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Theme fund: NGI0 Discovery
Start: 2019-12
End: 2022-10


ActivityPub-driven audio streaming and sharing

Funkwhale is a free, decentralized and open-source audio streaming and sharing platform, built on top of the ActivityPub protocol. It enables users to create communities of interest around music and audio content in general, listen to their private music library or distribute their own productions on the network. Each Funkwhale pod, or server, can communicate with other pods to exchange audio content, metadata or for user interactions. In this project, Funkwhale will improve the publication experience for creators, release its first stable version, improve content discovery inside the platform through better sharing and search mechanisms. We will also continue research and development for Retribute, a community wealth sharing platform meant to support creators on Funkwhale or any other platform.

Why does this actually matter to end users?

How do you discover new music? Do you rely on the good taste of a friend, are you part of a fan community, do you simply tab through your favorite genre at your local music shop? On the internet, you can learn about exciting new artists in a number of ways, but today most users rely on their audio service of choice to discover new tunes. Unfortunately only a few major music services control most of the music streaming market, leaving users as well as artists with little control over how their music gets discovered. When you want to discover exciting new bands and artists using these services, usually you will be served the best-selling name of the ay, burying more independent artists under top-ten hype lists. What's more, these major streaming providers do not just mistreat artists but also their users, tracking and profiling their activity to coerce them even further into listening to only a sliver of what is actually available on the platform.

Major streaming services force users and artists into a commercial straightjacket that is not privacy-friendly and that prohibits free cultural exploration. We deserve alternatives, like Pixelfed and Mastodon are decentralized alternatives to Instagram and Twitter, platforms that commercialize and centralize our online social interaction.

Funkwhale is an effort to create such a decentralized alternative to services like Spotify, Deezer, Google Music and others. Like Mastodon and Pixelfed, Funkwhale is free and open source software, can be self-hosted and lets users decide for themselves what they want to share privately or publicly. Users can either create a Funkwhale-server (called a pod, like a pod of whales) and upload their own music library to share with others, discover new content without restrictions or coercion, and stream for their device of choice. And because Funkwhale is also powered by the ActivityPub-technology, users can connect to instances of Mastodon, Pixelfed and many other decentralized social networks. This project will improve how artists can publish their music using Funkwhale, make music discovery richer for users and advance search mechanisms. Together, these new features will help to make music discovery the way it should be: free, fun and unpredictable.

Run by The Funkwhale Collective

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This project was funded through the NGI0 Discovery Fund, a fund established by NLnet with financial support from the European Commission's Next Generation Internet programme, under the aegis of DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology under grant agreement No 825322.