By 2002, things were going along quite nicely from a technology standpoint. Running the C backend on the hardware we had purchased for the Java version meant we were very much below our capacity, and we made it past 1 million simultaneous clients. I was pleased that I had learned the right lessons from V1 and designed a solid architecture.
I was also feeling good about the other major service I looked after — search. Audiogalaxy had sponsored my senior engineering project for UT in 2000 — a high performance MySQL indexing service. That, combined with a caching service I built in 2001, had solved the search problem. We were handling 80 million page views every day, most of them searches.
But having some of the scalability problems taken care of didn’t mean I was taking it easy. We were getting more and more DMCA takedown notices, and I’d been working on tools to identify all variations of matching songs for a long time. Michael went to Washington, DC to talk to a group of RIAA folks, and I ended up on a conference call. Their tech guy, Dan Farmer (yes, that Dan Farmer), grilled me on the details of the filtering system.
The filtering system was the most frustrating piece of tech I’ve ever worked on. Audiogalaxy was amazingly effective at distributing rare music, and so no matter how many variations on artist and song names we blocked, things kept slipping by. I tried every trick that I could think of and blocked huge numbers of songs, but it was like trying to hold back the tide.
Eventually, the RIAA decided we weren’t doing enough. On May 24th, a gruff and tattooed messenger walked into the office with The Envelope, and that was that. Michael called in the lawyers and spent weeks trying to find a solution. In the end, he decided that settling it as quickly as possible was the best strategy.
I shut Audiogalaxy down from my apartment on the afternoon of June 17, 2002. It was a beautiful, typical Austin summer day. I knew what was coming, so I had stayed home to enjoy the sunshine. Mid afternoon, my cell phone rang, and David gave me the word to shut it down.
I typed out the command, paused for just a moment, and hit Enter.
For the amazing amount of effort that we put into building the system, destroying it was anti-climatic. The script I ran pushed a new configuration setting to several hundred servers and returned seconds later. The transfers that were currently active were allowed to finish, and then everything stopped. It was a moment I won’t forget, and I regret that I didn’t do it with the rest of team in the same room.
Over the next few weeks, I tried to enjoy being free from the stress of maintaining such a big operation 24/7, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that at 24, my career had already peaked. I didn’t really appreciate the experience I had gained at the time, and I was mostly consumed with the thought that I would never again have so many users love my software. I had no idea what I would do next.
Most of the staff was laid off shortly after that. After our traffic plummeted, Geoff and I spent a week unracking hundreds of servers from the data center in north Austin and driving them down I35 to the office. The company partnered with Rhapsody to offer a music service, and we tried to think of other things we could do with Audiogalaxy. But eventually, we decided it was time to move on.