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KeyCD was a new concept in software CD players - by placing a CD into the computer's CD-ROM drive, KeyCD read back that CD's unique serial number, then connected to the internet and automatically downloaded the album cover artwork, track listing, artist logos and the latest news on that artist.

An accompanying website - 'my KeyCD' - showed a list of all CDs you've played on your player, with news, suggestions for accompanying albums and links to on-line purchasing of any CDs not in your collection.

Developed in conjunction with Ben Roeder and Julian Storer from Raw Material Software, the initial design was both elegant and innovative.

default KeyCD player
Move cursor over player to open up

Once a 'recognised' CD was inserted, the KeyCD player changed to display the cover artwork, track listings and links for that CD - move the mouse over the Björk CD Homogenic below to show this;

Björk's album 
		'Homogenic' in the KeyCD player
Move cursor over player to open up
Click on the blue 'i' circle for more information

The KeyCD player could pop up a list of tracks (by clicking on the white "Track 1" circle on the left-hand door) or could display a list of artist and time-relevant weblinks, by clicking on the blue 'i' circle on the CD image itself.

One nice aspect of the player - in fact the reason for calling it KeyCD - was that these weblinks could be used to access 'hidden' portions of websites. The KeyCD player only allowed access to certain webpages when a particular CD was loaded in the user's CD-Rom/DVD drive. Embedded software in the websites stopped these webpages being viewed in a conventional browser (and offered a free download of the KeyCD player, instead). This way, any Compact Disc could have value added to it without the need for remastering and reissue.

At the time (2001), this was a fairly big deal, as several record companies had been involved in disputes where CDs had been excluded from chart eligibility due to the hyperlinks and QuickTime videos included on them being considered 'free incentives'. With KeyCD there were no additional components added to the CD itself, as the player would connect to the internet and 'find them', so KeyCD 'compliant' CDs were chart-eligible and it even worked with back-catalogue CDs!

Though a fascinating idea - and beautifully executed - KeyCD was up against software music players such as Microsoft's impending Media Player 7, which claimed to have a similar level of functionality. Naturally, it didn't, but it was enough to stop KeyCD being developed any further. Shame.

I recall that Ben Roeder, co-founder of KeyCD described the player as "your mate in the local record store who knows what stuff you listen to and keeps you up to date with what's around...".

...and it didn't download or play MP3s. I reckon the record companies will soon regret not taking up our offer of free software that makes CDs more interesting than swappable compressed audio files...
KeyCD logo


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