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This is my first article posting to CodeProject.
I needed a quick way to sell a small, inexpensive WinForms application from my website; either after the customer completes a free trial period, or when purchasing at download time. I wanted to provide the customer with the following scenario:
- Customer comes to my website and downloads the setup package as a free 30 day trial (by default, the software behaves in trial mode unless an unlock key is purchased and entered).
- Customer decides if they want to buy it or not.
- If customer decides yes, then they purchase an unlock key from my website, providing me with the serial number of their copy of the software (or they download a new copy and purchase the key all at once).
- Customer is emailed the unlock key that unlocks the following:
- The specific software copy they downloaded (based on the serial number).
- The software they purchased (based on their name).
- The software provided by my company (based on my company name).
- The software feature set they purchased (based on what they bought).
- All of the above must be true for the emailed key to actually unlock the software.
- User is now in possession of an unlocked software and a key that cannot unlock any of my other products. They can freely re-install the software on multiple machines, but the key will only unlock the copy they downloaded.
This is a very common way of purchasing software that we are all familiar with. The method presented here is as secure as you are able to keep your company cipher keys. See other articles at Microsoft on how to obfuscate cipher keys in your deployed applications. 99.99% of people don't have the time to spend hacking unlock keys. Of the remaining .01%, how many of those are going to give away a hacked key to thousands of people? Also, since this method hashes all of the following items, any hacker would still need to know these things to create the keys for other people's copies. Additionally, your software company can easily invalidate all the keys floating around in the marketplace by simply changing one of the items in the hash. Most likely, it would be the product feature. The following items are hashed into the unlock key:
- Company name
- Customer name
- Serial number of the software downloaded
- The product or product feature code
By extending the classes, you can hash even more information like machine MAC address if you want to restrict unlocking to only a specific computer.
Using the code
As you can see from the demo program, the code is ultra-simple and self explanatory once you open the solution file. The following code is deployed to your web site to make the key. Note: is deployed only to your website, not the product you are selling. This is the code your website needs to create an unlock key after your customer pays for the desired product.
To give the customer a key, they must know two things:
- Their name.
- What feature set or product they want to purchase.
Your website must know these two things:
- The serial number of the copy of the software the customer just downloaded (optional; if you are not serial stamping your downloads, then just leave it blank, but the key won't be as secure; otherwise, create a serial number and download that to the customer to the config file or the DLL itself.) Hint: makes a good serial number.
- The name of your company (of course, your website code knows this).
After you create the key, email it to the customer so they can use it to unlock the software they just downloaded.PrivateSub btnSell_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, _ ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles btnSell.Click TryDim locKeyHandler As OMBKeySell.KeySeller = _ New OMBKeySell.KeySeller(_MyCompanyKey, _MyCompanyIV) txtSellKey.Text = locKeyHandler.SellKey(txtSellCompanyName.Text, _ txtSellSerial.Text, txtSellCustomerName.Text, _ CType(btnSell.Tag, Key.ProductOrProductFeatureSet)) My.Computer.Clipboard.SetText(txtSellKey.Text, TextDataFormat.Text) lblSellStatus.Text = "Thank you for purchasing our software, " & _ "your unlock key has been placed in your computer " & _ "clipboard, paste it below to activate your copy " & _ "of the software." & vbCrLf & vbCrLf & _ "(In real use the key would be emailed)" lblSellFeature.Text = "You just bought a key to unlock this " & _ "feature or product: " & CType(btnSell.Tag, _ Key.ProductOrProductFeatureSet).ToString lblBuyStatus.Text = "" lblBuyFeature.Text = "" txtBuyCustomerName.Text = "" txtBuyKey.Text = ""Catch ex As Exception lblSellStatus.Text = ex.Message lblSellFeature.Text = "" txtSellKey.Text = "" txtSellCustomerName.Text = ""EndTryEndSub
The following code is deployed to your product to validate the key and provide your program with the product or product feature that was purchased. Note: is deployed only in the product you are selling, not in your website. This is the code your purchased software needs on the product unlocking form.
For the customer to unlock, they must know two things:
- The name they used as their name when they made the purchase above.
- The key that was emailed to them.
Your deployed software must know these two things (embedded into the software or the config file):
- The name of your company (same name used by your website code when you created and sold the unlock key, embedded in the code or config file of the downloaded package).
- The serial number of the copy of the software the customer just downloaded (embedded in the software or downloaded config file).
After you process their key, place the provided product feature code in the Registry. Now, your program looks at that Registry key to determine how/if it should run itself.PrivateSub btnBuy_Click(ByVal sender As System.Object, _ ByVal e As System.EventArgs) Handles btnBuy.Click TryDim locKeyHandler As OMBKeyBuy.KeyBuyer = _ New OMBKeyBuy.KeyBuyer(_MyCompanyKey, _MyCompanyIV) Dim locFeatureBeingBought As Key.ProductOrProductFeatureSet = _ locKeyHandler.BuyKey(txtBuyCompanyName.Text, _ txtBuySerial.Text, txtBuyCustomerName.Text, txtBuyKey.Text) lblBuyStatus.Text = "Thank you for purchasing our software, " & _ "your specific copy of the software is now unlocked" lblBuyFeature.Text = "You unlocked this feature or product: " & _ locFeatureBeingBought.ToString lblSellStatus.Text = "" lblSellFeature.Text = "" txtSellCustomerName.Text = "" txtSellKey.Text = ""Catch ex As Exception lblBuyStatus.Text = ex.Message lblBuyFeature.Text = "" txtBuyKey.Text = "" txtBuyCustomerName.Text = ""EndTryEndSub
The demo program (is in the zip)
To use the demo program... make a key on the top half by entering your name. This simulates your purchase at a website. Then, to simulate unlocking your software, enter your name and paste the key. The unlocked feature will be returned.
Points of interest
I had a hard time finding code samples for unlock keys on the Internet that suited my purpose and that were not too complicated.
Swedish music streaming service
Spotify (/ˈspɒtɪfaɪ/; Swedish:[ˈspɔ̂tːɪfaj]) is a Swedish audio streaming and media services provider founded on 23 April 2006 by Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon. It is the world's largest music streaming service provider, with over 381 million monthly active users, including 172 million paying subscribers, as of September 2021. Spotify is listed (through a Luxembourg City-domiciled holding company, Spotify Technology S.A.) on the New York Stock Exchange in the form of American depositary receipts.
Spotify offers digital copyright restricted recorded music and podcasts, including more than 70 million songs, from record labels and media companies. As a freemium service, basic features are free with advertisements and limited control, while additional features, such as offline listening and commercial-free listening, are offered via paid subscriptions. Spotify is currently available in 180+ countries as of October 2021. Users can search for music based on artist, album, or genre, and can create, edit, and share playlists.
Spotify is available in most of Europe and the Americas, Oceania and more than 40 countries in Africa as of July 2021 (including South Africa and Mauritius) and Asia. By the end of 2021, Spotify is expected to operate in a total of 178 countries. The service is available on most modern devices including Windows, macOS, and Linux computers, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets and AI enabled smart speakers such as Amazon Echo and Google Home.
