corners of the internet you need to go back in time to 2007, long before services like Spotify and Apple Music enabled the world to legally stream an unlimited amount of “Royals,” “Hotline Bling,” or “Black Beatles” on their smartphones or computers. Back then, we filled iPods with music downloaded from iTunes—and as far as legal sources of digital music, that was pretty much it. But websites like What.cd saved savvy internet users from having to use shady file-sharing software like LimeWire, where low-quality files and malware seemingly lurked around every corner.

    “What.cd was around before Spotify, and practically WAS our Spotify—we just didn’t know what to call it,” a sixth former member told me, who noted that it was the effort of the site’s community to contextualize the vast library, collecting artwork, finding and grouping together different releases of the same ablums, and helping fellow members identify related artists, that set What.cd apart from other services dating back to that era. “There are still some private trackers where a user can get new music releases,” he said, “but can in no way compare to the metadata generated by the amazing What.cd community.”

    This database of musical knowledge, which a site administrator told me Thursday was now “gone,” was “unparalleled,” a seventh former member told me.

    “The closing of What.CD is the decayed cherry on top of the shit cake that is 2016,” he said. “I will miss [it] immensely.”

    http://motherboard.vice.com/read/wha...former-members

  7. #7
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    The Death of What.cd and the End of Music Torrenting

    Jake Swearingen
    November 18, 2016

    I wrangled my invite to What.cd in early 2008, while working an internship that required so little of us that one of the other interns would leave to go watch movies at the nearby AMC during the day. It was a happy day — a whole world of music to torrent was suddenly open to me. And yet news yesterday that the site had shut down was mainly a reminder I hadn’t signed into the site since 2010.

    Getting music and listening to music on your computer in the mid-’00s was weird. The iPod and other MP3 players had quickly given everyone the ability to listen to more albums than anyone who went through high school with a massive binder of CDs could have imagined, but you usually got that through a hodgepodge of ways. You could, of course, download albums from iTunes, but they came with substantial DRM headaches. Napster was dead and its replacements, Limewire and Kazaa, were filled with fake-out files, badly mislabeled files (who can forget the David Byrne classic album Another Green World?) and straight-up malware. You could try your luck with finding sites like MediaFire hosting direct downloads of albums. Public torrent trackers like the Pirate Bay were okay if you wanted the new Jack Johnson or Alicia Keys, but usually stalled out if you wanted anything even slightly off the beaten path.

    What.cd, and its predecessor OiNK, were different. They were private torrent trackers, open by invite only. They both had strict download-to-upload ratios in place: You had to give back about as much as you took, or risk being booted altogether. And the place was a treasure trove for hard-to-find or older albums — I was able to find local bands that I assumed no one outside my hometown had ever heard, neatly organized and arranged. It was also one of the few places to download .ogg files, a file format that allowed you to listen to extremely high-quality audio. What.cd was a place for people to release their own music, before Bandcamp and SoundCloud came along. For a certain type of media consumer (obsessive, sometimes more interested in simply having everything over even listening to it all) it was heaven, and filled with like-minded people. The forum members knew their shit — if you wanted to know more about the Detroit soul group the Spinners, someone would quickly point you toward Tri-Phi Records and Harvey Fuqua. Amazing “collages” would pop up, primers in everything from Yugoslav rock to Northern Soul.

    Yes, it was all stealing, no doubt, but I’d been stealing music for nearly a decade at this point. I rationalized it away by saying I was also going to see shows and thus giving artists some cash (while ignoring that downloading the entire of discography of, say, Oval, a German glitch group that rarely tours outside of Europe, was very unlikely to turn into any actual money for them).

    But even while keeping an eye on my upload/download ratio and filling up a MacBook hard drive with music, the end was coming. It was the launch of Rdio in 2010 and then Spotify that, for me, was essentially the end of torrenting music. Both services had their gaps, but both also had the vast majority of what I wanted to hear. The price was reasonable, and the ability to listen to an album without first loading it onto my phone was, at the time, mind-blowing. And it felt good to, well, pay for music (even if the economics of music streaming are still pretty bad for the artists).

    So the shutdown of What.cd was more a reminder of a different time, a hit of nostalgia for when I lived in a different city and took different trains, than a real sense of loss. Torrenting itself is on the wane — torrent trackers are being shut down left and right, and as more services like HBO Go come online, more users are willing to pay instead of pirate. There are still private torrent-tracker sites for movies and music and e-books and comic books, but the media industry has largely caught up in offering what they produce in an easy format for users. Most people greatly prefer using a legit service over going onto a public torrent site or over begging their way into a private torrent tracker.

