last.fm, Changes and Rivals
Okey dokey, pig ‘n a pokey. So, last.fm has been around for a while now and is widely seen as the original music recommendation and listening statistics website (regardless of name changes and mergers). But I’ve noticed recently a few potential rivals pop up on the scene – so not being one to miss out on a new internet fad or two, I’ve checked some out. In the past we’ve seen sites like Pandora come into existence, but at least with Pandora it was a totally different method and practice to last.fm, but now we’re graced with sites such as MusicStrands and MOG, two sites that are very similar to last.fm.
First off, I must admit that these new sites are purely BETA, so I’ll try not to be too tough on them. MusicStrands, or as it is now known MyStrands, is crap. My biggest gripes would be the bulky software that runs on your computer and the fact that they seem to guess artists’ names from song titles. A good thing about last.fm is you just need to download a plugin for what ever music playing software you use and that is the end of it, you need not ever hear of it again – it just quietly feeds info back to the site in the background. MyStrands has this annoying box hanging about in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, you can hide it, but it’s still bloody annoying. The artist names issue is totally ridiculous – clearly reading the tags of an mp3 is far too difficult for MyStrands, so unless you are listening to something as mainstream as a Britney Spears track, it just guesses the artist names. See my profile for examples; I’ve never heard of Cosmonauti or Barney Kessel!
Now on to MOG. Fickle as I am, the first thing that appeased my little eye was the design; it’s very funky. A week or so ago I tried to register and it said they weren’t taking registrations and to enter my email address to be noti…blah blah, so I did. By chance I took a look yesterday and anyone could now register, so much for the reminder email. MOG is like a more chunky and bright last.fm – two traits I’m still not entirely sure that I like. I mean I’m all for ‘funky’, afterall that is what caught my eye in the first place, but history tells us that in the long-run simplicity and convenience rules all. As you will see on my profile, there are several sections to a MOG page – a good point here is that the user is able to manoeuvre these ‘widgets’ into what ever order they desire. I took a look around at other peoples’ pages and saw that it did indeed make the most sense to put the blog element in the centre and down the middle. Like MyStrands, you do have to download some software, but the MOG software is far more inconspicuous, plus it actually reports back to the site EXACTLY what you have been listening to.
Like I said initially, both are very much in BETA at the moment, but sadly I cant help but feel like ditching MyStrands already, it’s just so shitty with its clinical design, numerous errors, and most of all it offers me nothing as good as last.fm, let alone any improvements or extras. MOG on the other hand does show promise. MOG strikes me as more of a community based site, than simply a statistics based recommendation site. MOG doesn’t actually publish any figures – it will list the tracks you have recently played, plus your most listened to artists over the last week and month, but nothing further. Instead MOG hopes that you will find like-minded people on the site and recommend music personally. I like that, it’s more like a cross between having a MySpace page, last.fm profile, and a blog. The only down points for MOG are that many people will decide to use just one website of this ilk and wont see the benefits of dropping last.fm for this one – which I can understand. However, if like me, you have bags of time on your hands, then you wont mind running a few different profiles.
I do feel like I’ve given MyStrands a bit of an unjust battering, I can see looking at my page there are features I haven’t even bothered with yet, but the whole getting my artists wrong thing was enough to piss me right off. I hope they can iron that out very shortly, then perhaps I’ll return – but I would like to hear from anyone that has been using MyStrands, maybe you can tell a more positive story? Likewise I’d like to hear from MOG users, see what their thoughts are. Feel free to add me to your friends list on any of those three as well. Oh, also, let me know if you’ve found other websites that offer the same sort of services as these sites, I’ll tear them a new arsehole too… if they’re crap.
Back to last.fm though. So there’s been some changes! Just when I thought that it looked very clean and crisp, they go and ‘chunk’ it all up and get the crayons out. No doubt they’ll be thousands of cries of “it’s shit, I liked it better before”, but that’s what they all said after the last revamp. Give it a month and most of us will hardly remember what it used to look like. Anyway, I think it’s good. Nice touch with the new last.fm player, makes it easier to tag and recommend stuff from your own desktop. The first thing I did was click that little button near the top right-hand corner of my profile screen – it turned it all from red to black, and I think the black looks a bit better. From a “ooh…ahhh” point of view, the album cover and photo displays near tracks recently played, and what-not, look pretty nice, although not entirely necessary, think you should be able to turn that off. Generally speaking though it all looks pretty neat, what do you think?
Let’s end this rant with a song…
Thom Yorke – Skip Divided
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