Unlike physical or download sales, which pay artists a fixed price per song or album sold, Spotify pays royalties based on the number of artist streams as a proportion of total songs streamed. It distributes approximately 70% of its total revenue to rights holders (often record labels), who then pay artists based on individual agreements. According to Ben Sisario of The New York Times, approximately 13,000 of seven million artists on Spotify generated $50,000 or more in payments in 2020.
Spotify was founded in 2006 in Stockholm, Sweden, by Daniel Ek, former CTO of Stardoll, and Martin Lorentzon, co-founder of Tradedoubler. According to Ek, the company's title was initially misheard from a name shouted by Lorentzon. Later they thought out an etymology of a combination of "spot" and "identify."
Early international launches
In February 2009, Spotify opened public registration for the free service tier in the United Kingdom. Registrations surged following the release of the mobile service, leading Spotify to halt registration for the free service in September, returning the UK to an invitation-only policy.
Spotify launched in the United States in July 2011 and offered a six-month ad-supported trial period, where new users could listen to an unlimited amount of music for free. In January 2012, the free trial periods began to expire, and limited users to ten hours of streaming each month and five plays per song. In March, Spotify removed all limits on the free service tier indefinitely.
In April 2016, Ek and Lorentzon wrote an open letter to Swedish politicians demanding action in three areas that they claimed hindered the company's ability to recruit top talent as Spotify grows, including access to flexible housing, better education in the programming and development fields, and stock options. Ek and Lorentzon wrote that to continue competing in a global economy, politicians needed to respond with new policies, or else thousands of Spotify jobs would be moved from Sweden to the United States.
In February 2017, Spotify announced a major expansion of its United States operations in Lower Manhattan, New York City, at 4 World Trade Center, adding approximately 1,000 new jobs and retaining 832 existing positions. The company's US headquarters are located in New York City's Flatiron District.
On 14 November 2018, the company announced a total of 13 new markets in the MENA region, including the creation of a new Arabic hub and several playlists while supporting right-to-left text in their apps.
Main article: List of most-streamed artists on Spotify
In October 2015, "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran became the first song to pass 500 million streams. A month later, Spotify announced that "Lean On" by Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring MØ was its most-streamed song of all time with over 525 million streams worldwide. In April 2016, Rihanna overtook Justin Bieber to become the biggest artist on Spotify, with 31.3 million monthly active listeners. In May 2016, Rihanna was overtaken by Drake with 31.85 million total streams. In December 2016, Drake's just-under 36 million monthly listeners were overtaken by the Weeknd's 36.068 million. Later that month, Drake's song "One Dance" became the first song to hit one billion streams on Spotify. Upon its release in August 2017, the single "Look What You Made Me Do" by Taylor Swift earned over eight million streams within 24 hours, breaking the record for the most single-day streams for a track. On 19 June 2018, XXXTentacion's hit single "Sad!" broke Swift's single-day streaming record, amassing 10.4 million streams the day after he was fatally shot in Florida.
In March 2011, Spotify announced a customer base of one million paying subscribers across Europe, and by September 2011, the number of paying subscribers had doubled to two million. In August 2012, Time reported 15 million active users, four million being paying Spotify subscribers. User growth continued, reaching 20 million total active users, including five million paying customers globally and one million paying customers in the United States, in December 2012. By March 2013, the service had 24 million active users, six million being paying subscribers, which grew to 40 million users (including ten million paying) in May 2014, 60 million users (including 15 million paying) in December 2014, 75 million users (20 million paying) in June 2015, 30 million paying subscribers in March 2016, 40 million paying subscribers in September 2016, and 100 million total users in June 2016. In April 2020, Spotify reached 133 million premium users. In countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Spotify registered a fall in users in late February, but it has seen a recovery.
The Financial Times reported in March 2017 that, as part of its efforts to renegotiate new licensing deals with music labels, Spotify and major record labels had agreed that Spotify would restrict some newly released albums to its Premium tier, with Spotify receiving a reduction in royalty fees to do so. Select albums would be available only on the Premium tier for a period of time, before general release. The deal "may be months away from being finalized, but Spotify is said to have cleared this particular clause with major record labels". New reports in April confirmed that Spotify and Universal Music Group had reached an agreement to allow artists part of Universal to limit their new album releases to the Premium service tier for a maximum of two weeks. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek commented that "We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we've worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy. Starting today, Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks, offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy". It was announced later in April that this type of agreement would be extended to indie artists signed to the Merlin Network agency.
Direct public offering
Spotify went public on the stock market in April 2018 using a direct public offering rather than an initial public offering. This approach is not intended to raise fresh capital, but to let investors get their returns.Morgan Stanley is the company's slated advisor on the matter.
After making its debut on the New York Stock Exchange on 3 April 2018, CNBC reported that Spotify opened at $165.90, more than 25% above its reference price of $132.
2020 hacking incident
On 3 July 2020, cybersecurity firm vpnMentor discovered a database containing 380 million individual records, including the logins and passwords of Spotify users. The database was thought to be evidence of an impending credential stuffing cyber attack targeting Spotify as it contained the credentials of up to 350,000 compromised user accounts. In response to the attack, Spotify issued a rolling reset of passwords for affected accounts in November 2020.
In May 2013, Spotify acquired music discovery app Tunigo. In March 2014, they acquired The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company. In June 2015, Spotify announced they had acquired Seed Scientific, a data science consulting firm and analytics company. In a comment to TechCrunch, Spotify said that Seed Scientific's team would lead an Advanced Analytics unit within the company focused on developing data services. In January 2016, they acquired social and messaging startups Cord Project and Soundwave, followed in April 2016 by CrowdAlbum, a "startup that collects photos and videos of performances shared on social networks," and would "enhance the development of products that help artists understand, activate, and monetize their audiences". In November 2016, Spotify acquired Preact, a "cloud-based platform and service developed for companies that operate on subscription models which helps reduce churn and build up their subscriber numbers".
In March 2017, Spotify acquired Sonalytic, an audio detection startup, for an undisclosed amount of money. Spotify stated that Sonalytic would be used to improve the company's personalised playlists, better match songs with compositions, and improve the company's publishing data system. Spotify also acquired MightyTV later in March, an app connected to television streaming services, including Netflix and HBO Go, that recommends content to users. Spotify mainly uses MightyTV to improve its advertising efforts on the free tier of service. In April, they acquired Mediachain, a blockchain startup that had been developing a decentralized database system for managing attribution and other metadata for media. This was followed May with the acquisition of artificial intelligence startup Niland, which uses technology to improve personalisation and recommendation features for users. In November, Spotify acquired Soundtrap, an online music studio startup.
On 12 April 2018, Spotify acquired the music licensing platform Loudr. On 6 February 2019, Spotify acquired the podcast networks Gimlet Media and Anchor FM Inc., with the goal of establishing themselves as a leading figure in podcasting. On 26 March, Spotify announced they would acquire another podcast network, Parcast. On 12 September, Spotify acquired SoundBetter, a music production marketplace for people in the music industry to collaborate on projects, and distribute music tracks for licensing.
