Piedpiper.com is down for unknown reasons, and site's owner hasn't disclosed what happened to Piedpiper. When visiting the domain, it says This page isn't working, HTTP ERROR 500. This error has been around for several month, and it seems the website is down forever.
If you are one of those visitors to Piedpiper.com, worry not, here are the recaps of the best content of the site, and background information with regard to data compression.
The History of Piedpiper.com
Piedpiper.com is the in-universe website for the fictional tech startup company Pied Pieper (PP) from HBO's show Silicon Valley. The website is launched in 2014, featuring the introduction to the mock-up data compression algorithm – middle out, as well as company history, blogs and an introduction to team members.
What is Pied Piper in Silicon Valley?
For those unfamiliar with the show, here is the background information. Pied Piper is the brainchild of Richard Hendricks, the protagonist of HBO's show Silicon Valley. It was initially the name for Hendricks' songwriter-oriented music app, a tool that helped artists to detect whether their work infringed fellow artists' copyright.
Hendricks accidentally find out the compression algorithm used in Pied Piper has a better chance for monetization, as the high compression rate is highly demanded in the market.
Evolution of Piedpiper.com (2014 till Now)
Piedpiper.com had been keeping updating and growing alongside the plot of Silicon Valley, new blogs were added every now and then. Over the years, the website has revamped the interface and introduced new tech that was developed or envisioned in the TV series.
Since Piedpiper is down now, here is a recap of how the website look like over the years.
Piedpiper.com in Year 1 (2014)
During the first year, the website features mainly the Pied Piper compression technology, the crew members, and how the startup came into being from a music-copyright detection service to media compression.
Richard Hendriks, the founder of Pied Piper, stated that the compression cloud solution brings them "a clearer path to monetization", and that they hope to "make the world a better place through compression services".
Piedpiper.com in Year 2 (2015)
The second 2 witness the emphasis on the "middle-out" compression algorithm developed by Hendriks. The top banner of the homepage features the double P logo of Pied Piper, with a tagline "A Middle-Out Compression Solution Making Data Storage Problems Smaller".
It was immediately followed by detailed explanation to Pied Piper SaaS. It claims that built-in universal compression engines can handle any file, data, video or image of all sizes.
Piedpiper.com in Year 3/4 (2016-2017)
In 2016, Piedpiper changes its logo from the PP design to the hat as the synecdoche of the fairy tale character. It also features the interface of the Pied Piper compression tool for the first time.
When it comes to the algorithm, the website stated that middle-out can "find long-range structure in your files to create the most efficient encoding of your data". It doesn't offer more information or illustration on that "long-range" thing.
Piedpiper.com in Year 5/6 (2018-2019)
For the next two years, Pied Piper embarks on new frontier: from data compression to decentralized internet. It is still consistent with how the company was doing initially, with universal compression to power up the peer-to-peer network featuring distributed storage. The team brand it as the PiperNet.
Since then, there is not big updated to the website until it is down for good recently.
Why It is Called Pied Piper
Pied Piper was initially adopted by Hendricks to name his music site, an online tool that allows musicians and songwriters to check for plagiarism. The program and the name itself was laughed at by his fellow programmers, who only later to discover the algorithm that involves compression worth billions than the music-checking service.
From then on, the fictional brand Pied Piper sticks, but then it refers to the tech startup and its SaaS services, mainly focused on data compression, and later also involved in decentralized internet.
There are theories that it is thus called because of the idiom "who pays the piper gets to call the tune", which means people who pays for something has the right to control the situation and make decisions.
Still, in the show, the fictional SEO Hendricks didn't explain why he want to name his project as Pied Piper. The expression itself shares profound cultural bearings, which probably all starts with legend: Pied Piper of Hamelin.
Pied Piper of Hamelin
Pied Piper of Hamelin is a German legend from a town named Hamelin, located on the river Weser in Lower Saxony, Germany. The legend depicts a piper, dressed in multicolored cloth, lured 130 children away from the town by playing his magic pipe.
Pied here refers to two or multiple colors, and that's how that Piper was dressed like. It was initially used to refer to the black-and-white magpie, and later evolved to indicate anything that are colorfully jumbled.
The Pied Piper was original hired by citizens from that town to help them get rid of rats. All his effort was in vain when the town folks refuse to pay. Irritated and furious, the rat-catcher started to play hypnotic notes that lured all the children in Hamlin. They followed Pied Piper out of the town, and never came back.
