WebApp Review

Google has come out with yet another attempt to conquer the mighty Facebook, this time with Google+.

Clearly splitting up groups of friends is a good idea, something Facebook has yet to get quite right.

The signup is a bit too complicated – I don’t see people’s moms signing up here anytime soon. Maybe that is a good thing, but it will be tough to conquer Zuck’s 700+ million user behemoth without those demographics.

Since the user count is still low, you run into the current annoyance with facebook – too many posts from certain obnoxious “verbose” users, and not enough updates from the folks you’d rather hear from. circles could potentially solve this, by corralling these folks into their own “chatty / spammy” sphere.

Also interesting is the ability to follow anyone (ala Twitter), instead of a mutual bi-directional friendship (ala Facebook). This means I can subscribe to the posts of folks who may be putting out interesting content, but aren’t actually a RL friend (which is the current use of twitter).

The photo integration is definitely superior to Facebook, but we’ll see if the rest of the API (integration with external apps / services, comment posting, etc) follows suit. That’s what makes Facebook currently so powerful.

The newest streaming music service has finally landed in the U.S.

The client itself is pretty nice. Very similar to iTunes, but sleeker. I’ve had a few crashes, and even had to do a fresh reinstall when some user file got corrupted.

But it is fast to load, and lets you play locally stored music from the iTunes library, as well as the online library. The streaming itself has been fantastic – never had to wait for songs to buffer, and stuff starts almost instantly.

Playlists take some getting used to. Say you browse for an artist and pull up an album. If you click the first song, it will only play that song, then stop. If you want to play the entire record, you have to copy it into a playlist, and play that. Also confusing was the Queue, which is sort of similar to the iTunes DJ. Once your current playlist completes, it will start playing stuff from the queue.

The ads are a bit strange. Most of them are for the Spotify service itself (which is not terrible in itself, compared to Pandora, which is peppered with horrible car insurance ads, etc), or tips and tricks to using the service. It’s odd when they start playing a random top 40 track without any prompt (as an ad for that playlist), so you go from hearing some soothing ambient electronica or obscure indy rock to Chris Brown.

I’ve yet to “discover” any new music on the service. Mostly I’ve been going through and listening to the full discographies of bands I already like. What the service could really use is an auto-playlist feature, similar to iTunes genius, which creates playlists of similar songs/artists for you. I suppose the short clips of random songs are about discovery, but I don’t think Van Halen, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Marley and Johnny Cash need much promotion.

Still, this is currently the best way to listen to music out there, with both the local library of MP3s and online streaming combined in one slick interface. I may fork over the 5$ / month if I end up blowing through the limit. Invites may still be rare – I ended up getting one through this Coke promotion: http://www.spotify.com/us/coca-cola/

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