On 5 February 2020, Spotify announced its intent to acquire Bill Simmons' sports and pop culture blog and podcast network The Ringer for an undisclosed amount. In November 2020, Spotify announced plans to acquire Megaphone from The Slate Group for US$235 million. In March 2021, Spotify acquired app developer Betty Labs and their live social audio app, Locker Room, Locker Room was rebranded in June 2021 as Spotify Greenroom, and turned into a Clubhouse competitor. Also in June, Spotify acquired Podz, a podcast discovery startup.
In January 2015, Sony announced PlayStation Music, a new music service with Spotify as its exclusive partner. PlayStation Music incorporates the Spotify service into Sony's PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 gaming consoles, and Sony Xperia mobile devices. The service launched on 30 March 2015. In March 2017, Spotify announced a partnership with the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference for 2017, presenting specific content in special playlists through an SXSW hub in Spotify's apps. The integration also enabled Spotify within the SXSW GO app to help users discover and explore artists performing at the conference. Two more partnerships were announced in March; one with WNYC Studios, and one with Waze. The WNYC Studios partnership brought various podcasts from WNYC to Spotify, including Note To Self, On the Media and Here's the Thing. Spotify also announced that the third season of WNYC Studios' 2 Dope Queens podcast would premiere with a two-week exclusivity period on the service on 21 March 2017. The Waze partnership allows Waze app users to view directions to destinations within the Spotify app and access their Spotify playlists through the Waze app.
In October, Microsoft announced that it would be ending its Groove Music streaming service by December, with all music from users transferring to Spotify as part of a new partnership. In December, Spotify and Tencent's music arm, Tencent Music Entertainment (TME), agreed to swap stakes and make an investment in each other's music businesses. As a result of this transaction, Spotify gained a 9% stake in TME with TME gaining a 7.5% stake in Spotify.
In February 2018, Spotify integrated with the gaming-oriented voice chat service Discord on desktop clients, allowing users to display their currently-playing song as a rich presence on their profile, and invite other users with Spotify Premium to group "listening parties". In April, Spotify announced a discounted entertainment bundle with video-on-demand provider Hulu, which included discounted rates for university students.
In May 2020, Spotify teamed up with ESPN and Netflix to curate podcasts around Netflix's Michael Jordan documentary, and in September, Spotify signed a deal with Chernin Entertainment to produce movies and TV shows.
In November 2021, Bad Robot launched its podcast division with a deal at Spotify.
Dispute with Apple
See also: Criticism of Apple Inc. § Spotify
In July 2015, Spotify launched an email campaign to urge its App Store subscribers to cancel their subscriptions and start new ones through its website, bypassing the 30% transaction fee for in-app purchases required for iOS applications by technology company Apple Inc. A later update to the Spotify app on iOS was rejected by Apple, prompting Spotify's general counsel Horacio Gutierrez to write a letter to Apple's then-general counsel Bruce Sewell, stating: "This latest episode raises serious concerns under both U.S. and EU competition law. It continues a troubling pattern of behavior by Apple to exclude and diminish the competitiveness of Spotify on iOS and as a rival to Apple Music, particularly when seen against the backdrop of Apple's previous anticompetitive conduct aimed at Spotify … we cannot stand by as Apple uses the App Store approval process as a weapon to harm competitors."
Sewell responded to the letter: "We find it troubling that you are asking for exemptions to the rules we apply to all developers and are publicly resorting to rumors and half-truths about our service." He also elaborated that "Our guidelines apply equally to all app developers, whether they are game developers, e-book sellers, video-streaming services or digital music distributors; and regardless of whether or not they compete against Apple. We did not alter our behavior or our rules when we introduced our own music streaming service or when Spotify became a competitor". Furthermore, he stated that "There is nothing in Apple's conduct that 'amounts to a violation of applicable antitrust laws.' Far from it. ... I would be happy to facilitate an expeditious review and approval of your app as soon as you provide us with something that is compliant with the App Store's rules".
In the following months, Spotify joined several other companies in filing a letter with the European Union's antitrust body indirectly accusing Apple and Google of "abusing their 'privileged position' at the top of the market", by referring to "some" companies as having "transformed into 'gatekeepers' rather than 'gateways'". The complaint led to the European Union announcing that it would prepare an initiative by the end of 2017 for a possible law addressing unfair competition practices.
Spotify released the first version of its Apple Watch app in November 2018, allowing playback control of the iPhone via the watch. Users can also choose which devices to play music on via Bluetooth. In a further escalation of the dispute with Apple, on 13 March 2019, Spotify filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission over unfair app store practices. Two days later, Apple responded, stating that the claim was misleading rhetoric and that Spotify wanted benefits of a free app without being a free app. Spotify responded with a statement calling Apple a monopolist and stated that they had only filed the complaint as Apple's actions hurt competition and consumers and clearly violated the law. It also said that Apple believed Spotify users on the app store were Apple's customers and not Spotify's.
Apple responded to Spotify's claims by counter-claiming that Spotify's market reach and user base would not have been possible without the Apple App Store platform. Additionally, Apple stated that they have attempted to work with Spotify to integrate the service better with Apple's products, such as Siri and Apple Watch. In 2019, under iOS 13, it became possible to play Spotify music using Siri commands.
Spotify was one of the first companies to support Epic Games in their lawsuit against Apple, which was filed after Epic also tried to bypass Apple's 30% fee for microtransactions in Fortnite. In September 2020, Spotify, Epic, and other companies founded The Coalition for App Fairness, which aims for better conditions for the inclusion of apps in app stores.
Spotify operates under a freemium business model (basic services are free, while additional features are offered via paid subscriptions). Spotify generates revenue by selling premium streaming subscriptions to users and advertising placements to third parties.
In December 2013, the company launched a new website, "Spotify for Artists, " explaining its business model and revenue data. Spotify gets its content from major record labels as well as independent artists and pays copyright holders royalties for streaming music. The company pays 70% of its total revenue to rights holders. Spotify for Artists states that the company does not have a fixed per-play rate; instead, it considers factors such as the user's home country and the individual artist's royalty rate. Rightsholders received an average per-play payout between $.000029 and $.0084.
Spotify offers an unlimited subscription package, close to the Open Music Model (OMM) estimated economic equilibrium for the recording industry. However, the incorporation of digital rights management (DRM) limitation diverges from the OMM and competitors such as iTunes Store and Amazon Music that have dropped DRM.
Music Week editor Tim Ingham wrote: "Unlike buying a CD or download, streaming is not a one-off payment. Hundreds of millions of streams of tracks are happening every day, which quickly multiplies the potential revenues on offer – and is a constant long-term source of income for artists."
Accounts and subscriptions
As of November 2018, the two Spotify subscription types, all offering unlimited listening time, are:
In March 2014, Spotify introduced a new, discounted Premium subscription tier for students. Students in the United States enrolled in a university can pay half-price for a Premium subscription. In April 2017, the Students offer was expanded to 33 more countries.
Spotify introduced its Family subscription in October 2014, connecting up to five family members for a shared Premium subscription. Spotify Family was upgraded in May 2016, letting up to six people share a subscription and reducing the price.
In November 2018, Spotify announced it was opening up Spotify Connect to all of the users using its Free service, however, these changes still required products supporting Spotify Connect to support the latest software development kit.
