Andreessen Horowitz today disclosed it had invested $15 million in Rap Genius, a community based on interpreting rap lyrics and adding notations to whatever anyone has posted, which describes itself as a “hip-hop Wikipedia.”
The news was shared in a Rap Genius post written by Mark Andreesen, and in keeping with the site’s style it has explanations and remarks added by Ben Horowitz, several members of the community, and Rap Genius co-founders Mahbod Moghadam, Ilan Zechory and Tom Lehman.
Andreesen acknowledged that the investment probably didn’t make a lot of sense to outsiders, even bearing in mind that they all first met through Y Combinator.
But while a large and thriving online community has undeniable appeal as a business foundation, Andreesen said the company’s long-range plans are much more promising: “It turns out that Rap Genius has a much bigger idea and a much broader mission than that. Which is: Generalize out to many other categories of text… annotate the world… be the knowledge about the knowledge… create the Internet Talmud.”
In other words, by expanding beyond rap lyrics, it could become a collaborative platform for all kinds of music, poetry, literature, scientific papers, legal documents and any other expression of culture.
Andreesen also said there was an even less obvious reason for the investment. When he and Eric Bina were first building the seminal browser Mosaic, they wanted to include the ablity to annotate everything. “Our idea was that each web page would be a launchpad for insight and debate about its own contents, he said, but that in 1993 the necessary infrastructure either wasn’t available or it was impractically expensive.
“I often wonder how the Internet would have turned out differently if users had been able to annotate everything – to add new layers of knowledge to all knowledge, on and on, ad infinitum,” Andreesen wrote. “And so, 20 years later, Rap Genius finally gives us the opportunity to find out. It’s an ambitious mission, and one we are proud to get behind.”
Rap Genius – http://rapgenius.com
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