Petitioning groups have been formed, support forums opened and self-help threads initiated. With as much fervour as the combatants of the American presidential election campaign, it’s at first hard to believe that such a stir could be found on the pages of Last.fm. Coming as the cost of its recent user interface overhaul, Last.fm devotees seem rather disgruntled. Far from content with probably the most major makeover the music network site has had for as far back as I can remember, a major outcry has come from those who are finding the very white, squarish features characteristic of the Web 2.0 generation to be ironically complicated, necessitating excessive scrolling and providing inaccurate chart readings. Individuals have already issued advice on how to counter the styles set in place by Last.fm engineers, as can be seen here in this ‘how to make last.fm not so fucking shitty‘ journal entry. Even a song has been created to cope, matching the title of one of the foremost advocacy groups, ‘Bring Back the Old Lastfm‘.
To be honest, I perhaps do favour the old Last.fm to this new, squeaky clean version and wouldn’t mind the option to switch to the ‘classic’ format from time to time. In a way, the new look reminds me a bit of AOL Music, which I don’t find particularly fantastic. However, I must admit that I’ve always believed that clean is good, and the site is indeed now very much in line with other networks I appreciate in terms of appearance: Facebook, Computerlove, Typophile, and Khatt to name a few. But even the sacrosanct Facebook image is set for an upgrade very soon, over which there has already been much negative speculation. That said, I do think the new Last.fm does seem to be lacking that little bit of something that it used to have in terms of uniqueness. But I’m still hoping that further improvements are forthcoming, ideally something along the design lines of Pitchfork, FFFFOUND!, the ICA or Universal Everything. In fact, there is a person who I think would be most suitable to take part in this Last.fm re-design process, and he himself is a Last.fm user: Joen Asmussen of Noscope.
Ultimately, so long as it doesn’t become another MySpace, deviantART or IMEEM, I think Last.fm is on the right track. Or at least its developers generally have the right idea. Plus I think its brand identity is solid in terms of agreeable logo and associated spin-off material, which is saying more than most online insitutions these days anyway. It’s inevitable that users will acclimatize and get used to the changes and various alterations to features that used to embody the quintessence of Last.fm. And they will still love it for what it is and what it allows them to do as a result of something as basic as listening to music. Actually, it’s quite funny (and perhaps strategically genius) that all the publicity these recent changes have created may very well bring a lot more new Last.fm users on-board. Surely they’ll have nothing to complain about since the new version will form the very basis of their first-time experience. And it’s still better than Pandora, Deezer, The Filter and other copycats (although Spotify and Songbird do create tough, admirable competition). But regardless of whatever the outcome in the long-run may be, I will continue my pursuit to familiarize myself with the layout, and may the social music revolution continue…
Sarah Badr © MMVIII