Well, this probably has to rank as one of the most disastrous tech launches of recent times, possibly even rivalling the infamous boo.com fiasco of Boom 1.0. Qtrax, the much hyped ‘free and legal music download’ service, finally sent out beta download invitations yesterday, and we were as keen as mustard to get a look at this important new tech in action. So naturally we rushed off and patiently downloaded the beta software and installed the rejigged Songbird music client. Sure it was a bit slow to download, but what do you expect from a heavily marketed launch day? We forgot and forgave.
Next up was registration. Again painfully, glacially slow, the servers must be under some strain thought we, but we persevered and eventually - after what seemed like 2 hours, but was more like 110 minutes - we succeeded in registering and logging on to the service. And what wonders awaited us there!
The interface is little more than the standard Songbird layout, with some rather large adverts liberally sprinkled around above the fold. Not a crime, and to be fair the information on artists and music was fairly comprehensive and interesting in places. We started to warm to the service. Maybe they were just having a few teething problems?
And so to the music. Select an artist from the front page, one John Mayer, wait for track list to arrive, and click on track to play. Up pops a note -‘downloads coming soon!!’ Hmm…we didn’t click on the download button, just the streaming player. Ah well, let’s carry on listening. Er…hello…? Minutes pass with no noise or visible action at all.
We wait. Nothing. We click on a few different track links. And wait. Nothing. We’re starting to get depressed. It’s been a long morning so far, and it doesn’t seem to be improving.
Finally some action. Ahh…not quite what we were expecting. A nice fat ‘Connection Interrupted’ box. Interrupted? Surely you first need some sort of connection to interrupt? Hey, perhaps the software is broken. Let’s try another Songbird service like Skreemr.com.
A couple of minutes later we’re listening to full on music splendour from Skreemr. So, no problems with the Songbird player then.
Well to cut a long story short, that’s as far as we ever got with Qtrax. Silence. We returned from time to time throughout the day to try again, each time to be met by a silent set of speakers. At one point we thought we’d try out some more Songbird features and tried to install some of the great plugins, only to discover that the Qtrax version of the player refuses to allow any add-ons at all because of security issues or something. Talk about adding insult to injury.
No additional services allowed, no cool Songbird plugins and definitely no music playing whatsoever. If that’s a launch folks, we’re Spiders from Mars.
Our last effort was just before sunset, when out of pity we logged on once more just to check for progress. Oh yes, there was progress all right. Instead of the usual interface, we received a glorious eye full of an Oracle Application Error. In case you can’t remember how that one goes, it’s something like this –
‘I never give you my pillow
I only send you my invitations
And in the middle of the celebrations
I break down…’
…ringing in our heads to the tune of some far distant Beatles ditty.
Postscript. Sad as this tale is, at the end of the day the real losers are the Songbird developers who have to watch as their super classy open source media player is trashed by a badly executed commercial marketing play. If there’s a message for us all here it’s to take a closer look at just how cool the generic Songbird has become since launch. It’s lovely and deserves much better than this.