Extra, extra, read all about it!

As of yesterday, I’m the new (and first) web2.0 columnist for Austrian (German-speaking) online weekly CHiLLi.cc. I’ll do my best to bring all the greatness of webbased service glory to the masses. The column is named “Web und Wir”, meaning not much else than “web and us”, with a misspelling thrown in for good measure and individuality.

Check out my first, therefore only text to date, here.

And visit next Tuesday, when I’ll be telling all about the wonderful world of online bookmarking.

And last.fm just won

The two biggest players in the social music world, Last.FM and Pandora, have been fighting for the love of music lovers worldwide for about two years. While both approaches to the same issue, listening to music online based on the music you already like, were always implemented differently (Pandora via the Music Genome Project, Last.FM via user’s recommendations and data pooling), the basic concept was the same: help people discover new music online and give them the ability to listen to it online.

In my eyes, Last.FM had always been the better service, not least due to their extensive efforts in embracing the whole of the music lover’s world in one big social network (“neighbours” based on taste in music, recommendations – both automatic and manual, discussion groups, event calendar, etc.). Pandora on the other hand really did do a good job when it came to quickly creating so-called “stations” with music you liked, mainly because there was no need to upload information about the music you listen to on your computer beforehand.

Well, the rivalry has now come to an end. Why? Because Pandora is forced to shut out everyone of the listeners who don’t reside in the US. While this was actually part of their TOS when they started, it was enforced only by having to sign up with a valid US ZIP code. But today they announced that due to license complications with all the countries other than the US, filtering out users from outside the US based on their IP will be enforced. They sent out emails to users about the crackdown today (TechCrunch article here), and I actually do believe their sentiment that they are indeed very sorry. Not only because they will deprive their users of the joy that is their excellent implementation of the Music Genome Project, but also because they have just been hit by one of the tentacles of old economy lashing out at their younger and hipper offspring, the new one (you know, economy), effectively destroying their service.

Last.FM, which seems to somehow be able to provide their service without getting entangled in all the license restrictions (or maybe they just don’t care yet), will be the victor emerging from this dirty, dirty episode besmearing the history of the global revolution the social web was actually set out to be (and I need some surgery to remove that sick part of my brain that comes up with these analogies).

And the award goes to…

You are the person of the year!You! Apparently.

As the year comes to an end, many publications create their lists of best and worst and hippest and lamest and what else you can cram into lists.

TIME Magazine is doing the same, as they’ve been doing for a while (I don’t know for how long exactly…finding that out would mean I’d have to do research, and frankly, that’s not what this here is all about…most of the time). Anyway, this year’s person of the year is “You”, the guy reading this blog while at work, or the web 2.0 fanatic who reads everything any blog ever published even remotely connected to the phrase (any blog would include this blog, in case you’re wondering).

From an article from the BBC:

“It’s about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes,” Time magazine’s Lev Grossman writes.

And:

Time praised the tool that made such broad collaboration possible – the web.

“It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter,” Mr Grossman said.

So, time to give yourself a pat on the back…and then please resume uploading those funny cat-pictures you took yesterday while drunk off your socks. Or whatever phrase you choose to wish in connection with being inebriated.

(image copyright:Time Magazine)

Last.fm redesign

Last.fm, a website that lets you upload information about your listening habits, and then helps you find new music and connect with like-tasted people, has just undergone a face-lift.

The design comes in two colours, one of them is their tried and tested red and white design, the other one, which you can switch to simply by hitting a switch in the upper right corner of the site, is black and white.

last fm red

As you can see in above screenshots, they also added a dashboard view, which is a concise collection of last.fm’s features, including but not limited to activity among your friends (of which I have one…I really need to get a handle on that being social stuff), recommended music, news bulletins, etc. With the number of features last.fm boasts, this really was a logical and necessary step.

But the redesign was not merely cosmetic. They also totally redid the way information is sent, how music is tagged and how you can stream music from their website (which they call “last.fm radio”). The good news is that it’s all bundled up in one application now.

last fm shoutThe bad news is that it’s all in app now which is only available for Windows and Mac. Now, I know that Linux is not widely used, and in order for a company to move beyond the early adopter crowd, they need to focus on the mass market. But, and this I think is more crucial, it locks out developers of third party apps. Amarok for example, my audio player of choice on Linux, had integrated Audioscrobbler support. Audiscrobbler was the script that uploaded the information to last.fm and effectively turned last.fm into the powerful tool that it is today. By limiting the options of uploading this information to their service, they cut into their own flesh.

As the shoutbox, a feature that lets you add comments to any page on last.fm, shows, I’m not the only one who’s dissatisfied with this move.

Audioscrobbler plugins for various apps are still available, but they point out that they are now unsupported, and by the look of my recently played tracks on last.fm, the plugin has ceased working a while ago.

Only recently I toyed with the idea of upgrading my account to a paid service, but I’m glad I didn’t, or else I’d now feel a lot like the person who left the first comment on the shoutbox displayed on the left.

With Pandora, a service offering a very similar service, last.fm is definitely not the only player in the field. If they start alienating their users, I’m sure some could seriously consider switching to a service that doesn’t suddenly deprive them of essential features. Especially if services like Pandora keep extending their feature-list, instead of crippling it.

Update: Seems like the Audioscrobbler plugin inside Amarok is still working. I must have overlooked my recent tracks in last.fm.