    There’s an argument to be made that some private sites serve as a place for unfindable stuff to live on. Streaming services have no incentive to try to secure rights to deeper cuts; suddenly having a streaming version of Jacques Rivette’s 12-hour New Wave film Out 1 probably isn’t going to get a significant number of people to sign up for your service. There will always be a few diehards out there — there’s already talk of which site will be the next What.cd. But for a lot of people like me, the days of private torrent sites are done — I’ll stream and pay and slowly forget that once I could find a that one seven-inch I hadn’t heard in years in just a few minutes.

    http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/11/t...orrenting.html

  8. #8
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    A eulogy for What.cd, the greatest music collection in the history of the world

    Nikhil Sonnad
    November 18, 2016

    In 2007, I became obsessed with a musician named Lizzy Mercier Descloux, a nearly forgotten French eccentric who created a singular style of punk-rock deeply influenced by African music and funk. I read incessantly about her music, but I could not find a way to actually listen to it. Amazon’s catalog was limited, so I couldn’t buy a CD. Spotify didn’t exist yet. And even illicit file-sharing sites came up dry on searches for Lizzy.

    So I decided to dive into a deep corner of the internet, attempting to gain access to a mythical website that was said to have all the music you’d ever heard of, and all the music you hadn’t. It was called What.cd, and it promised a lot. Its Twitter profile used to read, “Beyond here is something like a utopia—beyond here is What.CD.”

    It lived up to this utopian promise, until the site was shut down yesterday (Nov. 17) after a raid by French authorities. It now reads:

    Due to some recent events, What.CD is shutting down. We are not likely to return any time soon in our current form. All site and user data has been destroyed.

    This is a tragedy for music fans, and for humanity: What.CD was an unprecedented cultural repository. It offered something close to the sum-total of humanity’s recorded musical output, organized and classified to near-perfection.

    It was a musical Library of Alexandria, and now has suffered the same utter destruction as its ancient predecessor.

    What exactly was What.cd?

    In file-sharing jargon, it was a “torrent tracker,” which meant that the site did not actually host audio files itself. And not just anybody could join the community. (More on that below.)

    As a tracker, What.cd provided downloadable “.torrent” files that connected users who already had a set of files—say a rare bootleg mp3—with other users who wanted to download them. That’s the essence of peer-to-peer file sharing. The role of the site was facilitating the sharing of music, and making music discoverable.

    It also developed a rigorous self-policing culture, enforcing its draconian rules on audio quality, and aggressively removing users who did not follow these rules. In the end, it lasted for nearly ten years.

    Beyond Spotify

    The scope of music collected on What.cd was almost incomprehensibly vast: More than a million distinct “releases” of songs, albums, and bootlegs.

    Bach cello suites. Obscure Chinese indie rock. Nigerian hip-hop. Thai psych-funk from the 1970s. Every release of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, including vinyl rips and remasters. UK techno tracks that were pressed on vinyl in the 90s, with only a few hundred copies made, and uploaded by dedicated crate-diggers.

    The collections of Spotify and Apple Music may seem infinite, but What.cd had thousands of albums that were not available anywhere else—and now, are not available anywhere at all. The site had about 800,000 artists as of early 2016.

    “I did sound design for a show about Ceaușescu’s Romania, and was able to pull together all of this 70s dissident prog-rock and stuff that has never been released on CD, let alone outside of Romania,” one former What user told me.

    Perhaps most importantly, all of this music was organized by a large community collectively obsessed with musical metadata. Album, track, and artist names were meticulously edited, organized, and collated.

    In your iTunes (if you still use iTunes), you might have some files by Beyoncé (accent on the e) and others by Beyonce (no accent). That kind of error was swiftly eradicated on What. There were deep taxonomic debates in the forums about whether some newfangled genre deserved its own tag, or whether adding it would be confusing.

    This problem of tagging is distinct to a vanishing era of digital audio files. Once upon a time, people owned physical media: records, tapes, CDs. Then Napster brought us into the age of digital. Listeners stored mp3s (some legal, some not) on their hard drives, transferred them to iPods, burned them onto CDs. What.cd was the last great institution of that era.

    Now, in the age of Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music, having mp3s on your computer seems as quaint as owning 8-tracks in 2007.

    Invite-only

    Gaining access to utopia is never easy, and What was no exception: New users could only gain admission through a referral from an existing user, or via a famously difficult interview process. There are endless threads online with people fretting about interviews, discussing failed interviews, and ranting about the excessively demanding process.

    In 2007, I studied for days before submitting an interview application on What’s IRC channel. I waited several hours, staring impatiently at my computer, until a What moderator got back to me. I was then subjected to a 20-minute grilling, in which the moderator lodged obscure audio encoding questions at me: What is the difference between constant bitrate and variable bitrate mp3s? Look at these two spectrograms—which of them belongs to an mp3 that was encoded poorly? How can you tell? If you encode a lossless file at 320 kilobytes per second, and then again at 256 kilobytes per second, is this the same as encoding at 256 directly? And more.

