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Last Updated: Friday, 10 June, 2005, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Behind the podcasting phenomenon
Chris Long
By Chris Long
Reporter, BBC Click Online

Podcasting is less than a year old but has taken off big time. Click Online's Chris Long speaks to the man who invented this latest craze, Adam Curry.

Adam Curry
All you need is a way to record your voice, a computer and internet connection
Adam Curry
Forget blogging - podcasting is the latest craze to hit the 'net.

The "pod" stands for iPod, obviously, and the "casting" comes from broadcasting.

Deduction may lead you to conclude, therefore, that it is a form of internet broadcasting aimed at iPods.

And you would be right.

It was all started by a chap called Adam Curry. He is an icon to the young internet generation, a charismatic thinker with an idea to change the world.

To the more jaded technophile he is a charming, eloquent, self-publicist. The wider world will just ask "who?"

He is an ex-MTV video jockey and broadcaster, and he and a few chums decided to invent podcasting.

Adam Curry explains: "In its bare essence, it's broadcasting to mp3 players. What's great about it is that anybody can do it.

"All you need is a way to record your voice or whatever sounds you want to, a computer and an internet connection."

Once you have your podcast you can listen to it when and wherever you like.

The next person you see with headphones on could well be listening to Adam Curry.

Exchange of thoughts

Like most astonishingly simple ideas, it is less the technology than the thought that makes podcasting so interesting.

Thousands of people record their thoughts, music and - if they want - bodily functions, and then place them on the web.

Using software so new the paint is still wet, podders can upload their recorded thoughts to their websites.

Using equally new software, the rest of us - referred to as podcatchers - can download them.

The thing about the downloading is that if you do it right, and have an always-on internet connection, the podcasts appear on your computer having been downloaded in the background.

The thing that was driving this in Curry's mind was the relatively new concept of always-on - meaning that if you have broadband you can leave your PC connected to the internet all the time.

Chris Long, iPod
Anyone can take up podcasting
Adam Curry says: "If it's just on and there's this bandwidth sitting there we can push things through that pipe while people are either asleep or not thinking about it.

"Look at the evening news. It's broadcast live at that moment, but the content of that programme is produced hours, days, week, months ahead of time. 'Oh, we don't have enough for today's show, let's pull something off the shelf, that little item that I did.'"

So Curry stirred up members of the community to develop the software to allow people to swap these audio files between their computers.

But as it developed, he realised there was a stage further to go.

He says: "I could receive these now on my computer but, because I had to commute at the time, I still had to transfer it over to my iPod, which is just a pain in the butt.

"So I said: 'wouldn't it be great if I had a little program that would download this stuff and put it onto my iPod automatically'.

Catchy name

"We didn't have a name for it. We were calling it 'audio blogs'; I think at one point it was 'bundles of passion', all kinds of crazy names.

"Then one guy, Danny Gregoire, registered Podcast, which is brilliant. It's the perfect combination of iPod and broadcast.

"Although now it's not just for iPods, it's for all mp3 players. And that stuck."

It is worth repeating that the key to this is mp3, not just the iPod.

As Adam Curry says, every single digital player can play this mp3 format.

"For me, because I had an iPod, and not any other mp3 player, I came up with iPod and the Pod thing kind of stuck. But it works on any mp3 player.

"Interestingly enough, I think there are maybe 10 million iPods, maybe 40 million different brand mp3 players, but there's about 200 million cell phones that play mp3s.

"So that's a pretty big platform when you think about it. There's a lot of devices that can play this type of file."

There are countless podcasters - enthusiasts and professionals - already offering content.

The problem is that there is no filtering, and certainly no policing.

Just like the rest of the internet, with one or two notable exceptions, there is no guarantee that the content will not be offensive or controversial, which, depending on your point of view, is either great or terrible.

So all you need is a computer, an internet connection, a microphone and some ideas, and you too could be a podcaster.

All you have to do now is produce something that people want to listen to!

Click Online is broadcast on BBC News 24: Saturday at 2030, Sunday at 0430 and 1630, and on Monday at 0030. A short version is also shown on BBC Two: Saturday at 0645 and BBC One: Sunday at 0730 . Also BBC World.

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