Tuesday, 11 May 2010

v2.0

That innocuous gray-and-green friend you've had for a year now? It's hungry. Spotify v2.0 is here*, and it wants to make the rest of your computer obsolete.
Spotify2.0 illustration
So I thought I'd examine it. I broke it in with Wuthering Heights, as seemed only proper, and asked 'what exactly are these new features?' And nuSpotify, it turns out, is a bit of a power-grab. It's spelt out right there, in the new menus.

'Import iTunes/Windows Media Player Library'. So you do, and all your real, legal-or-otherwise, mp3s join the vast Spotify library, integrated seamlessly. If not for old-fashioned technical allegiance, there's really no reason to use your old media player ever again. Spotify's always succeeded on being a tightly-designed piece of software that can quickly navigate the limitless music held within. It efficiently kneecaps the old boys, and leaves them bleeding into the snow...

Before, I had one big problem with Spotify: it was too easy to lose track of what you'd been listening to and what you liked. As I downsize my music collection to one manageable, entirely-legal chunk, I had Media Player as the home of stuff I'd want to listen to repeatedly, and Spotify for exploration. Then they added the Star system.

It's like the starring system that most media players have, rate a track out of one. Except, it's better in a single, obvious way. One star: give, or don't give. That is all. Click a simple (star-shaped, strangely enough) icon and it'll mark any song or album to be returned to any time, throwing all your starred items into a manageable playlist.
Spotify omnomnom
Pictured: An Artist's Illustration of The Spotify Business Plan, Circa 2010

Combined with the flipside of this - the 'Buy' button that sits next to each track - Spotify has begun to offer a real alternative in adding to your library. I haven't done it yet, but you can imagine the smoothness: you buy an album, go to the 'Local Files' tab to find it sitting next to its already-purchased brothers. And so the young my.flow is taken outside and a bullet put promptly to its brainpan. Blam.

Having had its arm round Last.fm's shoulder and smiling in a buddy-buddy way for a while now - yes, of course we'll let people Scrobble - Spotify's lips finally part, to reveal razor-sharp teeth. Adding a optional 'People' sidebar, you can see what your friends are listening to, what playlists they've cobbled together, and what they've starred (see how everything ties together?) You can peek at your own top-listened (here I am, by the way). It's not complete, yet: limited to the Top 5 artists and songs, and not much more in the way of statistics, and is a bit twisted by, I think, having only just started counting. But, Last.fm: that friendly hand round your shoulder? It's holding a knife.

This is all swiftly handed through Facebook integration. Every day a new familar face pops up on the right-hand side of my screen, picture and profile already in place. It's incredibly smooth. Spotify's intentions to the titan of social-internet are unclear as yet, but they're sure to be dark. Currently, it's inside Facebook and scouting the territory, like one of those parasitic fish that can swim up your urethra...
UrethraFish
It's not perfect, yet. The importing of music files doesn't seem to auto-update as you gain new music, but you can sense the potential that lies beneath. Take note, useless-Facebook-upgrades. This is a complete retooling that makes Spotify more useful and accessible, not less. Take note, elderly software. Your days are numbered. Spotify is coming for you. And it is fully armed.

*After a idiosyncratically counter-intuitive process: you have to install an undifferentiated Spotify on top of what you already have, and it can take a few goes to actually stick. It's oddly rusty, given nuSpotify's ambition elsewhere.**
**...Or not, apparently. It's upgrading people. It just might take a while to get round to everyone.

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Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.