Rocker Peter Gabriel offers Filter to cut through online clutter

Musician is backing a recommendation engine that combines a wide range of people's tastes to deliver suggestions more likely to "entertain, excite, and inspire."

Peter Gabriel wants to save Internet users from drowning in information Petergabriel.com

Internet users are awash in information every time they search for new videos, music, or books online, says rocker Peter Gabriel.

One of the founders of the rock group Genesis and the creator of the iconic solo album So, is an investor in The Filter, a recommendation engine that now offers to help users cut through clutter on the Web and find the kind of content that will appeal to them.

Until now, The Filter has operated mostly in Europe as a music discovery service. A redesigned site is now offering to find a much wider array of content, Gabriel told CNET News.com on Monday. On Tuesday, the service is scheduled to begin allowing invitees to help test the site, which will be opened to the public sometime next month.

"When you drown people in an ocean of information, you've got to give them navigation tools," Gabriel said. "I know that there is better stuff out there than what I generally am exposed to...So if I have a sort of intelligent ally working with me 24 hours a day, I think I have a much better chance of getting the stuff that will entertain, excite, and inspire me."

"When you drown people in an ocean of information, you've got to give them navigation tools."
--Peter Gabriel

When it comes to improving the experience of searching the Web for music and other entertainment content, technology has mostly come up short. Despite a plethora of specially designed search engines, it's still not easy to find material that appeals to you. Certainly, few search engines, if any, provide better results than Google.

According to Gabriel, The Filter's system sizes up a lot of information before spitting out suggestions.

It runs a person's past searches, purchases, and site visits through a new set of filters that may include the opinions of friends, favorite critics or reviewers--whatever the user wants. Executives at The Filter also say their algorithm can make recommendations that cut across different entertainment platforms.

Say, for example, you like film director Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. The Filter can use that to suggest certain songs.

"At the moment, there is nothing in Google that I know of that allows me to put in my taste and get recommendations," Gabriel said. "I can research and go quite deep in one direction. One great navigation tool is your taste. We allow you to integrate your taste and choices with your friend, your favorite musician, film director, or whatever."

Freedom from choice
Gabriel isn't slumming it in the tech sector.

Sure, the 58-year-old is famous for his stands on social issues, in addition to churning out hit songs for more than 40 years. (Ask yourself if we would love Lloyd Dobler or boom boxes as much without Gabriel's help in the cult film Say Anything).

He co-founded On Demand Distribution, once the largest digital-music service in Europe, before selling it in 2000 to Loudeye, a company acquired by Nokia in 2006 that provided music delivery platforms. Gabriel also helped develop games on CD-ROM.

The son of an electrical engineer, Gabriel said he has never written any code, but he loves kicking ideas around with creative people.

"I inherited my father's enthusiasm for technology, but not his skills," he quipped.

Gabriel wants to combine his music and tech passions. He says being bombarded by data only serves to discourage people from hunting for what they want.

He remembers a conversation he had years ago with a friend about how much freedom the Internet provided. His friend said something that stuck with him: "Maybe there is a deeper yearning out there for freedom from choice."

 

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