After a long beta period, streaming music service Pandora today launched its new, HTML5-based website. That, by itself, would have been a newsworthy story, but I think what’s really going to resonate with users is the face that this launch also heralds the end to Pandora’s 40 hours listening cap for users with free accounts. The free accounts will, of course, continue to feature ads and lower quality audio than paid accounts. While the company still markets “unlimited listening” as a major perk for paying users ($36/year), one of the main reasons for the company’s most active users to pay for the service is now gone.
The new player is, without doubt, very well designed and – besides the removed caps – the main attraction of this update. In addition, however, Pandora also simplified station creation with enhanced auto-complete choices and better personalized suggestions. The player now also highlights more information about artists and gives more prominence to the service’s built-in and third-party social features.
While this is a major update, my own usage of Pandora has been pretty minimal over the last year or so. While Pandora’s radio model is definitely interesting for a large number of users, I prefer services like MOG and Spotify. Those let me pick the songs I want to hear and still offer some of the radio-like features that make Pandora such a great service. Both MOG and Spotify offer (limited) free services as well as paid tiers.