In February 2021, Spotify announced their HiFi subscription, to offer listening in high fidelity, lossless sound quality. It will be available in select markets later in 2021.
In August 2021, Spotify launched a test subscription tier called Spotify Plus. The subscription costs $0.99 and is supposed to be a combination of the free and premium tiers. Subscribers to this plan will still receive ads but will get the ability to listen to songs without shuffle mode and skip any number of tracks. The company reported that the tier conditions may change before its full launch.
In 2008, just after launch, the company made a loss of 31.8 million Swedish kronor ($4.4 million). In October 2010, Wired reported that Spotify was making more money for labels in Sweden than any other retailer "online or off". Years after growth and expansion, a November 2012 report suggested strong momentum for the company. In 2011, it reported a near US$60 million net loss from revenue of $244 million, while it was expected to generate a net loss of $40 million from revenue of $500 million in 2012. Another source of income was music purchases from within the app, however this service was removed in January 2013.
In May 2016, Spotify announced "Sponsored Playlists", a monetisation opportunity in which brands can specify the audiences they have in mind, with Spotify matching the marketer with suitable music in a playlist. That September, Spotify announced that it had paid a total of over $5 billion to the music industry. In June 2017, as part of renegotiated licenses with Universal Music Group and Merlin Network, Spotify's financial filings revealed its agreement to pay more than $2 billion in minimum payments over the next two years.
As of 2017[update], Spotify was not yet a profitable company. Spotify's revenue for Q1 2020 amounted to €1.85 billion ($2 billion). A large part of this sum, €1.7 billion ($1.84 billion), came from Spotify Premium subscribers. Gross profit in the same quarter amounted to €472 million ($511 million), with an operating loss of €17 million ($18 million). Despite subscriber and podcasts growth, during Q2 of 2020, Spotify reported a loss of €356 million (€1.91 per share). The "deeper" loss came as a result of the company's tax debt to over one-third of its employees in Sweden.
In February 2010, Spotify received a small investment from Founders Fund, where board member Sean Parker was recruited to assist Spotify in "winning the labels over in the world's largest music market". In June 2011, Spotify secured $100 million of funding and planned to use this to support its US launch. The new round of funding valued the company at $1 billion. A Goldman Sachs-led round of funding closed in November 2012, raising around $100 million at a $3 billion valuation.
In April 2015, Spotify began another round of fundraising, with a report from The Wall Street Journal stating it was seeking $400 million, which would value the company at $8.4 billion. The financing was closed in June 2015, with Spotify raising $526 million, at a value of $8.53 billion. In January 2016, Spotify raised another $500 million through convertible bonds.
In March 2016, Spotify raised $1 billion in financing by debt plus a discount of 20% on shares once the initial public offering (IPO) of shares takes place. The company was, according to TechCrunch, planning to launch on the stock market in 2017, but in 2017 it was seen as planning on doing the IPO in 2018 in order to "build up a better balance sheet and work on shifting its business model to improve its margins".
In March 2009, Spotify began offering music downloads in the United Kingdom, France, and Spain. Users could purchase tracks from Spotify, which partnered with 7digital to incorporate the feature. The ability to purchase and download music tracks via the app was removed on 4 January 2013.
Spotify for Artists
In November 2015, Spotify introduced a "Fan Insights" panel in limited beta form, letting artists and managers access data on monthly listeners, geographical data, demographic information, music preferences and more. In April 2017, the panel was upgraded to leave beta status, renamed as "Spotify for Artists", and opened to all artists and managers. Additional features include the ability to get "verified" status with a blue checkmark on an artist's profile, receiving artist support from Spotify, customising the profile page with photos and promoting a certain song as their "pick".
In September 2018, Spotify announced "Upload Beta," allowing artists to upload directly to the platform instead of going through a distributor or record label. The feature was rolled out to a small number of US-based artists by invitation only. Uploading was free and artists received 100% of the revenue from songs they uploaded; artists were able to control when their release went public. On 1 July 2019, Spotify deprecated the program and announced plans to stop accepting direct uploads by the end of that month and eventually remove all content uploaded in this manner.
In June 2017, Variety reported that Spotify would announce "Secret Genius," a new initiative aimed at highlighting songwriters and producers, and the effect those people have on the music industry and the artists' careers. The project, which would feature awards, "Songshops" songwriting workshops, curated playlists, and podcasts, is an effort to "shine a light on these people behind the scenes who play such a big role in some of the most important moments of our lives. When the general public hears a song, they automatically associate it with the artist who sings it, not the people behind the scenes who make it happen, so we thought the title Secret Genius was appropriate", Spotify's Global Head of Creator Services Troy Carter told Variety the first awards ceremony would take place in late 2017,[needs update] and was intended to honour "the top songwriters, producers and publishers in the industry as well as up-and-coming talent." Additionally, as part of "The Ambassador Program," 13 songwriters would each host a Songshop workshop, in which their peers would collaboratively attempt to create a hit song, with the first workshop taking place in Los Angeles in June 2017.
In October 2017, Spotify launched "Rise", a program aimed at promoting emerging artists. In February 2020, Spotify announced it would be featuring new songwriter pages and 'written by' playlists. This was aimed at giving fans a behind the scenes look at the process of some of their favorite songwriters. Initial pages added included Justin Trantor, Meghan Trainor, and Missy Elliott. Spotify thereafter announced it was planning to add more of these pages and playlists to highlight songwriters.
In January 2021, Spotify made a selection of audiobooks available on the platform as a test of developing a greater breadth of content for users. The addition of audiobooks to the service would create similar offerings to that of Amazon's Audible. In 2020, Spotify partnered with Wizarding World to release a series of recorded readings of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, by various stars of the franchise.
Stations by Spotify
On 31 January 2018, Spotify started testing a new Pandora-styled standalone app called Stations by Spotify for Australian Android users. It features 62 music channels, each devoted to a particular genre. Spotify itself has two channels named after its playlists that link directly to the users' profile: "Release Radar" and "Discover Weekly." The aim is to help users to listen to the music they want without information overload or spending time building their own playlists. At launch, the skipping feature was not featured to "reinforce the feel of radio," but it was quietly added later and with no limits. Songs can be "loved" but can't be "hated." If a song is "loved," a custom radio channel will be created based on it, and when there are at least 15 of these songs, a "My Favourites" channel is unlocked.
The standalone app has been made available to all iOS and Android users in the United States since 4 June 2019.
Screenshot of Spotify version 8.6.74 on iOS (November 2021), showcasing the app's Search tab.
|Initial release||7 October 2008 (2008-10-07)|
|Written in||Primarily Python, with some Java, C, and C++ components|
|Available in||62 languages|
|Type||Music streaming, podcast player|
Spotify has client software currently available for Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, iPadOS, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S game consoles. Spotify also offers an official, although unsupported (developed as a "labour of love" by Spotify engineers; support is offered through the Spotify Community), version of Spotify for Linux clients. Spotify also offers a proprietary protocol known as "Spotify Connect", which lets users listen to music through a wide range of entertainment systems, including speakers, receivers, TVs, cars, and smartwatches. Spotify also has a web player (open.spotify.com). Unlike the apps, the web player does not have the ability to download music for offline listening. In June 2017, Spotify became available as an app through Windows Store.
