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Gracenote has a history of technical innovation, driven by our engineering team’s pioneering work in digital entertainment technologies. Our place at the forefront of the digital media revolution has required us to create new technologies where nothing existed before, and to engineer media recognition services so massive in scale they can serve every person on Earth more than a dozen times a day. From our modest beginnings to our market-leading position today, some truly great technologies have been created here.

Gracenote got its start 20 years ago with the compact disc recognition service known then as CDDB – the CD database. The software that ran the CDDB service was a self-contained ecosystem meant to operate in adverse computing environments, with little or no administrator attention. In the pursuit of simplicity and extreme portability, no special libraries were required, not even a database system of any kind – only the standard POSIX C library. The CDDB server was a virtual Swiss army knife of technologies. It supplied its own functionality wherever required, including a database, a fully automated system for ingesting, managing and remotely replicating metadata, an SMTP client, and an array of other features. It sported a raw TCP query interface, but also functioned as a CGI program to allow operation as one of the first true web services. It was an interesting beast, of necessity complicated and somewhat unusual, but solid and very good at what it did. It set the stage for much of Gracenote’s future technology.

Since the CDDB days, a lot has changed. Gracenote has virtually exploded, growing from a tiny startup company in a cozy Berkeley office to a digital entertainment powerhouse of more than 1800 employees in over 20 offices across the globe. We’ve not forgotten our roots in music, but we’ve also moved into other areas of digital entertainment. Today, Gracenote is the only company to deliver music, TV, movie and sports services and data in the world.

Our technology portfolio has expanded to match. In support of our growing product portfolio, we’ve branched out from our original CD recognition service into new areas of digital entertainment technology including many forms of digital audio fingerprinting, video fingerprinting, audio classification, machine listening, metadata management, text search, big data/analytics, and much more. Our various online services handle a trillion queries per month – over a million queries per second at peak – a feat that requires hardcore systems engineering and some very exotic and unique algorithms.

In pursuit of the technological excellence that made Gracenote what it is, some great accomplishments have been achieved over the years by our engineering team. In this blog the Gracenote staff will share some of the secrets behind those accomplishments. We’ll also preview some of the new technologies we’re in the process of developing. Read on and enjoy.

by Steve Scherf, Co-Founder and CTO | August 9, 2016