I consume a lot of music, and there’s no way that I could ever afford to purchase every album I listen to for $14.99. That’s where music subscription services come in. As a recent convert to MOG (from Rhapsody), I get excited every time I get even just a weekly update in my inbox letting me know what music has been added recently. But the announcement of an entirely revamped web app launched into Google’s brand new Chrome Web Store is something that anyone who loves music should pay attention to.
To get you acquainted with what it is exactly that MOG offers, here’s a quick summary of the $4.99 /month service (for $9.99, you get the mobile app too):
Unlimited Music: Access to over 10 million songs and close to one million albums, on-demand. High Quality Audio: Music is streamed at 320 kbps; better than any other music service. Best-in-Class, Personal Radio: The most powerful music discovery engine on the planet (powered by MOG Mobius). One-click Access: With one click, get instant access to New Releases, Top Artists, Top Albums and Editor’s Picks. Anytime, Anywhere: Unlimited access to the MOG app from any computer using Chrome or Safari browsers or on your TV (Roku and GoogleTV).
The Good (a.k.a. why it’s better than what it was)
So why is this new web app a good thing? Because the way that we interface with MOG’s library has been vastly improved. For starters, the browsing of MOG’s huge catalog and the managing of the ‘Play Queue’ all happens in the same browser window now. Where you used to click a button in one window to add a song to the queue in another pop-up, now an addition to the queue affects the window you’re looking at. This really unifies the user experience and brings MOG up to speed with the user experience that competitors like Rdio already offer.
Another improvement is the way in which you now browse and discover music on the site. When you click on an artist’s name after you either search for them or just happen upon them while browsing the site, a dropdown summarizing the content pertaining to that artist is shown. From here, you can view that artist’s discography, see their top tracks, play a radio station built around their sound, or dive deeper and see the individual songs that make up an album. Because the site is built as a web app meeting to the (relatively) new HTML5 standards, the absence of pageloads makes browsing the site super smooth. Jumping in and out of artist pages is quick and painless.
The Bad (or hopefully ‘The Temporarily Left Out’)
The site isn’t perfect though. As a beta release, this is understandable, but there are a few things that I hope are in the pipeline to be implemented soon. The first thing that stuck out to me was that playlists are nowhere to be found. When someone gives you unlimited access to a 10 million song catalog of music, you want playlists. In a larger context than just music discovery, the curators of today’s information landscape provide a great service to the communities that they belong to: they help content of value bubble to the top for everyone to enjoy. Leaving out playlists leaves out the ability for quality music to surface. Only a small fraction of the catalog is ever seen.
Another addition that I’d love to see is the ability to see more than just the music content offered by MOG when viewing an artist’s page. When I’m in a discovery mood, I want to know everything I can about an artist: their bio, maybe some photos, a few similar artists, etc. Last.fm does an incredible job of bringing this information forward on their artist pages.
Finally, I can’t scrobble any of the music I listen to with the new web app! I have no idea what percentage of MOG users are also Last.fm users, but this issue is bordering on being a deal-breaker for me. I’ve been OK with the inability to scrobble songs on my iPhone, but if I can’t scrobble on my desktop either, then I’m left in a pretty bad situation. This seems to be such a small feature to implement, I hope MOG throws this in very soon.
So where does this leave the music subscription space? Rdio has a great interface and iPhone app but no catalog. Rhapsody has a gigantic catalog but the worst interface out there. MOG offers it all: the ideal UI, a large (and quickly growing) catalog, and mobile apps that are winning awards as fast as they can be awarded.
OK, I completely understand the insane generalization I just made with the title of this post, but when it comes to online video adoption, I think it holds true. Apple has made it very clear from the launch of the iPhone that it really isn’t interested in working with Flash anymore. And as of the past couple weeks, Google has made it very obvious that it really isn’t interested in always doing what Apple wants.
Everyone knows that the iPhone doesn’t support Flash, and most people know that iPad arriving on Saturday won’t support it either. For a while, it looked like Adobe and Apple were making headway in cleaning up Flash so that it could run on Apple’s mobile devices without eating through battery life on the already life-strained devices. All that changed with the iPad. It’s become apparent that Apple has no interest in Flash and would much rather everyone move on to HTML5’s video tag.
As usual, when Apple says, “Jump,” there’s plenty of parties lining up asking, “How high?” In the past week, we’ve seen plenty companies announce that they’ve readied their “iPad compatable” sites that are devoid of Flash and HTML5 rich. The biggest of these announcement comes from Brightcove which lists customers like the New York Times, NPR, and the Wall Street Journal.
