Just like that, another service of questionable legality has cropped up on the internet. Meet Wefre, the new free online service that lets you mainline Bieber without breaking a sweat. The service, first reported by TorrentFreak, is live on the web, and the developers have launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop Android and iOS versions of the service. Well, it was live. Now it's "temporarily closed due to technical problems."
It differs from other hacked together sources of streaming music online in that it's got a very nice design, which looks like a streamlined version of Spotify with a new bubblegum colour scheme. (The design is ripped straight from Spotify throughout.) Wefre works smoothly; Search for Notorious BIG, and you get a listing of popular songs and then albums. There are also sections for popular tracks and albums, which will reveal to you that people love very obvious Top 40 pop music.
The app has little bugs here and there -- and if you search for stuff that's more obscure the system won't find it. So yes Megadeth and Beyonce, not so much Slothrust.
The biggest factor distinguishing Wefre from Spotify is that Spotify is cluttered with features so the UI can get messy in places. If you like all of the features, you might miss them, but there's something refreshing about Wefre's music-first simplicity.
So how does this work and is it, ahem, legal? According to Wefre's Kickstarter, the service is powered by YouTube. The service reportedly uses public APIs from both Spotify and YouTube to perform its magic. The catalogue information is pulled from Spotify, whereas the streamed music is pulled from YouTube. According to the developers, it's all done with legitimate use of APIs.
Unfortunately the website has been "temporarily closed". Will it be back? It's hard to say. When Aurous, the so-called Popcorn Time for music, launched last year, the recording industry wasted no time in launching a legal assault that eventually ended in its demise. In the case of Wefre, it does seem like the service eliminates YouTube's monetisation efforts and as such it will become the target of the recording industry's anti-piracy efforts.
Even if it doesn't return, Wefre's existence underscores the persistent "whack-a-mole problem" faced by the recording industry and regulators. Short of overly invasive censorship, there is no way to prevent these questionable services from cropping up, and extinguishing one doesn't preclude the creation of an identical clone on some other server in another country. In fact, Google data reveals what a fool's errand it is to try to extinguish piracy with brute force.
At the same time, you have to feel for the industry: The pirates are drinking its milkshake.