Similar to Last.fm, Pandora is a personalized radio system, but without community features. It does not use a separate player application, but a Flash player on its homepage.
Pandora is the only system which chooses new music using characteristics of the music itself. It is based on the “Music Genome Project” which analyzed music by more than 10.000 musicians – by real human beings, not algorithms. They claim to attach hundreds of attributes, called “genes”, to the songs. Using this detailed information, Pandora can find music which is similar to a given track.
You can create several “stations” in Pandora. To each of those stations, you assign one or more bands which describe the musical profile of the station. When Pandora then plays the next songs, you can judge whether it fits the channel or not, so Pandora can adjust the station better.
Thanks to its elaborate music database, Pandora can suggest music fairly well, though not perfectly. Sometimes its suggestions can be surprisingly off target, but also often surprisingly accurate. The downside to Pandora‘s approach is the selection contained in its database. The capacity of the human music analyzers is limited and so is the database. Many lesser known artists, especially non-american ones, are poorly or not at all represented in Pandora.
Due to its license, Pandora is only available for U.S. citizens. During registration it therefore asks for an U.S. zip code. Rumor has it that evil foreign beings have been copying those zip codes, though…
Pandora does now verify the origin of it’s users more thoroughly. Simply faking a zip code won’t work anymore.