In Spotify's apps, music can be browsed or searched for via various parameters, such as artist, album, genre, playlist, or record label. Users can create, edit and share playlists, share tracks on social media, and make playlists with other users. Spotify provides access to over 70 million songs, 2.2 million podcasts and 4 billion playlists.
In November 2011, Spotify introduced a Spotify Apps service that made it possible for third-party developers to design applications that could be hosted within the Spotify computer software. The applications provided features such as synchronised lyrics, music reviews, and song recommendations. In June 2012, Soundrop became the first Spotify app to attract major funding, receiving $3 million from Spotify investor Northzone. However, after the June 2014 announcement of a Web API that allowed third-party developers to integrate Spotify content in their own web applications, the company discontinued its Spotify Apps platform in October, stating that its new development tools for the Spotify web player fulfilled many of the advantages of the former Spotify Apps service, but "would ensure the Spotify platform remained relevant and easy to develop on, as well as enabling you to build innovative and engaging music experiences".
In April 2012, Spotify introduced a "Spotify Play Button", an embeddable music player that can be added to blogs, websites, or social media profiles, that lets visitors listen to a specific song, playlist, or album without leaving the page. The following November, the company began rolling out a web player, with a similar design to its computer programs, but without the requirement of any installation.
In December 2012, Spotify introduced a "Follow" tab and a "Discover" tab, along with a "Collection" section. "Follow" lets users follow artists and friends to see what they are listening to, while "Discover" gives users new releases from their favourite artists, as well as music, review, and concert recommendations based on listening history. Users can add tracks to a "Collection" section of the app, rather than adding them to a specific playlist. The features were announced by CEO Daniel Ek at a press conference, with Ek saying that a common user complaint about the service was that "Spotify is great when you know what music you want to listen to, but not when you don't".
In May 2015, Spotify announced a new "Home" start-page that could recommend music. The company also introduced "Spotify Running", a feature aimed at improving music while running with music matched to running tempo, and announced that podcasts and videos ("entertainment, news and clips") would be coming to Spotify, along with "Spotify Originals" content.
In December 2015, Spotify debuted a new campaign called Spotify Wrapped. The company would create playlists based on each user's most listened-to songs from the year. Users then can view this playlist at the end of the year and save it to look back on when they choose. Spotify Wrapped has changed over time, but still provides users with ways to view their top picks.
In January 2016, Spotify and music annotation service Genius formed a partnership, bringing annotation information from Genius into infocards presented while songs are playing in Spotify. The functionality is limited to selected playlists and was only available on Spotify's iOS app at launch, being expanded to the Android app in April 2017. This feature is currently known as "Behind the Lyrics".
In May 2017, Spotify introduced Spotify Codes for its mobile apps, a way for users to share specific artists, tracks, playlists or albums with other people. Users find the relevant content to share and press a "soundwave-style barcode" on the display. A camera icon in the apps' search fields lets other users point their device's camera at the code, which takes them to the same content.
In January 2019, Spotify introduced Car View for Android, allowing devices running Android to have a compact Now Playing screen when the device is connected to a car's Bluetooth. Also in January 2019, Spotify beta-tested its Canvas feature, where artists and/or labels can upload looping 3 to 8-second moving visuals to their tracks, replacing album covers in the "Now Playing" view; users have the option to turn off this feature. Canvas is only available for Spotify's iOS and Android mobile apps.
In March 2021, Spotify announced an upcoming option for higher-resolution sound, Spotify Hi-Fi. It hasn't been announced when it will become available and at what price.
Playlists and discovery
In July 2015, Spotify launched Discover Weekly, a weekly generated playlist, updated on Mondays, that brings users two hours of custom-made music recommendations, mixing a user's personal taste with songs enjoyed by similar listeners. In December 2015, Quartz reported that songs in Discover Weekly playlists had been streamed 1.7 billion times, and Spotify wrote in May 2016 that Discover Weekly had reached "nearly" 5 billion tracks streamed since the July 2015 launch.
In March 2016, building on Discover Weekly's success, Spotify launched six newly generated playlists branded as Fresh Finds, including the main playlist and Fire Emoji, Basement, Hiptronix, Six Strings, and Cyclone (hip-hop, electronic, pop, guitar-driven, and experimental music respectively). The playlists spotlight lesser-known musicians and their songs, which are listened to by 100,000 randomly chosen users and are talked about on 10 to 20,000 music blogs. They are updated every Wednesday and can contain a maximum of up to 50 songs.
In August 2016, Spotify launched Release Radar, a personalised playlist that allows users to stay up-to-date on new music released by artists they listen to the most. It also helps users discover new music, by mixing in other artists' music. The playlist is updated every Friday, and can be a maximum of up to two hours in length.
The RADAR program is Spotify’s global artist program, exclusively designed to help emerging artists worldwide reach the next stage in their careers and strengthen their connection to listeners.
Spotify provides artists taking part in RADAR with resources and access to integrated marketing opportunities to help them boost their careers, in addition to expanded reach and exposure to 178 markets worldwide.
In September 2016, Spotify introduced Daily Mix, a series of (up to six) playlists with "near endless playback" and mixes the user's favourite tracks with new, recommended songs. New users can access Daily Mix after approximately two weeks of listening to music through Spotify. Daily Mixes were only available on the Android and iOS mobile apps at launch, but the feature was later expanded to Spotify's computer app in December 2016.
In 2017, Spotify introduced RapCaviar, one of the most influential playlists in the hip-hop industry, which gained over 10.9 million followers by 2019, becoming one of Spotify's Top 5 playlists worldwide. RapCaviar was originally curated by Tuma Basa, and as of 2019, was relaunched by Carl Chery.
In July 2018, Spotify introduced a new beta feature that gives artists, labels, and teams an easy way to submit unreleased music directly to Spotify's editorial team for playlist consideration.
In June 2019, Spotify launched a custom playlist titled "Your Daily Drive" that closely replicates the drive time format of many traditional radio stations. It combines short-form podcast news updates from The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and PRI with a mix of a user's favorite songs and artists interspersed with tracks the listener has yet to discover. "Your Daily Drive," which is found in a user's library under the "Made For You" section, updates throughout the day to keep both the music and news fresh.
In May 2020, Spotify introduced the Group Session feature. This feature allows two or more Premium users in the same location to share control over the music that's being played. The Group Session feature was later expanded to allow any Premium user to join/participate in a Group Session, with a special link the host can send to participants.
In July 2021, Spotify launched the "What's New" feed, a section that collects all new releases and episodes from artists and podcasts that the user follows. The feature is represented by a bell icon on the app's main page and is available on iOS and Android.
In November 2021, Spotify launched the City and Local Pulse charts, aimed at representing the songs listened to in major cities around the world. The charts are available for 200 cities with the most listeners on Spotify.
Spotify has experimented with different limitations to users' listening on the Free service tier.
In April 2011, Spotify announced via a blog post that they would drastically cut the amount of music that free members could access, effective 1 May 2011. The post stated that all free members would be limited to ten hours of music streaming per month, and in addition, individual tracks were limited to five plays. New users were exempt from these changes for six months. In March 2013, the five-play individual track limit was removed for users in the United Kingdom, and media reports stated that users in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand never had the limit in the first place.
