Moof: YouTube Music before YouTube Music™️

    I was just digging through my /projects/ dropbox folder and I found something hilarious — an old project called Moof, launched in 2009.

    Moof was an iTunes-style music service that was hacked together to work on top of YouTube. This is the brief story of how it came to be.


    How it worked

    I realized that if you searched YouTube for "$songname - $artist name", the first result, 99% of the time, was the song that you search for.

    All Moof did was store a user's list of song and artist names in an iTunes-style user interface. When a song was played, it would query the YouTube search API with the name of the song and artist, embed the first result in the corner, and autoplay it. From what I remember you could even limit the YouTube search query to only return videos from the "music" category, making it even more accurate.

    moof-UI

    Surprisingly, it worked pretty well! On rare occasions, the song you were expecting wouldn't play and something totally random would play instead, but this happened infrequently enough that most people didn't mind.

    You could share your music collection with friends (with URLs like http://moof.com/jon (link no longer works...)) and they could easily import any song or playlist you had into your profile.

    At the time, most people had massive iTunes music collections with all of the mp3s stored locally. It wasn't unusual to have gigabytes and gigabytes of music. It was even a point of pride for some people. The more storage space you had taken up with mp3s, the cooler you were!

    Moof was useful to people who didn't have much storage space or wanted to share a playlist that they had made.

    It was possible to export an XML file from iTunes that was just a list of names of every song you had, and upload it to Moof. Pretty cool I think!

    The name

    I feel like I have to explain the name because in hindsight it's super weird. It was probably weird at the time too.

    I was really into domaining back then. It was a lot easier to find and buy good domain names for reasonable amounts of money. I vaguely remember hiring someone to write a script that ran a whois query to get all of the email addresses associated with every XooX.com domain name.

    Then I emailed them all to see how much it would cost to buy them in the hope that I'd find some bargains. Moof.com was the outcome of that experiment.

    I never liked sitting on domains for too long without developing them so I was REAAAAALLY trying to find a way of making it work for a project I was working on. I remember trying to come up with some sort of acronym from "moof" that worked for this music thing I was working on. I landed on Music Online, On-Demand, for Free! That KIND OF WORKED!

    What Happened

    Despite the entire thing being a bit of a hacked-together mess, Moof was fairly well-received when it launched. It even got a write up on mashable!

    Excerpt from the article below:

    The Great: Your music library, portable anywhere you go. Even an iPod cannot hold the amount of music that Moof accesses via YouTube.
    The Good: As a web music player, Moof is solid, if not revolutionary.
    The Bad: The noise associated with pulling music from YouTube. Last.fm and Pandora are more reliable and have far less noise because they stream actual songs from the artists, rather than music videos.

    NOT BAD!

    I ended up selling it to focus on another project I was working on at the time, which was gaining a lot more traction called DailyBooth. (I'll do a writeup about that one soon!)

    The cringe-worthy video below shows the service in action.

    (Sorry about the fact that it's in 360p, but that was considered pretty good at the time.)


    RIP Moof. You won't be missed.

    Long live YouTube music!

    Jon-Paul Wheatley

    Jon-Paul Wheatley

    Product focused founder. Brit in the USA.

    San Francisco

    Moof: YouTube Music before YouTube Music™️

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