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For those of us that are still living in the dark ages, using Internet radio instead of plugging into our iPods 24/7, I have found a very nice alternative to Launchcast. The site is called "Pandora", and they offer quite a bit more functionality and presentation than Launchcast does.
Within this blog entry, you will find a list of pros and cons for Pandora Radio as it compares to Yahoo!'s Internet Radio application.
First of all, let's take a look at the design of each application. Below you will find a screenshot of Pandora and then a screenshot of Launchcast.
If you would like to compare the two services yourself, or you would like to follow along with my review, here are the links to both services:
Pandora – http://www.pandora.com/
Launchcast – http://www.launchcast.com/
Now I will start a comparison between the two services based on the things you can see just from looking at the screenshots above:
|Works in Firefox just as well as it works in IE. The only system requirements Pandora has is that it requires Flash player. Other than that, you can use it on almost any computer.||Only works in Internet Explorer on Windows.|
|You can easily scroll backwards to see (and rate) the songs you played previously.||You have to wait for the scroller at the bottom to say "See a list of songs you've played recently", then click on that link, which will open a new window to show you the songs you've played.|
|The design is, to be blunt and simple, pretty. It looks like a modern Web application.||Pretty ugly (at least, in my opinion)|
|Does not display any custom information in the browser's title bar.||When it's working properly, it shows the name of the artist and the name of the song that are currently playing in your browser's title bar (and, as a result, in your Windows taskbar).|
|You can set up multiple stations in a free account. In fact, they allow up to 100 custom stations for each user profile.||Free users only get to set up a single station.|
Now I will get a little more in-depth in my analysis of the two services.
Ratings and Station Customization
Unfortunately in Pandora, at this time, you are only able to assign three different ratings to a song that plays. You can give it a "thumbs up", which means that you really like the song. You can give it a "thumbs down", which means you can't stand the song and you never want to hear it again. Finally, you can give it a "Zzz", which means that you like the song, but you've heard it too much recently. That is a nice feature, as that will keep the song on your station, but it will not play it again for 30 days.
Launchcast, however, allows much more in-depth rating and voting. With Launchcast, you can give the song anywhere from 1-4 stars or you can click on a symbol telling the player that you never want to hear that song again. In addition, you can rate the artist and you can rate the album using the same scale.
With Launchcast you also have much more control over choosing your music initially. You can rate artists, albums and individual songs. You can search through the entire library and begin preemptively rating things with very little effort.
In the category of being able to customize your station, Launchcast is still the winner.
In this category, Launchcast seems to still be the winner, offering a great deal more new music than Pandora currently does. Launchcast picks up songs immediately from all sorts of different sources. One instance of this is the newest effort from Bon Jovi. Bon Jovi played the song live during an episode of American Idol this spring. The very next morning, that version played on my Launchcast player.
Another example is a group called "Anterior". They are a new metal band that Launchcast started playing about two or three weeks ago. Pandora, however, still has yet to even know they exist.
However, Pandora does get a leg up in my book. If you search for the band "Laughing Colors" on Pandora and Launchcast, both will return a single album. In the case of Pandora, the album is The Pattern Seed. In the case of Launchcast, the album is The Night Electric Died (an acoustic live performance by the band). The fundamental difference, though, is that you can only "purchase" Laughing Colors music from Launchcast, you can't actually add it to your station. Pandora allows you to add the album right in to your station so that you actually have a chance to hear it.
However, due to the volume of Launchcast's musical library, I am still going to have to give the edge to Launchcast.
So far, after listening to Pandora on and off for a little over a day, I have yet to encounter an error in their player. Launchcast, however, serves up scripting errors all day long, and is usually down for hours at least once or twice a month.
In this category, I have to serve the trophy to Pandora.
Here are some additional features that are available through Pandora:
- You can choose whether you want the player open in your main browser window, or if you want it open in a pop-up
- You can open a context menu for each song that has played on your station. Within that context menu, you can choose to move the song to another station you control, start a new station based on that artist or song, view biographical information about the artist, song or album, you can purchase music from Amazon or iTunes and much more.
- The explicit words filter seems to work much more effectively in Pandora than it does in Launchcast (although it's still not 100% effective). In addition, when you enable the explicit content filter, you can password-protect that feature, so your children cannot edit it.
- From their FAQ, it appears as though Pandora does a much better job of separating holiday music from regular music. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Christmas music from some of my favorite artists on Launchcast, and I haven't yet figured out a way to tell Launchcast not to play holiday music at all.
- Pandora can be embedded in your Web site, added to your blog and subscribed in your RSS Aggregator.
- Pandora can be experienced without a Web browser. They offer their feature-rich application through select Sprint mobile phones, select mobile devices (the Sonos Digital Music System, the Logitech Squeezebox or the Logitech Transporter) and much more.
Overall, the appearance, presentation and performance of Pandora are so much better than Launchcast. Hopefully their features and music library will catch up to Launchcast and we can leave Yahoo! radio in the past very soon.
Curtiss Grymala is the full-time Webmaster for a community college in Virginia. In his spare time, he runs a freelance Web development company called Ten-321 Enterprises, is an active participant in the HTMLCenter Forums and offers small snippets of code and bug reports to the developers and modders of the YaBB Forum system. He has been developing Web sites and applications for nearly 15 years.