In December 2013, CEO Daniel Ek announced that Android and iOS smartphone users with the free service tier could listen to music in Shuffle mode, a feature in which users can stream music by specific artists and playlists without being able to pick which songs to hear. Mobile listening previously was not allowed in Spotify Free accounts. Ek stated that "We're giving people the best free music experience in the history of the smartphone." This shuffle feature is not available on Android and iOS tablets, or computers.
In January 2014, Spotify removed all time limits for Free users on all platforms, including on computers, which previously had a 10-hour monthly listening limit after a 6-month grace period.
In April 2018, Spotify began to allow Free users to listen on-demand to whatever songs they want for an unlimited number of times, as long as the song is on one of the user's 15 personalized discovery playlists.
Before April 2020, all service users were limited to 10,000 songs in their library, after which they would receive an "Epic collection, friend" notification and would not be able to save more music to their library. Adding playlists at this point also arbitrarily removed older playlists from the users' library. Spotify later removed this limit.
|Desktop, mobile, and tablet||Web player|
|Standard quality options|
|HE-AAC v2 24 kbit/s||AAC 128 kbit/s|
|Vorbis 96 kbit/s|
|Vorbis 160 kbit/s|
|Premium quality options|
|Vorbis 320 kbit/s||AAC 256 kbit/s|
|HiFi quality options|
|Compact Disc Digital Audio quality lossless||Unknown|
|HE-AAC v2 24 kbit/s||AAC 128 kbit/s|
|Vorbis 96 kbit/s|
Spotify is proprietary and uses digital rights management (DRM) controls. Spotify's terms and conditions do not permit users to reverse-engineer the application.
Spotify allows users to add local audio files for music not in its catalog into the user's library through Spotify's desktop application, and then allows users to synchronize those music files to Spotify's mobile apps or other computers over the same Wi-Fi network as the primary computer by creating a Spotify playlist, and adding those local audio files to the playlist. Audio files must either be in the .mp3, .mp4 (.mp4 files that have video streams are not supported), or .m4p media formats. This feature is available only for Premium subscribers.
Spotify has a median playback latency of 265 ms (including local cache).
In April 2014, Spotify moved away from the peer-to-peer (P2P) system they had used to distribute music to users. Previously, a desktop user would listen to music from one of three sources: a cached file on the computer, one of Spotify's servers, or from other subscribers through the P2P system. P2P, a well-established Internet distribution system, served as an alternative that reduced Spotify's server resources and costs. However, Spotify ended the P2P setup in 2014, with Spotify's Alison Bonny telling TorrentFreak: "We're gradually phasing out the use of our desktop P2P technology which has helped our users enjoy their music both speedily and seamlessly. We're now at a stage where we can power music delivery through our growing number of servers and ensure our users continue to receive a best-in-class service."
Spotify first announced a voice-activated music-streaming gadget for cars in May 2019. Named the Car Thing, it represents the music-streaming service's first entry into hardware devices. In early 2020, as part of filings to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), submitted images of the device that make it seem much more like a miniature infotainment screen. In April 2021, Spotify rolled out its own voice assistant with the hands-free wake word: "Hey Spotify". Using this, users can perform various actions such as pulling playlists, launching radio stations, playing or pausing songs. This voice-based virtual assistant may be intended more towards Spotify's own hardware such as its "Car Thing".
Spotify is available in 184 countries. The company is incorporated in Luxembourg as Spotify Technology S.A, and is headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, with offices in 17 different countries around the world.
I realize that this answer is about 10 years late to the party.
A good software license key/serial number generator consists of more than just a string of random characters or a value from some curve generator. Using a limited alphanumeric alphabet, data can be embedded into a short string (e.g. XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-XXXX) that includes all kinds of useful information such as:
- Date created or the date the license expires
- Product ID, product classification, major and minor version numbers
- Custom bits like a hardware hash
- Per-user hash checksum bits (e.g. the user enters their email address along with the license key and both pieces of information are used to calculate/verify the hash).
The license key data is then encrypted and then encoded using the limited alphanumeric alphabet. For online validation, the license server holds the secrets for decrypting the information. For offline validation, the decryption secret(s) are included with the software itself along with the decryption/validation code. Obviously, offline validation means the software isn't secure against someone making a keygen.
Probably the hardest part about creating a license key is figuring out how to cram as much data as possible into as few bytes as possible. Remember that users will be entering in their license keys by hand, so every bit counts and users don't want to type extremely long, complex strings in. 16 to 25 character license keys are the most common and balance how much data can be placed into a key vs. user tolerance for entering the key to unlock the software. Slicing up bytes into chunks of bits allows for more information to be included but does increase code complexity of both the generator and validator.
Encryption is a complex topic. In general, standard encryption algorithms like AES have block sizes that don't align with the goal of keeping license key lengths short. Therefore, most developers making their own license keys end up writing their own encryption algorithms (an activity which is frequently discouraged) or don't encrypt keys at all, which guarantees that someone will write a keygen. Suffice it to say that good encryption is hard to do right and a decent understanding of how Feistel networks and existing ciphers work are prerequisites.
Verifying a key is a matter of decoding and decrypting the string, verifying the hash/checksum, checking the product ID and major and minor version numbers in the data, verifying that the license hasn't expired, and doing whatever other checks need to be performed.
Writing a keygen is a matter of knowing what a license key consists of and then producing the same output that the original key generator produces. If the algorithm for license key verification is included in and used by the software, then it is just a matter of creating software that does the reverse of the verification process.
To see what the entire process looks like, here is a blog post I recently wrote that goes over choosing the license key length, the data layout, the encryption algorithm, and the final encoding scheme:
A practical, real-world implementation of the key generator and key verifier from the blog post can be seen here:
Documentation for the above class:
A production-ready open source license server that generates and manages license keys using the above serial number code can be found here:
The above license server supports both online and offline validation modes. A software product might start its existence with online only validation. When the software product is ready to retire and no longer supported, it can easily move to offline validation where all existing keys continue to work once the user upgrades to the very last version of the software that switches over to offline validation.
A live demo of how the above license server can be integrated into a website to sell software licenses plus an installable demo application can be found here (both the website and demo app are open source too):
Full disclosure: I'm the author of both the license server and the demo site software.
answered Oct 9 '20 at 14:23
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Top 6 Free Serial Keys Sites for Any Software in 2020
If you are urgently looking for the serial key of a paid software, then here might be the last stop before you give up. Nowadays, it is almost impossible to handle any task in work or study without the help of software, such as image processing, document editor, and speech-to-text. However, most of those programs only allow paid users to access advanced or even basic features. What if you’re a student or suffering the down and out? Don’t worry. We have tested dozens of websites and now present you the top 6 free serial keys sites for all kinds of software.
Warning: There are potential risks to install cracked software on computer or mobile phone. It is impossible for the website owners or anyone else to rule out every threat. You’re suggested to try your luck on giveaway sites to download free full version software first.
In case of data loss due to virus attack or any other reasons, make sure to download iReparo Data Recovery Software to get your lost files back as soon as possible.