There are theories that the legend was based on historical events, as BBC observes, a grim truth.
The legend is then adapted into art works, literature, music, film and TV series.
Pied Piper in Linguistics: Pied-Piping
In Linguistics, the legendary Pier Piper's nature of attracting others was borrowed to describe a phenomenon in Syntax: a Wh- word can drag its containing phrase to move along with it, when it is put to the front of the clause.
This phenomenon is called Pied-piping, in a way that metaphorically compares Wh- word to the Pied Piper that lures the phrase away with it.
Pied Piper Interface and Its Mock-Ups
Here is the fictional home page of Pied Piper, to which the official twitter account of Dropbox has offered its congratulations.
Below is the interface of Pied Pieper's compression tool. The screenshot was originally hosted here:
But it is no longer accessible along with nixing of the domain.
The UI/UX design of the compression tool triggered valuable discussions from fans who are UX designers, product managers, developers and people from other related segments.
Most UX designers would agree that the interface will be intimidating for general users, and that the layout and parameters seemed too "engineered" for non-techie persons to proceed. They suggest to keep only the file type and format, the Let's Go button, and couple of easy-to-understand options, while moving other parameters under an "Advanced" button.
Following these interesting discussions, there are mockups of the official mockups – pun intended.
Above is the reimagined design of Piped Piper by Niteesh Yadav, a London based designer. It adds sidebars to streamline the workflow, with visual signs that better demonstrate the storage saved and the current speed.
You can explore more Pied Piper mockups and see how different designers reconcept the UI/UX of this compression tool.
Data Compression in Pied Pieper and Beyond
The first turning point in Silicon Valley occurred when Hendriks accidentally discovered the importance of data compression. In real life, we can never stress enough the significance of data compression, be it online streaming or for archiving purposes.
Compression in the Story: Middle-Out Algorithm and Weissman Score
Is Middle-Out algorithm real? For anyone having an interest in data compression, this hyper-realistic detail in Silicon Valley is enchanting. However, the algorithm and its high compression rate are yet a reality in everyday life.
The good news is, the Weissman Score depicted in the show moves to reality. This made-for-TV-algorithm was applied to assess the compression performance. It compared the compression ratio and processing time with existing applications, so as to evaluate the performance of the application in question.
Profession Weissman and Doctor Misra are the brains behind Weissman when requested by Silicon Valley's creator Mike Judge.
Compression in Real World
In real world, data compression in general refers to the process to reduce the bits used in multimedia, such as videos, images, audio and other files according to Wikipedia. For instance, a 4K video may have a bitrate of 36 Mbps, while a 720p SD video merely has 5 Mbps.
With a more efficient encoding algorithm, media file size can be reduced significantly, with or without perceivable quality loss. For instance, HEVC H265 is claimed to save up to 50% compared to H264 compression. The key improvements accounting for the efficiency are related to block size, block partitioning structure, parallel tool, frame prediction, and sample adaptive offset.
Here are some of the popular video compressors:
FFmpeg: It is a command line based, free open-source tool for video and audio compressing, transcoding, and simple editing. Users need to be familiar with FFmpeg commands to get the work done.
Handbrake: It offers a GUI over FFmpeg, so that users unfamiliar with command line tools can feel at home. It uses the RF value for quality control when adjusting the bitrate. There are options to enable 2-Pass encoding and Turbo first pass.
Shutter Encoder: It was the brainchild of passionate video editors to streamline the production. Users can tweak with multiple parameters to achieve desired bitrate. It includes the support for the latest codec such as VP9, AV1, and H265 that are efficient in video compression.
Being a popular TV series, the Pied Piper metaphor is quite popular among tech publications. SaaS and platforms that offer compression services are often compared as the real life Pied Piper. There are also Pied-Piper-inspired projects.
Piper Pied (Discontinued): It is a creative spin of Peter Ma and Nancy Ghaly, the brother and sister team that claims to develop a lossless image compression algorithm. They take it to the Hackathon, and built a site for it. As of 2022, the website is shut down.
Terark's Pied Piper of Database: The algorithm can save database space by compressing data, while making it still searchable. It is developed by Terark's CTO Lei Peng, and has won a $1 million contract from Alibaba for its Cloud service.