In opposition to this, and further feeding rumors of bad blood between the two, Google has fully integrated Flash into its Chrome browser and operating system. While the vast majority of users have already installed the Flash Player plug-in, it’s interesting that Flash is comes prewrapped in Chrome because 1) it flies directly in the face of Google’s public support of the HTML5 standard and 2) it shows Google’s dedication to Adobe’s Open Screen Project. Essentially, Google’s sending mixed signals to the tech world. Are we supposed to completely support the new open web standards including HTML5, or can exceptions be made when a company (like Adobe) throws their proprietary technology in the mix saying it’s needed to build a ubiquitous platform for developers?
My vote? I say go with HTML5. I think HTML5 has great potential, and new projects like SublimeVideo and RGraph are perfect examples of this. Flash has had its 15 minutes, and it’s due time for us to dump it in favor of open standards.
For a while now, my opinion of Google has been declining. There isn’t really one big event that has caused this, but I guess it is the compilation of the following:
Their site design is horrible. Apart from the Google.com search hub, the minimal approach is unnecessary. Some might argue that this style is the best kind of UI. I argue that it isn’t intuitive, and that the lack of any design doesn’t do any good.
Adsense seems to be getting worse at judging what content to base the ads off of. Contextual ads aren’t revolutionary anymore.
Innovation on projects like Google Docs has seemed to slow down. I loved Writely, but since Google acquired it, the plain UI has left is barren.
As you can probably tell, these problems aren’t issues that Google has actively done. They are all things that have occurred because of the expansion of this online ad company to encompass everything that an online service provider could offer. My problems with Google have been passively incured, until now.
Since Microsoft’s announcement of a hostile $44.6 billion offer for Yahoo Inc., Google has gone on the offensive and issued a public statement criticizing the offer. The post from Google’s official blog titled “Yahoo! and the future of the Internet” is a blatant attempt to bring negative attention to the situation.
In the post, Google states that while the internet has been about the principles of “openness and innovation,” Microsoft might try to “exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC.”
“In addition, Microsoft plus Yahoo! equals an overwhelming share of instant messaging and web email accounts. And between them, the two companies operate the two most heavily trafficked portals on the Internet. Could a combination of the two take advantage of a PC software monopoly to unfairly limit the ability of consumers to freely access competitors’ email, IM, and web-based services? Policymakers around the world need to ask these questions — and consumers deserve satisfying answers.”
Why is this a ridiculous statement? Because the listed web services (email, IM, and web portals) aren’t where the money is being made. Google is an ad company, so why would an ad company be so concerned with another company that – according to Google – will dominate these web service markets? Because Microsoft and Yahoo have made their attempts at ad-selling departments as well.
What Google fails to point out in this statement is that they are the dominant leader with more than 65% of the ad-sales market. Monopolistic practices by Microsoft? If anything, the monopolistic practices for revenue-generating departments have been on Google’s side.
I don’t mean to come off as a Microsoft fanboy (I own a Mac for my everyday use, but I love my Zune) or as a Google hater (I use Gmail both for personal and USC email accounts). All I’m trying to say is that for too long, Microsoft has been an easy target to yell monopoly around. Just because a company is successful and has a corporate face (as opposed to Google or Apple’s fun-eco-friendly faces) doesn’t mean that its sometimes aggressive, market-upsetting actions are illegal.
Google, in a suprizing and dissappointing PR move, has decided to come out against Michael Moore and offer to place HMO ads directly across from search results that include SiCKO. Why? Because Google believes that:
Moore attacks health insurers, health providers, and pharmaceutical companies by connecting them to isolated and emotional stories of the system at its worst.
Like many people, I have already seen Michael Moore’s SiCKO, the film about the sad state of the health care system in the United States. I saw the movie before it came out in theaters because Moore let it known that he wants people to torrent it, and that he didn’t mind at all that it was ripped to YouTube (although later taken off). But that’s beside the point.
I am fairly confused at Google’s reaction to the movie. Is this Google’s first overt move to reject it’s public user-base, turning instead to the big business ad customers? Of course, Google has more money to make by doing what it has done, but is it really worth it? SiCKO has received near universal praise for its criticisms, and I agree with the New York Times when they say that it is a “cinematic indictment of the American health care system.”
Apart from the purely capitalistic point of view (which is that Google is doing the right thing), today’s market relies on more than just your big money customer base. Companies must look out for the public, and I find this especially true for Google. While we, the average searchers, aren’t the ones directly paying Google, we are the ones looking at the ads. We don’t hold the large wallets, but in our massive numbers, we hold far more power than the businesses Google is trying to cater to.
This move by Google confuses me. I really hope that this does not become a trend in Google’s business tactics; it could lead to the gradual diminishment of one of the largest internet companies we know.
Update: Google has retracted the statements of their employee.