Spotify, network resources, and you (with a bonus FB question)
December 21, 2011 11:17 AM   Subscribe

What kind of network resources does Spotify consume, especially on the upload side, and how much is it like a peer-to-peer structure?

I've been dabbling in Spotify, and while I can find stuff on the internets (and play with it) to find out about its features and library, etc., the thing that seems to be completely deep and dark is what kind of network resources it takes. I'm particularly concerned about network bandwidth. I know all streaming music is kind of bandwidth-heavy, but the particular thing about Spotify is that I understand it uses a kind of quasi-peer-to-peer structure to speed up the time it takes to start your music. And that's where my tech knowledge stops. I've read that the amount of upload resources it uses while you're listening is a secret, which bothers me. But perhaps I've misinterpreted what I've read.

While Spotify appears to be a legit service, this seems spookily like a bit torrent kind of scheme, and having fought a pretty extended scrap lately over an employee who wanted to use bit torrent at work, I don't want to be found to be doing anything that smells like it at all or takes up a lot more upload capacity than a typical streaming music scenario. We're lenient at work about bandwidth use, but I don't want to stand out like a sore thumb.

Bonus FB question: does your Spotify tracks listened to show up to your friends when you have NOT actively "shared" the track(s)? I can't see it on my own page, but then when I switched to timeline view there some of my activity was. I don't really want to show everyone everything I listen to.
posted by randomkeystrike to Technology (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't believe there's a published statement about it, but I could be wrong. The question was posed a couple of months ago -- Previously

I'm curious about this too as it is bad enough to have streaming taking up download bandwidth.
As for the social thing, it is controlled from preferences in the application itself. Unless you've prohibited it from sharing, it most likely will.
posted by ijoyner at 11:31 AM on December 21, 2011

I know it will P2P tracks over your *local* network, so that, for instance, your phone can stream music that's already been downloaded or cached on your laptop. Dropbox does something similar. From the user's perspective, this is an unambiguously good thing.

I don't know if Spotify will attempt to do any sort of P2P magic over the public internet. It's certainly possible, and actually a nice way to conserve bandwidth globally, and keep Spotify's costs down.

However, they don't do this exclusively, given that Spotify's streaming tends to be very vast and reliable, with almost no latency. Those aren't characteristics that you'd normally find on a P2P network.

According to this article, Spotify streams the first bits of the songs that you select from their own servers, and then pre-fetches the rest at a more leisurely pace from the P2P network (which apparently serves approximately 35% of the content played on Spotify)

From causal monitoring, my Spotify client uploads significantly less data than it downloads, leading me to doubt the P2P thing is terribly extensive (not to mention, it'd be a really bad PR move to not throttle uploads). It's fairly easy to monitor the network activity generated by any application on your computer, and Spotify is no exception. Because it's a closed-source application, you can't get a precise answer of what data it transmits at any given moment, although it's quite easy to monitor the amount of data being transmitted, and also the IP addresses of the servers that it's communicating with. If you're really enterprising, you can also look at the content of the individual data packets being transmitted, although you're unlikely to glean any useful information from that information.

That said, Spotify is 100% legitimate and legal in the countries where it is available. Apart from overall concerns about the music industry in general, there's nothing shady about it.
posted by schmod at 11:51 AM on December 21, 2011

thanks for the answers for far. I did a search on spotify and a few other key words, and missed that other thread, but it seems apt, so I'll read it too.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:04 PM on December 21, 2011

Since you only appear concerned about the bandwidth situation, It seems the best and easiest way would just be to monitor your up/down bandwidth while using it.
posted by turkeyphant at 12:05 PM on December 21, 2011

turkeyphant, I could probably do that, or get it done. I'm the management goob in charge of IT, not one of the guys who are technical enough to know how to do it without some digging. I really just wanted an idea of how it works, and this thread has pretty much answered that.

If anyone's still paying attention or reads this thread later, it appears that Spotify really wants to be on my FB timeline, showing a list of everything I've listened to lately. So far I've removed it twice, and I'm not sure if it's showing up for everyone or just me. It may have come back on after I shared one thing specifically about an album I wanted to recommend. I don't have a huge privacy concern overall, I just don't want to be That Guy who clogs up everyone's feed with what all I'm listening to.

The FB interaction is the main thing that is a bit weird, but I chalk that up to FB's overall weird approach to privacy (namely, they really don't want you to have it). Therefore, I just keep anything that I really want to be private completely away from FB.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:22 AM on December 24, 2011

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