Text has Twitter. Video gets YouTube. But a social network for sound that isn't just music? "That's been a missing part of the web," says Alexander Ljung, whose SoundCloud web and mobile app makes it easy to create audio—a quip, an interview, an ambient noise—and post it online. As he says, "You just press Record. One button. That's 140 times simpler than tweeting."
The service reached 10 million registered users in January, at a pace of 1 million every four weeks. ABC News, for example, tapped SoundCloud to source interviews from Occupy protests. The New Yorker does a weekly politics podcast. And the London Sound Survey uploaded—yes, we're serious—a recording of bats mating in a reservoir.
It helps that the network's tools are inherently social. Much like YouTube videos, SoundCloud files can be embedded anywhere; seamless integration with Facebook and Tumblr has fueled adoption. And its virtual player, which presents the actual waveform of an audio file, enhances the experience: Users can leave comments on specific moments of a track, which then pop up for others to see—a perk that's led both 50 Cent and Paul McCartney to release singles on SoundCloud.
Then there's this: SoundCloud doesn't run ads. Instead it asks people to pay for premium features and additional recording time. "It aligns us with our users," Ljung says. "They vote clearly if they think we're generating value."