Services & Software

For its 10th birthday, Pandora gives the gift of no ads

To mark a decade of the online radio service next week, Pandora music will play for one full day without commercials.

Pandora surpassed 50 billion "thumb up" inputs by listeners this year.

Joan E. Solsman/CNET

Pandora turns 10 years old next week, and it's letting its hair down for an all-day dance party.

On September 9, Pandora will turn off ads to mark the anniversary of its release to the public.

How long ago was 10 years ago? The iPod Nano had just been unveiled by Apple, and the No. 1 spot on Billboard's chart was about to go to Kanye West's "Gold Digger," a first for him as a lead artist.

The anniversary comes at a moment of change in Pandora's industry of streaming music. The company, which plays online radio mostly to people in the US, has built the biggest audience of its kind on the Internet. But consumers are increasingly gravitating to competing services like Spotify and Apple Music, which offer more control over what you can hear. Spotify's June announcement that it reaches more than 75 million active listeners puts that globe-spanning startup within spitting distance of Pandora's nearly 80 million.

On Wednesday of next week, Pandora will shut of commercials for 24 hours, from midnight until midnight. The company will play an audio message from Tim Westergren, the company's founder, thanking listeners. In addition, it will display images noting that the commercial-free day is sponsored by Pandora One, the service's $5-a-month subscription that cuts ads from music streams and allows more song skips. But those will be lighter than the normal load of advertisements.