- original history page
The roots of MusicBrainz are in Workman, a software program for playing audio CDs on UNIX systems. Workman had the ability to display the name of the track currently playing. An index file stored the track names for each audio CD. After some time, a large index file with information about thousands of audio CDs was created by the Internet community.
This was a long time ago. The index file system became more widely used when Windows users adopted it, but the system was not yet mature. The Windows audio CD player could use an index file with track information, but the index size was limited to 640KB meaning that Windows users could not use the large Internet index file without correcting software.
In 1996, things changed with the creation of the Internet Compact Disc Database (CDDB). Instead of a flat file with information of thousands of audio CDs, the client/server model was applied where a single central server, CDDB.com, could be used to access information about audio CDs. This server accepted user submissions of information about audio CDs, and at that stage the index file was reported to have grown by up to 800 audio CDs per day, all contributed by users. MusicBrainz founder Robert Kaye estimates he himself keyed in infomration about at least 200 CDs. CDDB became incredibly popular and very useful, the de facto index for audio CD metadata used to identify CDs.
In 1998, a company called Escient purchased CDDB and began to charge licensing fees to commercial users. The peer-produced index file was no longer free to all. Escient eventually spun CDDB as its own company, renamed Gracenote and is the metadata engine powering iTunes CD recognition.
Several new open data projects launched in an effort to fill the free data hole left by CDDB when it became a a proprietary product. Of the five originally started projects, two projects are still active — you are currently visiting one of them. The other, the FreeDB project was very quick in duplicating the functionality of the commercial CDDB.com server. This project has a very large collection of Audio CDs, more then 660,000 entries. A large group of users query this information at a rate of more than 500,000 per day. The FreeDB.org servers do not use a relational database. The servers use a very large collection of files, one for each entered Audio CD.
The MusicBrainz project does not aim to be a drop-in replacement for CDDB. MusicBrainz uses a relational database and has a list of other features that makes it more advanced than the original CDDB server. MusicBrainz started as a tool called "CD Index." The new name was selected after a meeting in Amsterdam in 1999 where it was decided that the free insertion of information and website-based voting would be the focus of the second generation project. MusicBrainz does however work as a replacement for CDDB clients, see FreeDBGateway.
See the Timeline page.
MusicBrainz is also participating to Google's Summer of Code.