Mark Zuckerberg’s epic music-recommendation quest

When Mark Zuckerberg built Jarvis–the highly personal home AI assistant he recently showed off to my colleague Daniel Terdiman–he gave it the ability to recommend music to himself and his wife, Priscilla Chan, based on what it learned about their tastes in tunes.

In a weird way, that’s a continuation of an interest he’s had that goes way, way back to his pre-Facebook days. When Zuckerberg was in high school, he and friend Adam D’Angelo developed Synapse, an MP3 player that could analyze what you liked to listen to and suggest playlists. When he entered Harvard, the school’s Crimson newspaper wrote about the project and illustrated it with a fuzzy photo of its creators.

The article says that Zuckerberg and D’Angelo turned down a $950,000 offer for the software because they preferred to go to college, and that they feared that one suitor, Microsoft, was out to rip them off. It’s an amazing time capsule, and fodder for a fun, unanswerable question: Would the world be meaningfully different today if Mark Zuckerberg had ended up as a music-player product manager for Microsoft?