Top 1. Serials.ws – Free Serial Keys Site for Most Software
If the only standard to rate free serial keys websites is the frequency of updating, then Serials.ws is definitely the best one, which claims to update daily. It might not be true currently, because there is no much profit driving after all, but Serials.ws is still the most frequently updated option.
In addition to the update frequency, Serials.ws also features with a precise yet informative web interface. Update date and user rating are two important factors that help users judge whether the free serial keys would work or just a waste of time. Based on the over 120,000 serials in the database, Serials.ws is the most possible sites to find free serial keys that you need.
If we have to pick out some flaws, then there two on this site. First, there is no category for all the serial keys, so you must know clearly which serial key you need. Second, it does not provide download links, neither for the official packages or cracked copies, but just serial keys.
Top 2. Smart Serials – Threat-Free Serial Keys Site
Smart Serials is another serial number collection website. Though this site provides serials keys and crack files, it is compliant with Digital Millennium Act. If the legal developer of the official software asks, they would possible remove related entries from this site. Basing on the fact that they value copyright, we should rest assured for the safety issue while browsing this website.
To get down to business, Smart Serials really does good job collecting working serial keys of a lot of useful software, and they continue adding items. You need to search for wanted serial keys by brand names or keywords, or click any of the alphabet to explore more surprise.
The better part of this free serial keys site is that you’ll get both crack file (signup needed for downloads on third-party site) and serial numbers. It is always better with more options. Moreover, in case you fail to find the serial key of a desired software, you can even submit a request on its forums.
Top 3. SerialReactor – Source for the Newest Serials
SerialReactor doesn’t perform as a comprehensive serial keys site during our test, but a few hand-picked apps are listed on its home page with the latest serial keys, most of which are working and safe. However, manual research often gets back blank result. It should be noted that the Best Results, which will appear on every search result, are not completely trustful. The links will direct you to a third-party download site.
SerialReactor is not so popular among the users because it is not capable of fetching the serial keys of major premium software like Windows 10, Adobe Photoshop premium, MS Office 2018 etc. You can find the serial keys of small applications which requires very less subscription fees to access the premium access.
It is anyway a choice to give SerialReactor a try if you are unable to find the crack keys of desired applications. Sometimes it will work and there is a probability that you will be able to find the genuine software’s crack keys.
Top 4. Keygens Pro – Full List of Serial Keys for Any Software
The home page of Keygens Pro looks like a product from the last century, but it did surprise us after browsing around this website. You can find almost the cracks and serial numbers of any kind of software. The search results sometimes link users to another website which seems suspicious, but there might have some reason of trick. Anyway, it is safe and fruitful to find serial keys by clicking the links on the home page and the top alphabet list.
As the name of this website suggests, Keygens Pro works as a website where you can find the crack keys of premium paid applications. This site doesn’t update regularly, but you may suddenly find the latest version of Office tools on the site. At the worst, Keygens Pro will show you a long list of earlier version serial keys for your consideration.
Top 5. KeyGenNinja – Serial Keys and Keygens for Old Software
In case you really can’t find the serial key to activate the newest version of an urgently-needed program, then you may take a look at KeyGenNinja for previous version equivalents. This free serial key site has been running for over 10 years. Though the update is slowing down, there are a huge database of earlier programs, which are still useful for today’s work.
KeyGenNinja, originally known as KeyGenGuru, is probably one of the first site providing genuine crack keys of the major Windows applications to the users. You can find the crack keys of the most secured applications, like Adobe Photoshop, Camscanner, some antivirus software, etc. The official version of these apps requires users to pay subscription fees to access the whole new premium features.
Top 6. Serialbay – Cracks and Serial Numbers for Old Games
It is a hard work which earn little reputation to run a website and provide free serial keys or keygens. That’s why sites like Serialbay has stopped updating for years. Nevertheless, the top serial keys on Serialbay are still working for specific programs. If you have sense of nostalgia and want to play an old game, then give it a try and see if you will be surprised.
This serial key providing website was known for providing the crack keys of major popular video games, like Call of Duty. Many small and big gamers use this software tool to get the crack keys for free. Serial keys of many premium applications are also available on this website too.
Anyway, don’t forget Serialbay in case you can’t find the serial key you are looking for at all of the above sites. Just type the name and wait for the result.
In this article, we have introduced 6 best sites to find serial keys for any software. The list might be shortened as time goes by, so enjoy the paid apps for free now or never. You should not trust cracked software from unknown sources to avoid virus attack. If you have to, make sure to install one of the best free antivirus software to protect your computer which are the basic versions of the famous security software. It would be best to buy a license and support the developer when you can afford it. After all, if nobody pays, then no one can play. Feel free to share your experience or opinions with us in the comment.
Modification of software, often to use it for free
Software cracking (known as "breaking" mostly in the 1980s) is the modification of software to remove or disable features which are considered undesirable by the person cracking the software, especially copy protection features (including protection against the manipulation of software, serial number, hardware key, date checks and disc check) or software annoyances like nag screens and adware.
A crack refers to the means of achieving, for example a stolen serial number or a tool that performs that act of cracking. Some of these tools are called keygen, patch, or loader. A keygen is a handmade product serial number generator that often offers the ability to generate working serial numbers in your own name. A patch is a small computer program that modifies the machine code of another program. This has the advantage for a cracker to not include a large executable in a release when only a few bytes are changed. A loader modifies the startup flow of a program and does not remove the protection but circumvents it. A well-known example of a loader is a trainer used to cheat in games.Fairlight pointed out in one of their .nfo files that these type of cracks are not allowed for warez scene game releases. A nukewar has shown that the protection may not kick in at any point for it to be a valid crack.
The distribution of cracked copies is illegal in most countries. There have been lawsuits over cracking software. It might be legal to use cracked software in certain circumstances. Educational resources for reverse engineering and software cracking are, however, legal and available in the form of Crackme programs.
The first software copy protection was applied to software for the Apple II,Atari 8-bit family, and Commodore 64 computers.. Software publishers have implemented increasingly complex methods in an effort to stop unauthorized copying of software.
On the Apple II, the operating system directly controls the step motor that moves the floppy drive head, and also directly interprets the raw data, called nibbles, read from each track to identify the data sectors. This allowed complex disk-based software copy protection, by storing data on half tracks (0, 1, 2.5, 3.5, 5, 6...), quarter tracks (0, 1, 2.25, 3.75, 5, 6...), and any combination thereof. In addition, tracks did not need to be perfect rings, but could be sectioned so that sectors could be staggered across overlapping offset tracks, the most extreme version being known as spiral tracking. It was also discovered that many floppy drives did not have a fixed upper limit to head movement, and it was sometimes possible to write an additional 36th track above the normal 35 tracks. The standard Apple II copy programs could not read such protected floppy disks, since the standard DOS assumed that all disks had a uniform 35-track, 13- or 16-sector layout. Special nibble-copy programs such as Locksmith and Copy II Plus could sometimes duplicate these disks by using a reference library of known protection methods; when protected programs were cracked they would be completely stripped of the copy protection system, and transferred onto a standard format disk that any normal Apple II copy program could read.
