Perpetual Beta for music listeners

Firstly, welcome to the new design of my blog. After some recommendations, I am trying to change to a more professional look. There is a poll at the end so let me know if you like the new one or would prefer the old one.

 

“It’s a wonderful cop-out. If a tiny feature doesn’t work, or if someone has a minute problem with something, you can just say, ‘Oh, we’re in beta.’”

–Dina Kaplan,
co-founder and COO,
Blip.tv

So what’s this ‘beta’ that everyone is talking about…
Ok, let’s go back one step further. Tim O’Reily talked about how companies have to “release early and release often” to provide a service, the term has now morphed into “the perpetual beta”(2007) .

Perpetual means ‘never-ending’ (Google, 2012).

Beta logos

Beta in software development means ‘the phase where software is feature complete but generally has bugs and speed/performance issues. It is often the first time the software is available outside developing organisation (Wikipedia 2012).

Combine the two terms together and you get a situation where new features and functionality are continually added to the software without establishing a firm “final” release.

It is interesting to see how many companies start in ‘beta’ and potentially stay in beta for a longtime. Dr Web made a pageof all the beta logos he could find. Although it is a little dated now, it is a good example of how many do it!

Overview

Spotify is a music streaming service offering digitally

restricted streaming of selected music from a range of major and independent record labels, including Sony, EMI, Warner Music Group, and Universal (Wikipedia 2012).

I have used Spotify as an example of Perpetual Beta as they are always introducing new things, but not restricting the current use. As an example, the Android app has just been updated on the 19th April with a beta version. They launched it on their blog to give users a special preview and asked for feedback on the community site. Furthermore they listed other improvements they are working on before the app goes live in Google Play. This is a perfect example of giving the innovation in assembly and perpetual beta.

Interestingly a report on the Verge, suggested it took Spotify too long to upgrade the app. November 2011 was the last time the ‘archaic-looking’ app was upgraded. Many users said it was ‘hardly functional’. It is only 5 months, but in the technology race, 5 months could be a lifetime.

Spotify offers a freemium service meaning it is free to listen with adverts between every few songs and a few other restrictions but if you want further developments you need to pay a monthly subscription to listen without the adverts- giving a ‘rich user experience’. The mobile apps have also got a monthly premium to us also. A brilliant example of software above the level of a single device.

Other similar applications

Matt Rosoff, list all the competition for Spotify in this article.

There are plenty of other music Web 2.0 applications…. all offering something slightly different.

Pandora is not available in all marketplaces and it doesn’t let uses choose individual songs.

Rhapsody, although not free has a mobile component that is the driving force.

Grooveshark launched free but did not have the permission from record labels so is in a lawsuit and many think it may not survive.

eMusic has a premium but the subscription gets permanent downloads.

Legal Issues

 

Every country has different legal rules, so as long as Spotify ensures it follows these rules it should be OK. As long as it does not follow in the footsteps of Grooveshark.

As of March 2012, the service is available in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States due to these legal differences.

Another sad issue is the lack of return for the artist themselves. The major record companies get 18% return, but other smaller ones get less…..

Future Directions

The great news for music lovers in Australia is, Spotify is coming to our shores. Kate Vale, former Google Australia executive, will be in charged. The launch is imminent apparently.

References

O’Reilly, T. (2007). What is Web 2.0: Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved March 20th 2012.

Hamburger, E. (2012) Spotify overhauls Android app, beta available now. Retrieved May 2nd 2012.

Lindvall, H (2009) Behind the music: The real reason why the major labels love Spotify. The Guardian. Retrieved May 2nd 2012.

Rosoff, M. (2011) Welcome To America, Spotify — Now Meet The Competitors Who Have Been Here For Years. Retrieved May 2nd 2012.

Web, Dr. (2006) Beta logo Parade. Retrieved May 2nd 2012

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7 thoughts on “Perpetual Beta for music listeners

  1. Interesting to read about Spotify for this pattern, since I wrote about Spotify for “Software above the level of a single device.” It is a really cool and useful application, and I didn’t know they were PB as well. I guess the most popular applications now kind of have to be, or what do you reckon?

    • You are right, it seems the more we investigate Web 2.0 apps, the more they all fit into each of the elements of O’Reily’s design patterns. I guess the best ones will have elements of all – explaining why they are so good! It is interesting to re- read your Spotify – software above the level of a single device post, now that I know so much more about Spotify.

      • I think you are right! The good applications can probably be identified to have many of the patterns, but it doesnt mean they dont have areas of improvement. Im excited to explore one application with all the patterns, to be able to better see strengths and weaknesses!

      • I look forward to finding a Web 2.0 application that fits all of O’Reily’s 8 design pattern. Maybe we have just found a way of making lots of money…..by finding “one app that fits all”!

      • (this is a reply for the one further down)
        Haha, I dont know how much money we will be earning right away, but we do got the knowledge now huh? It is great insight if you are gonna help developing applications for an enterprise later. I would have liked doing that! (The design and functionality part 😉

  2. Don’t know too much about Spotify, but you mentioned that they published an Android app on April 19th and prompted users to give feedback. I think that this direct approach, in saying that they do want feedback, makes users feel more comfortable in giving it, should it be positive or negative.

    It’s unfortunate, and no doubt damaging to their reputation (as well as damaging to the trust that they may have had with their customers), that they leave their updates / responses to the feedback so long a part though.

    • I thought it was very interesting to see that they were not focussed on updating their Android app – all I could think was they were having trouble upgrading the app or they were not focussed on that area of the product. It surprises me as there is a large percentage of the mobile phone market using Android these days.
      Allowing users to give feedback is also using another of O’Reilly’s design pattern of Collective Intelligence or Crowd Sourcing – using the thoughts of users or ‘the crowd’ will hopefully improve Spotify’s product.
      Hopefully they will learn from user feedback and not leave their updates so long in the future.

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