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Another look at Imeem

When I first looked at Imeem back in December, it looked like it had been compiled by and for people with attention deficit disorder. Five months later, the music search function's good enough, and the song selection wide enough, that I can understand why

When I first looked at Imeem last December, I was boggled by the site's interface--I couldn't tell if it was a social networking site, a streaming audio and video site, or a library of user-posted content for downloading. At the risk of sounding like Grandpa Simpson or Doug Morris, I dismissed the site as a symptom of widespread attention deficit disorder among the younger set.

It took me about three seconds to find a fairly obscure Pink Floyd song on Imeem. Screenshot

Last week, market research firm Compete, which measures Web traffic by compiling and measuring data from various sources, reported that Imeem had surpassed Yahoo Music as the number-one streaming music site on the Web, with 58% growth in unique visitors since March 2007. I figured I must have missed something, and took another look.

I still don't understand the appeal of yet another social networking site, but I'm happy to report that Imeem's music-finding feature is 100% better than it was in December--it actually works. I conducted my usual test search for Pink Floyd, and while the results were still an array of personal homepages with widely varying themes and content, the search results listed how many songs were available on each page. Searching for the rather obscure Floyd song "Biding My Time," three results came up. The second result was obviously correct. Clicking on the "more details" tag exposed a big "play" button, so I didn't have to waste a lot of time scrolling and clicking to hear the song. Total time elapsed between search and play: about 3 seconds.

A search for Portishead's Third returned every song on the album. What about that new Scarlett Johansson album of Tom Waits covers? Any good? When I misspelled her name (with two "n"s instead of "s"s) the sponsored listings in the right column alerted me to the right spelling. Tried again, and boom, every song on the album appeared, ready for me to stream.

In other words, a little design discipline and a vastly improved search engine have turned Imeem from curiosity into a useful first stop when you want to sample new music or hear that song running through your head.