Spotify has unveiled its new plan to win the hearts and minds of music lovers - and it looks promising.
CEO Daniel Ek revealed a new app platform for the streaming music service on Wednesday, which allows developers to create music apps within the Spotify browser and access its catalog of millions of songs. Spotify users can access the songs for free for a limited time per month, or get unlimited access on desktop or mobile with a monthly subscription.
Some observers say the new level of functionality could be a powerful weapon in the battle against Apple's iTunes, which is relatively limited in functionality.
The first apps to be made available in the beta service includes Last.fm, a service which almost became the ultimate music streaming service of its own generation but narrowly missed out on mainstream popularity. It is more at home than ever on Spotify, where it recommends artists based on your listening history and allows you to hear remarkably good recommendations in a click without buying or downloading elsewhere.
The Songkick app scans your music library and recommends gigs in your area. It acts as the perfect companion to its mobile app, a UG staff favorite purely for saving us time scanning those old small print gig listings and telling us about great shows at a glance.
Others apps by news media like the Guardian, Pitchfork and Billboard allow you to listen to albums which have recently been reviewed, acting as the perfect reading companion.
The app platform uses commonplace web programming languages, so the apps are no different to a well-featured website. This is a good thing, because it means companies face little risk and low development costs by developing for the service - but don't think you can create your own app at home. Ek has taken a leaf from Apple's walled app garden, and Spotify will only accept apps from better known brands for the time being. This works in Spotify's favour for now, making it easier to moderate quality, but in time it could miss out on home-brew innovations which potentially enrich the customer experience.
As a result of these changes, Spotify is now something of a music web browser. This point has been under-reported, but is a huge innovation in itself. Never has there been such a dramatic browser innovation since Firefox contended the browsing monopoly held by Microsoft, and it could be a sign of things to come. Will there be a comparable video browser with its own app ecosystem one day? Or perhaps Spotify will eventually become a web client, and deliver apps through its own web portal.
Regardless, we love seeing this kind of shakeup in the music and web industry. With apps adding huge value to the Spotify experience, more musicians and listeners will flock to the service - and more subscribers means more money for the artists involved.
Will you try out the new apps in Spotify, or would you rather stick to real-world media like CDs despite their lack of functionality? Share your thoughts in the comments.