When Grooveshark Lite launched on April 15, 2008, it was a near instant success for the company. After months of anemic signups for our beta Peer-to-Peer paid download site, “Lite,” as we called it, gave us the shot in the arm we needed to stay alive. We soon crossed the 50,000 registered users threshold, putting us back in good graces with one of our biggest investors, who required that we achieve this milestone or else they wouldn’t invest any additional money in the company. The understanding at the time was that without this kind of user growth and additional investment, we wouldn’t survive.
As far as I know, before Grooveshark Lite, there wasn’t any place on the web dedicated to music where you could listen to any song, whenever you wanted, for free. There were music videos on YouTube, but the catalog was limited and at the time, the video-focused site didn’t have the features that you’d expect from a music service (shuffle, repeat, easy playlist management, and so on). The iTunes Music Store offered free 30-second previews of songs and there was Pandora for online radio, but the service imposed lots of restrictions on how you could use it, like limiting the number of times you could click the skip button. Spotify didn’t exist and wouldn’t be available in the US for several more years; Apple Music, Rdio, Google Play Music and all the rest didn’t exist either. Lite was really the first of its kind.
Lite was written in Adobe Flex, a framework which ran on Adobe Flash. This was before HTML 5 and the modern web and Flash was the only platform available for building a cross-platform, media-rich, interactive web app. Lite took full advantage of this interactivity: as you browsed the service, lists of songs, artists, and albums animated in and out of view, just like an iPod. As each new song played, it slid into view, and the interlocked puzzle piece of album art updated, highlighted in blue. Lite was beautiful to look at and immensely fun to use.