Making its online debut today is Qtrax, a free, ad-supported, peer-to-peer service with a song catalog to rival Apple's iTunes (Qtrax has 25 million songs, and iTunes has 6 million). On paper, it sounds like exactly the kind of forward-thinking, reality-acknowledging idea that might've saved the music business if someone had tried it in 1998. Predictably, though, it's not even that good.
Songs downloaded from Qtrax are in the annoying Windows Media format and carry obnoxious DRM, preventing listeners from putting them on their iPods or burning them to a CD (if you try, you'll be in violation of 1998's Digital Millennium Copyright Act and, probably, executed). Additionally, users will only be able to play the songs using Qtrax's proprietary software, which fills your entire computer screen with ads and only allows you to surf the Web using a small window within the program's decidedly unsexy interface. Also, it only works on PCs (the Website made our iMac dry-heave a little).
But that's not even the best part! After a big PR splash on Saturday, in which Qtrax claimed to have the support of all four still-existing record labels, it turns out that none of them have yet signed on to license their music yet, meaning that not only is Qtrax more annoying and harder to use than other better P2P sites like the Pirate Bay or Mininova, it's also, technically, no more legal. So, if piracy accounts for 95 percent of all music downloads on the Internet, don't look for this to make much of a difference.
Warner, UMG, EMI: No Deals With Free Music Service QTrax (WMG) [Silicon Valley Insider]
Major record companies weigh deal with online service [LAT]
Qtrax [Official site]