One of the primary routes to hacking these early copy protections was to run a program that simulates the normal CPU operation. The CPU simulator provides a number of extra features to the hacker, such as the ability to single-step through each processor instruction and to examine the CPU registers and modified memory spaces as the simulation runs (any modern disassembler/debugger can do this). The Apple II provided a built-in opcode disassembler, allowing raw memory to be decoded into CPU opcodes, and this would be utilized to examine what the copy-protection was about to do next. Generally there was little to no defense available to the copy protection system, since all its secrets are made visible through the simulation. However, because the simulation itself must run on the original CPU, in addition to the software being hacked, the simulation would often run extremely slowly even at maximum speed.
On Atari 8-bit computers, the most common protection method was via "bad sectors". These were sectors on the disk that were intentionally unreadable by the disk drive. The software would look for these sectors when the program was loading and would stop loading if an error code was not returned when accessing these sectors. Special copy programs were available that would copy the disk and remember any bad sectors. The user could then use an application to spin the drive by constantly reading a single sector and display the drive RPM. With the disk drive top removed a small screwdriver could be used to slow the drive RPM below a certain point. Once the drive was slowed down the application could then go and write "bad sectors" where needed. When done the drive RPM was sped up back to normal and an uncracked copy was made. Of course cracking the software to expect good sectors made for readily copied disks without the need to meddle with the disk drive. As time went on more sophisticated methods were developed, but almost all involved some form of malformed disk data, such as a sector that might return different data on separate accesses due to bad data alignment. Products became available (from companies such as Happy Computers) which replaced the controller BIOS in Atari's "smart" drives. These upgraded drives allowed the user to make exact copies of the original program with copy protections in place on the new disk.
On the Commodore 64, several methods were used to protect software. For software distributed on ROM cartridges, subroutines were included which attempted to write over the program code. If the software was on ROM, nothing would happen, but if the software had been moved to RAM, the software would be disabled. Because of the operation of Commodore floppy drives, one write protection scheme would cause the floppy drive head to bang against the end of its rail, which could cause the drive head to become misaligned. In some cases, cracked versions of software were desirable to avoid this result. A misaligned drive head was rare usually fixing itself by smashing against the rail stops. Another brutal protection scheme was grinding from track 1 to 40 and back a few times.
Most of the early software crackers were computer hobbyists who often formed groups that competed against each other in the cracking and spreading of software. Breaking a new copy protection scheme as quickly as possible was often regarded as an opportunity to demonstrate one's technical superiority rather than a possibility of money-making. Some low skilled hobbyists would take already cracked software and edit various unencrypted strings of text in it to change messages a game would tell a game player, often something considered vulgar. Uploading the altered copies on file sharing networks provided a source of laughs for adult users. The cracker groups of the 1980s started to advertise themselves and their skills by attaching animated screens known as crack intros in the software programs they cracked and released. Once the technical competition had expanded from the challenges of cracking to the challenges of creating visually stunning intros, the foundations for a new subculture known as demoscene were established. Demoscene started to separate itself from the illegal "warez scene" during the 1990s and is now regarded as a completely different subculture. Many software crackers have later grown into extremely capable software reverse engineers; the deep knowledge of assembly required in order to crack protections enables them to reverse engineerdrivers in order to port them from binary-only drivers for Windows to drivers with source code for Linux and other free operating systems. Also because music and game intro was such an integral part of gaming the music format and graphics became very popular when hardware became affordable for the home user.
With the rise of the Internet, software crackers developed secretive online organizations. In the latter half of the nineties, one of the most respected sources of information about "software protection reversing" was Fravia's website.
The High Cracking University (+HCU) was founded by Old Red Cracker (+ORC), considered a genius of reverse engineering and a legendary figure in RCE, to advance research into Reverse Code Engineering (RCE). He had also taught and authored many papers on the subject, and his texts are considered classics in the field and are mandatory reading for students of RCE.
The addition of the "+" sign in front of the nickname of a reverser signified membership in the +HCU. Amongst the students of +HCU were the top of the elite Windows reversers worldwide. +HCU published a new reverse engineering problem annually and a small number of respondents with the best replies qualified for an undergraduate position at the university.
+Fravia was a professor at +HCU. Fravia's website was known as "+Fravia's Pages of Reverse Engineering" and he used it to challenge programmers as well as the wider society to "reverse engineer" the "brainwashing of a corrupt and rampant materialism". In its heyday, his website received millions of visitors per year and its influence was "widespread".
Nowadays most of the graduates of +HCU have migrated to Linux and few have remained as Windows reversers. The information at the university has been rediscovered by a new generation of researchers and practitioners of RCE who have started new research projects in the field.
The most common software crack is the modification of an application's binary to cause or prevent a specific key branch in the program's execution. This is accomplished by reverse engineering the compiled program code using a debugger such as SoftICE,x64dbg, OllyDbg,GDB, or MacsBug until the software cracker reaches the subroutine that contains the primary method of protecting the software (or by disassembling an executable file with a program such as IDA). The binary is then modified using the debugger or a hex editor or monitor in a manner that replaces a prior branching opcode with its complement or a NOPopcode so the key branch will either always execute a specific subroutine or skip over it. Almost all common software cracks are a variation of this type. Proprietary software developers are constantly developing techniques such as code obfuscation, encryption, and self-modifying code to make this modification increasingly difficult. Even with these measures being taken, developers struggle to combat software cracking. This is because it is very common for a professional to publicly release a simple cracked EXE or Retrium Installer for public download, eliminating the need for inexperienced users to crack the software themselves.
A specific example of this technique is a crack that removes the expiration period from a time-limited trial of an application. These cracks are usually programs that alter the program executable and sometimes the .dll or .so linked to the application. Similar cracks are available for software that requires a hardware dongle. A company can also break the copy protection of programs that they have legally purchased but that are licensed to particular hardware, so that there is no risk of downtime due to hardware failure (and, of course, no need to restrict oneself to running the software on bought hardware only).
Another method is the use of special software such as CloneCD to scan for the use of a commercial copy protection application. After discovering the software used to protect the application, another tool may be used to remove the copy protection from the software on the CD or DVD. This may enable another program such as Alcohol 120%, CloneDVD, Game Jackal, or Daemon Tools to copy the protected software to a user's hard disk. Popular commercial copy protection applications which may be scanned for include SafeDisc and StarForce.
In other cases, it might be possible to decompile a program in order to get access to the original source code or code on a level higher than machine code. This is often possible with scripting languages and languages utilizing JIT compilation. An example is cracking (or debugging) on the .NET platform where one might consider manipulating CIL to achieve one's needs. Java'sbytecode also works in a similar fashion in which there is an intermediate language before the program is compiled to run on the platform dependent machine code.
Advanced reverse engineering for protections such as SecuROM, SafeDisc, StarForce, or Denuvo requires a cracker, or many crackers to spend much more time studying the protection, eventually finding every flaw within the protection code, and then coding their own tools to "unwrap" the protection automatically from executable (.EXE) and library (.DLL) files.
There are a number of sites on the Internet that let users download cracks produced by warez groups for popular games and applications (although at the danger of acquiring malicious software that is sometimes distributed via such sites). Although these cracks are used by legal buyers of software, they can also be used by people who have downloaded or otherwise obtained unauthorized copies (often through P2P networks).
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