4.45 - beta goes live


17. Jul. 2008, 16:17

Today, at 4.45pm (British Summer Time), Last.fm's beta site went live.

It's nowhere near ready, however, maintaining one site will be a lot easier than managing two, so it makes sense. The next few weeks will be difficult whilst we get used to not having certain features.


* Reply Tracker / Grapevine - yet to be added
* New message indicator - don't know if this will return
* Group Descriptions - don't know if they will return. All data is lost for now
* Forum Search
* Proper music search - cannot search by artist or track in drop down mini menu
* Certains URLs will no longer work, eg tag radios, journals, because information has changed

and many, many more.

There have been some very important changes to user permissions. Non-subscribers will no longer be able to listen to other people's tag radios. Non-subs may listen to their Playlists but only full tracks will play in full and they will have to click on each next track to hear more. See here for the reason why.

Last.fm have made an announcement in their blog:

For those of you who are veteran Last.fm users, you’ll notice we’ve taken a step back to make our feature set more coherent. Don’t worry, we haven’t taken much away*, just re-organised.

Along with putting straight our clutter, we’ve cleaned house too: the user interface has been re-aligned to be a more robust foundation for features to come, and we’ve updated the look and feel. This is an evolution of the Last.fm interface, and it won’t stop developing either—we’re inspired by iterative change and dedicated to adapting the service.

*A few missing pieces will reemerge, phoenix-like, in the coming weeks. I’m looking at you ;-)

The beta has been eight weeks in testing and is not over yet. We are still all invited to head to the feedback forums for our input. Note, that's the Feedback and Ideas forum, not the Beta group.

Reported in The Times, UK today:

Revamped Last.fm boasts 'smartest' ads on the web

Interactive advertising will be at the heart of the next generation of web marketing, says the social music site

A new type of web advertising that interacts with the site on which it appears is to make its debut on Last.fm, the social music site.

Last.fm, which announces a major relaunch today, will start showing advertising that can tap into the community features of the site, making adverts more engaging, the site said.

An example of the new "smart" adverts displays an image of a mobile phone handset which changes according to what the Last.fm user is doing. For instance, if someone is listening to Bon Jovi, the phone would appear to start playing a Bon Jovi track, showing off its MP3 player.

Hotel chains will be able to tap into a Last.fm user's list of favourite artists and display adverts for hotels in cities where those artists have upcoming gigs. Train companies, similarly, will be able to advertise services running to other music-based events that may be of interest to the user.

"It's really about using the functionality of the site to help the brand come up with an ad that is more immersive, and entertaining," Spencer Hyman, the chief operating officer of Last.fm, said.

He cited a recent example of a partnership with Motorola, where the company sponsored a new feature on the site which allowed a user to get a customised print-out of a festival programme, showing bands they were likely to enjoy based on their music collection.

Last.fm's technology enables the site to recommend music to its users by analysing what they have in their collections and how often they play songs. That information is then compared with similar data from other users who listen to the same music, via a process the site calls "scrobbling".

The site interacts with iTunes, Apple's music software, and updates its recommendations every time a user listens to music using the program. It also employs a team of "music scientists", who constantly mine the data produced by the site to match particular genres of music with certain demographics.

Advertising that targets groups or individuals by monitoring their web behaviour has attracted criticism from privacy campaigners. Phorm, which conducted trials of targeted advertising earlier this year, was accused of invading people's privacy by tracking every website that they visited.

The Information Commissioner's Office ruled that Phorm did not breach pricacy because it did not collect information that would identify individual users, but the system may now face a challenge from Europe. Viviane Reding, the EU communications commissioner, said yesterday that she was concerned about the British Government's lack of action.

"It is very clear in EU directives that unless someone specifically gives authorisation [for web tracking] then you don't have the right to do that," Ms Reding said, according to the Dow Jones Newswire.

Mr Hyman said that web advertising had always been able to target customers because of the information sites had about their users, citing Google, which tailors adverts according to what a person is searching for.

Last.fm, too, had run targeted ads, he said, giving the example of a British bank which wanted to target Polish builders. The site was able to deliver adverts to people who listened to Polish music or who were in the UK but using the Polish language version of the site.

Increasingly, however, the success of web adverts would depend on making them more engaging, Mr Hyman said. "The reason TV ads have been so effective is because there has been a whole creative industry behind them," he said, suggesting the web had been slow to catch up.

Among the features of the newly relaunched Last.fm is a "recent activity" list which alerts users to what their friends have been listening to, a bit like the news feed on Facebook and the ability to share recommendations more easily.

Last.fm, which is based in London, has more than 1.5 million users in Europe, according to Nielsen Online, 10 per cent of which are in the UK. The site was bought by CBS, the US television network, for $280 million in May last year.

Source: The Times, UK

Related journal: I can't believe it's not beta...!

