Pandora is a music discovery and recommendation service that creates custom stations based on artists or individual songs. The service is powered by the Music Genome Project, a taxonomy of musical information by a team of musicians an audio analysts who have gone through a massive database of songs and categorized them based on more than 400 characteristics (among them harmony, instrumentation, and rhythm). Once you input a song, Pandora spits back a continuously-running playlist of music with similar characteristics.
Pandora is an extremely simple and easy-to-use site that requires very little information from you to sign up. The service consists of a centrally located jukebox that contains a list of previously-created stations on the left-hand side for easy access. Or you can click the Create a New Station button on the top to input a new song or artist. During playback, you have a variety of options. You can pause playback and skip tracks, as well as click thumbs up or thumbs down for the songs you do or don't like, respectively. There's also a menu button for each track that lets you move it to another station, find out why it was selected, bookmark it, or buy it from iTunes or Amazon MP3. With enough use, it can effectively introduce you to all sorts of new music, and users can really tailor radio stations based on personal tastes.
The service makes its money from advertisements that are inserted every few songs, similar to terrestrial radio stations. As with all free Internet radio services, you are subjected to skip limits during playback. However, there's a subscription option that removes the skip limits and ads, and lets users relisten to songs from the playlists. In addition the Web, Pandora is available on a variety of mobile devices, such as the iPhone, as well as home network music players, such as the Sonos. All in all, Pandora is great way to discover new tunes or just pass the time with some background music, whether you stick to the Web version, take it on the go on your phone, or pump it out to some speakers.