    Reader, I passed the test.

    Once in, users were subjected to a complicated system of incentives to make sure everyone contributed as much as they consumed.

    If you downloaded several albums of music upon arrival, without uploading files to other users, you were banned. If your download-to-upload ratio fell out of whack, even after years of contributions, your download privileges would be taken away. If you uploaded an album that was not encoded to the site’s strict standards, you’d get a warning. If you absentmindedly mislabeled a Justin Bieber album as a Taylor Swift album, you might be banned.

    Nobody whom I invited managed to stay very long.

    These policies may sound excessive, but they facilitated what was arguably the world’s greatest crowdsourcing effort, maintained by a community of dedicated, diverse, and knowledgeable music lovers. A team of volunteer coders created a custom CMS for the site, called Gazelle, that harnessed all of this musical knowledge.

    “Collages” were one of What’s best features. Users arranged lists of albums on the site into useful categories like “Intro to free jazz” or “Bands with a male and female singer.” These were indispensable sources of musical discovery.

    There were also the magical “staff picks.” These select albums were offered, for a short time, at no download cost, encouraging you to listen to music you never would have otherwise. Then there were the highly active forums, where music nerds of all stripes shared obscure recommendations and reviews.

    (cont)

  9. #9
    WHT-BR Top Member
    Data de Ingresso
    Dec 2010
    Posts
    17,977
    Outside the law

    Of course, What.cd was illegal from the beginning. (Most of it, anyway—many users were musicians who willingly added their own music to the What.cd archive.) The entire enterprise was a rejection of the notion of music copyrights, and a middle finger to the music industry’s army of lawyers.

    The strict policing of users—plus the site’s low profile, and the fact that it did not actually host audio files—allowed What to deny culpability and exist in a questionable legal grey area. But only for so long.

    There’s an important caveat to this issue of legality, though: The site offered much that is unavailable via legal channels, even to those willing to pay. There were the albums that weren’t available anywhere else.

    Plus, most of the albums on What were available in pristine lossless formats, meaning that no audio quality had been lost in the transfer from the original recording to your computer. This may seem like audiophile snobbery, since most people can’t tell the difference between even low-quality mp3s and lossless files. But lossless files are important for other reasons, like archiving. Right now, mp3 is the dominant audio format. If mp3 gets superseded by something better, though, there is no way to convert your old mp3s to a new format without losing further audio quality. And if you have to convert again, even more is lost. With a lossless format, there is always an unvarnished original.

    There is also the matter of ownership. Spotify is ubiquitous, but it is a tech company, and tech companies fail. If Spotify goes away after you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on an account for multiple years, you are left with nothing but memories.

    What’s more, most streaming services use proprietary formats that make it nearly impossible, for example, to turn a Spotify playlist into an Apple Music playlist. With open formats, like mp3, FLAC, and m3u for playlists, users control everything.

    Yet there is no major digital music marketplace that will even sell you open, lossless files. Itunes files are “lossy,” meaning they have already lost quality from the original recording. Same for Amazon and Google Play. Some sites, like HDTracks, offer downloads of lossless files, but the selection is limited. (There is no Lizzy, for example, a deal-breaker for me.) This means that the only way to get most albums into a lossless format that you can control is to literally buy a physical CD and rip it yourself. Or, until today, you could use What.cd.

    The end of What is the end of the most complete musical database ever created by humanity. It opened my ears to sounds I could not have imagined nine years ago, at the time of my quest for Lizzy Mercier Descloux. On What, I encountered so many life-changing musical favorites, old and new: the Japanese avant-reggae band Fishmans, the Panocha Quartet’s renditions of Dvořák, Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion, the Blade Runner soundtrack, Swiss funk-house producer Kalabrese, and lots of weird jazz, to name very few.

    For me, the end of What is a final reiteration of the ultimate lesson of 2016: Take nothing for granted. No set of values, no repository of human knowledge, no political system, no passionate community, is guaranteed safety from outside forces and from the passage of time. Nothing is too great to fail.

    What now says that “all site and user data has been destroyed.” So a decade of meticulous collection and curation work has vanished into the ether. It is not unlike the whole of Wikipedia disappearing overnight.

    But there is still some hope. All of the rare and unreleased music that What organized still exists somewhere, on people’s computers. And What users were usually paranoid about losing their collections—I recall reading that one user stored his on an external hard drive kept in a fire- and water-proof safe in his basement.

    The treasure is still out there—we have merely lost the map.

    http://qz.com/840661/what-cd-is-gone...-in-the-world/

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