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  • screenager

    yep the layout really sucks big time. it's just to facebook-ish ;) i think they just ignored all the reviews posted on the beta thread... i'm not leaving last.fm but i certainly will visit it less often :(

    17. Jul. 2008, 17:58
  • Dorkling

    ha I was so confused when it went live I thought I was stuck in the beta, I guess now I am...le strife.

    17. Jul. 2008, 17:59
  • Babs_05

    It's much more difficult to navigate, for sure. Communications (Inbox, Shoutbox) have been sidelined. The focus is more on music. However, it isn't finished yet, so let's see.

    17. Jul. 2008, 17:59
  • maskedman101

    I can't help finding most reactions to the new layout a little over-the-top - threats to leave and all that. But I don't think Last FM are doing themselves any favours by releasing something that looks so unready. It's a brave move. I hope we see plenty of improvements soon - the library is a great idea but it needs a better search function. But let's see what happens shortly.

    17. Jul. 2008, 18:23
  • Babs_05

    Always happens at every new beta release - people threaten to leave, or actually do. btw - if any subscribers are going to go, what's left of the subscription can be donated to non-subscribers. People leaving negative feedback are probably not as many as people who are quietly getting on with things or don't mind the changes. We'll definitely see plenty of improvements. Soon? I don't know, but in time for sure. I've only been here 2.5 years and I don't remember a new release being quite so unfinished. I think this has been a bigger project than in the past, though.

    17. Jul. 2008, 18:28
  • Le_THieN

    Unfortunately, the reply tracker/grapevine feature is still M.I.A., so I can't find my initial monster post complaining about the Beta in late May or early June, but here's a quick rundown of what I remember being displeased with: • the sheer aimlessness and cluster-fuck organization of the home page • lack of overall speed optimization of the site • Recent Visitors not on the profile page • About Me being smack dab in-between the Library and Top 10 Artists and Tracks • Top 50s being reduced to Top 10s • shoutbox was too long • redundancy of the side and top bar menus These all have been almost completely addressed, so besides the sites recurring speed issues, I can't really say I'm unhappy with the progress it's made. It's come a long way, and I agree it still has some leaps to make, but I like where it's heading, for sure.

    17. Jul. 2008, 18:56
  • Babs_05

    I wouldn't have minded if they kept the design for Profiles from the now 'old' site. It worked beautifully. Fantastic design. Three columns: About Me / Music / Social. There was nothing else like it. But who knows, they're always working on the site. Who knows what the future will bring.

    17. Jul. 2008, 19:08
  • MrModernRock

    I still think the profile page is a cluster-fuck, as Hanson puts it - at the very least its not user-friendly. Shoutbox needs to be smaller (ie: [u]shout[/u]box, not a Convobox) and more placed in a different location. The about me is just out of place, completely. Either add a bio-page or put it with the avatars, reg. date, # of tracks, etc. New journals, friends, events, etc have the same problem as the shoutbox. There's far too much scrolling to do to get to things. Home page seems empty to me compared to the profile page - I wish there was more balance between these two prominent pages. I'm assuming recommended reading and the reply tracker will be features on the home page. Inbox/Shoutbox alerts should be on every page (possible top-bar addition) and not just the home page - at least thats the case with the inbox alerts as I don't see any alerts for new shouts posted to my wall. Recommended page is nice, I really dig this page a lot more than its predecessor as the new version is a lot more enticing. Library is a cool feature, however, I feel like the library snapshot on the profile page should be smaller - possibly limit the number to five artists. Instead of those three bubbles at the bottom for tags, playlists and loved tracks, make those tabs beside the library title bar. Charts are charts, but I wish the weekly charts were still somewhere on-top, whether they're on the profile page or home page I don't care, but they should be somewhere other than only on the chart page. Friends page needs more distinct divisions between the single users and the last listened/currently listening track needs to be more prominent as its hard to read at the moment. Overall I think the site has a lot of potential with all the new/tweaked features, but the layout leaves a lot to be desired from it. I wish there was a balance between the music content and the community content, instead of the music slapping you in your face while you're searching and scrolling for journals, shouts, friends, and neighbors.

    17. Jul. 2008, 19:51
  • LilleFluff

    I agree 100% with MrModernRock. Shoutbox needs to be smaller and more easily accessible, not all the way down at the bottom!

    17. Jul. 2008, 21:56
  • Jonty

    [b]All[/b] the issues you've brought up will be addressed, just give us time, we'll get there. Really, we will. If you want to pm me for a more in-depth discussion, you know where I am :)

    17. Jul. 2008, 22:12
  • Babs_05

    Thanks for all the comments, everybody. Nice to know staff are reading us! :) Thanks for the comment and reassurance, Jonty, I feel better knowing we're being listened to. :)

    17. Jul. 2008, 22:54
  • MrModernRock

    I just noticed this, but I like the counters on the journals. I have always wondered how many people check out my journals and never leave comments. :) I'm going to assume that the linked group, the related journal, and the source was typed by you, Babs? I think it would have been cool if new journals would link back to older ones based on the artist connections. Also, is it just me or are all the group submissions/pending submissions absolutely horrendous looking and in the way? They need to be hidden - swept under the rug.

