"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 27 October 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Rolling Stone, R.I.P.


As we're fond of pointing out,

we're wise to the ways of the

self-selected caste of "web

visionaries". They'll launch

into tirades on the foibles of

their digital competitors,

haranguing them on their

inability to just "get it", the

self-serving implication being

that they do. (Sound

suspiciously familiar? We see

you're getting wise, too...) How

refreshing, then, to come across

a site that we can almost

ungrudgingly admit "gets it".

Deeply, at that.



Agents, Inc. has just opened

for business Firefly, a

Web-based music recommendation

service (aka "intelligent

agent"). Like many Internet

gambits, it's built on the

lessons learned from the

half-successful experiments that

preceded it, with a shrewdly

placed commercial ribbon tied

'round to both legitimate its

value and herald its arrival.

Firefly's predecessors are

Ringo, an email-based agent

that, though neat for the time,

required serious dedication to

gainfully exploit, and HOMR

(Helpful Online Music

Recommendation System), Ringo's

similarly cool, if somewhat

half-hearted, port to the Web.

Firefly is mistake #3, without

the mistake.


[Where's Albini?]

The brilliant front-end to this

beast may have made it the site

that, yesterday, launched a

thousand e-mails. Instead of just

taking advantage of forms to

simplify the personal records

rating process, Agents, Inc. has

put the insight accrued from

milking the value out of all

those AOL demo disks to good use -

their implementation of chat

areas is the best we've seen on

a Web page without Java. (Not

only can you send instant

messages to other users

regardless of where they are on

the site, you can "whisper" to

your chums in the discussion

areas.) That they make it fairly

simple to set up a rudimentary

home page on their site isn't a

half-bad hack, either...


What makes us go all ga-ga with

admiration is the elegance with

which they've set up a

commercial venture on the Web

that caters perfectly to the

interests of both advertisers

and users. Their stated

objective is to derive

all revenue from advertising

sales: customized advertising,

based on a given user's

tastes. To say they've got the

record company ad execs by the

balls would be missing the

point: the music industry has

been waiting for this kind of

marketing opportunity since its



[Where's Yanni?]

And almost depressingly enough,

Firefly might be the most clever

implementation we've seen for a

reality-based digital community.

After all, if musical taste

isn't the grand epitome of

superficial consumerism as a

foundation for peoples'

"identities", what is? You may

dig some two-bit author,

actor, or director, but chances

are, if you're under the age of

26, you've already surrendered a

portion of your bedroom wall to

your favorite dumbass tunesmith.


Agents, Inc. has even taken

preemptive measures to

short circuit wailings from the

peanut gallery (that would be

us) by providing a blunt

"statement of integrity". The

rules are simple: you can write

any review or comment you wish,

provided that a) it isn't

slanderous, and b) you're not a

music industry shill. But again,

the record companies hardly need

to act as agent provocateurs

here - the masses (us, again)

are primed to do their leg work

for them.



We wouldn't be surprised to see

Agents, Inc. chasing after

non-musically inclined

advertisers once they've tapped

the music industry dry: they've

got the soundest hit-fattening

model around. Firefly seems

tailored for marathon

sessions and compulsive

chat page reloading - not

only will they be delivering

eyeballs en masse, the wallets

attached to those peepers are

open wide for lifestyles

spending. Firefly quite

literally provides the valuable

service of building a better



If we really wanted to abide by

the Suck credo of unflinching

cynicism, we might ask if we

need to be reminded of how

identical our tastes are to

every other chowderhead on the

Web. But we've gotta admire

anyone who can make being

unmasked as a homogeneous tool

such a pleasurable time-pit. Our

general attitude to date has been

that while cool sites may come and

go, our role as cultural hecklers

will always be in high demand. But

Firefly may just have rattled

our faith in our assured

longevity. If their servers are

primed to withstand the burden

they'll feel when sites like

ours send the net.hoards in

their direction (and those

"Crunching...one moment please."

messages make us wonder), Firefly

might gain enough momentum to

even outlast the Sucksters...



Perhaps we should just ditch the

shit-paying criticism angle and

go with the one service that

could ultimately out-cool

Firefly: a personal

recommendation agent for

websites. If we can only finagle

a good deal on licensing their

tech, we just may be able to

scare up some Yahoo-level


courtesy of the Duke of URL