The world's largest audio streaming service by users, Spotify, is the leader in the space with a host of new features, but a new book sheds light on one of its unsuccessful features, and the ways in which the secretive company works.

This is according to the Swedish journalists Sven Carlsson and Jonas Leijonhufvud, writing in their book Spotify Inifrån (“Spotify Untold”), which is based on more than 70 interviews with company insiders including executives, investors, and record label chiefs.

In an excerpt that appeared in Variety, the entertainment business magazine, the two tech reporters for Di Digital explore the development of Spotify’s attempt to enter the video market.

The project has parallels to the development of some of tech’s greatest successes: it was secret even within the company, a style reminiscent of the team that would work on the original Apple iPhone. In mid-2011, soon after the firm’s launch in the US market, CEO Daniel Ek establishes a new team (codename: Magneto, like the X-Men character).

“Their goal is to reinvent video streaming. In keeping with Spotify’s business etiquette, the coders are not going to tolerate any kind of buffering; the stream must never pause to load.”

Ek tasked his engineers with creating something entirely new. In response, they create a new video file format – Spotify Video, .spv – that carries a lighter data load and saves computer memory wherever possible. 

“Every time you waste a byte, God kills a kitten,” said Ludvig Strigeus, one of the chief engineers on the project, and formerly the creator of the peer-to-peer file sharing service µTorrent (which was acquired by Spotify).

But the challenges of the ecosystem would prove hostile to the project. Already, the iPhone’s prominence in the US and western European markets threw a spanner in the works, as iOS would only allow HTTP Live Streaming, precluding the new technology.

Nevertheless, in 2012 a convincing prototype emerges that eliminates loading time when receiving a live TV stream. However, a second major challenge emerges, one that Daniel Ek spots early on. “I’m not worried about the product, but I am worried about the business case,” he tells his team. “As was the case in the early days of the Spotify music player, the prototype is built on pirated content”, the authors write.

Ultimately, and though Spotify would flirt with video – including the idea of a hardware receiver – it has since pivoted to shore up its power in the music streaming market and further into audio where the company estimates that as much of 20% of its future streaming will be non-music in the near future.

Sourced from Variety