Feeds

Spotify: We kick the tyres

Best thing since sliced vinyl?

Application security programs and practises

Review Spotify, which opened up to all UK users this week, is a streaming music access service that's gathered an ecstatic response from some users. It's even "made illegal file sharing look like too much hard work" according to one Reg commenter. That's a pretty big claim - but then it's a pretty ambitious service. So what it is Spotify, and how does it stack up? And in an unforgiving commercial environment, will it last longer than a bat of a eyelid?

What's Spotify?

Spotify is attempting to be a universal jukebox - you click a button, and play any song or album instantly. This isn't a new idea: it's a free, ad-supported version of the US-only Rhapsody, or Napster's streaming service. Deezer does something similar. Spotify inserts adverts (currently every 10 songs or half hour or so) but offers a 99p a day, or a tenner-a-month subscription option to listen ad-free. There's no option to permanently keep recordings.

So the idea isn't new, and Google already offers a universal jukebox, albeit mostly unlicensed and low quality, with YouTube. What's the fuss about?

Primarily it's Spotify's responsiveness. The speed with which Spotify plays music is quite amazing. One of my Reg colleagues reckons it's faster than iTunes accessing its music library on your local hard disk. We didn't get the stopwatch out to test this, but the perception of near-instant playback is justified, and perception matters a lot. Click on a related artist, and the music continues without a hiccup (in practice, less than two seconds).

In this respect Spotify leaves web-based internet radio services like Last.fm and Pandora for dead. Spotify shuns Web 2.0 in favour of a native client on Windows and Mac, but it also employs some fetching (P2P is misleading here, since it's being pulled off a server).

Sound quality is so-so: at around 160kbps it's got that "standing outside the room" feel to it.

Spotify's agreeably minimal UI

The spartan UI based on iTunes - playlists on the left, library on the right - but without much of the clutter iTunes has accrued over the years. Everything else is pretty minimal too. That's because Spotify, which is still in stealth mode despite being in beta for well over a year, is still a minimal service. There's very few gimmicks: no widgets or scrobbling. Basically, you're scrolling vertically through lists and lists of albums. Spotify offers you five "similar artists", with instant navigation to more vertical lists, but there's no ability to fine tune a search, or browse by label. (As with other services, label information which is so useful in real life is missing).

As with Omnifone you can share playlists with other users. The UI for this is practically non-existant, however. A right click will paste a URI (with either http: or spotify: as the handler) onto the clipboard - it's up to you what to do with it. There's no UI to browse other users, let alone "stalk" them (as PlayLouder MSP, also in beta, permits) or chat to them. Playlists can also be shared in read-write format - which means anyone can edit it.

The "sharing" functionality is there, it's just pretty minimal too

spotify:user:userid:playlist:playlistid

or

spotify:track:trackid

Since Spotify is, er, "cloud based", your playlists are preserved as you move between machines. Do people share Spotify playlists? Perhaps they do, but not really here.

So for frills and extras, look elsewhere. Some artists have a brief page of biographical material, typically a fraction of the Wikipedia entry, and many more don't.

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Airbus promises Wi-Fi – yay – and 3D movies (meh) in new A330
If the person in front reclines their seat, this could get interesting
UK Parliament rubber-stamps EMERGENCY data grab 'n' keep bill
Just 49 MPs oppose Drip's rushed timetable
Want to beat Verizon's slow Netflix? Get a VPN
Exec finds stream speed climbs when smuggled out
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.