...lies not in mere recommendation, but in its ability to create relationships among its 3 million registered users. It allows members to link up with their taste-neighbors. All the fans of ambient music, or early Seattle grunge, are encouraged to strike up conversations in "venues," or start mail lists, or simply introduce themselves. Out of this technology is born yet another relationship: self-identity.
Most listeners don't have easily classifiable tastes. They're fans of Nirvana, U2, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, and Nine Inch Nails. They'll have neighbors in an obscure unnamed space--the Beatles/U2/NineInchNails space. Through Firefly, these folks can identify their tastes by the microcommunity of like-minded folks they create for themselves. What Firefly can do with music, it can also do with books. And movies. And web pages. (Firefly recently spun each of these domains out to separate partners.) They are rated in the same way, with equally useful results. But now the combined media space is tremendously potent. Weird subcultures can be detected long before they have a name. Readers of Anne Rice vampire novels who like country and western music and Woody Allen movies suddenly realize they are a group! Self-recognition is the first step toward influence.