    18. Jul. 2008, 13:26
  • Babs_05

    Thanks for the comment, sanaag, and for accepting my two recent journals. Usually, I try to submit to relevant groups only, however on this occasion, I figured site-wide changes and what was being reported in the press was relevant to everybody. :)

    18. Jul. 2008, 13:44
  • Babs_05

    Hi again, MrModernRock. :) I know, I noticed I was getting lots of visitors to my page in general, then I had a brainwave and started adding page counters to journals. Everything was typed by me, yes. (And all with the new beta flickering on and off. It was a wonder I got it up and running at all.) I'd love it if the process were better automated. Nope, totally agree, group submissions/pending are in the way. (Maybe they should just be visible to me, the owner, not the whole world?) Also, when I get an email notification that there's a new comment, the link takes me to the top of the journal, not the beginning of comments. I already said lists of groups smack in the middle of a journal and comments were in the way in the beta forums. Believe it or not, that's not even all my groups! I'm going to try and resubmit to the rest of them after the weekend. And now look - I need my Preview button to read this back. Comments are people too. :(

    18. Jul. 2008, 13:53
  • MrModernRock

    Wait, you added the counters yourself? I thought that was a "new last.fm" addition. Snap. How did you do it? I took Jonty up on his offer and messaged him to try and get some insight since, as a non-subscriber, I've only been able to play with the site for a couple days. The group submissions pile was definitely in there :)

    18. Jul. 2008, 14:08
  • Babs_05

    I just found a page counter I liked. There are loads of freebies out there. :) I thought that was brave of Jonty to publicly say 'PM me'. Seen the number of readers of this journal... ?

    18. Jul. 2008, 14:14
  • MrModernRock

    Any sites you can point me towards? And yeah, I'm sure Jonty has received a couple messages by now. Ha.

    18. Jul. 2008, 14:22
  • rozebanaan

    i think people who don't like it, should just take it easy and relax for a moment. It seems as if some consider this the end of the world..guess what? it's not (: the first thing i thought was "what the hell is this?" , but just og out there to explore people! check all the new buttons and stuff.. some remarks - the shoubox should be up high...in general i think it would be cooler (but not sure whether it's feasible) if you could just decide yourself what's on your homepage. e.g. I never use the player (got a lot of music on my computer, so the player isn't of any use for me), so i would like him to be gone or all down there. It would be nice if you could just choose and shift things that are important to you (some people events are more important, for some friends) - it's still too slow, really when you want to browse your library..it takes a lot of time..but i'm pretty sure that's server problem or something of that kind and will be taken care of the next few days... so at a short glance (cause i can't really explore fully while working) that's my humble opinion

    18. Jul. 2008, 15:13
  • Babs_05

    Exactly - it's nowhere near finished. It was definitely too early to go live. I've been collecting news stories from around the web. I've added the link to the main journal, near the end.

    18. Jul. 2008, 15:47
  • rozebanaan

    knowing that there is some staff reading this, another remark: it's quite annoying that if you go to an artist page, click on journals, you get to see all journals in full, instead of just the titles...cause e.g. if you go to the journals for the Dodo's, you get guys who list all their concerts in a journal, and me scrolling all the way down to find a journal i do wanna read :D in the old system you just saw the titles of the journals..i prefer it that way... (just to get more journals on one page...people will have to make their titles interesting if they want someone to read it...if i'm looking for a end-of-year list, i just don't wanna wade through some guy's personal journal about the 500 concerts he went to this year)

    18. Jul. 2008, 19:46
  • Babs_05

    I don't ever remember journals being in list-form. They've always appeared in full everywhere. But maybe you're talking about before my time. I'd love it to be list-form too. I asked for it in the beta group. Just want to say, I don't really want to encourage feedback here, although I realise we're in an unusual situation. We've been asked to give feedback in the Feedback and Ideas forum. If we start trying to communicate outside them, it forces staff to check yet another space. What can I say, I'm an organiser as well as communicator ... :O

    18. Jul. 2008, 20:07
  • rozebanaan

    but if you went to an artist profile you had a small overview of 2 or 3 journal posts on the right of the screen..if you pressed more, then you indeed got them in full..so i'm talking about the overview (:

    18. Jul. 2008, 21:45
  • Babs_05

    I just saw some journals on an artist page. They're right at the bottom of the page, on the right.... (no, I don't like them there either) oooh! I take that back - some do, some don't! Hope that means they're working on it. :/

    18. Jul. 2008, 22:05
  • idiotsdream

    I found that newspaper article disturbing.If the ads thing is true, then it'll be very George Orwell.

    18. Jul. 2008, 22:11
  • Babs_05

    Thanks for the comment. No kidding, I'm not a fan of this new type of advertising either. Makes me want to play nursery rhymes to mess things up for them. ;)

    18. Jul. 2008, 22:24
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