Monday, November 19th, 2007

Songza: Would you like a habituatable pie-menus with your social music?

Category: Showcase

Aza Raskin gave a thoughtful keynote at The Ajax Experience and at one point showed us a new site that he was working on, Songza, which has now launched:

I am proud to announce the release of Songza, a music search engine and Internet jukebox. Songza solves the related problems of “I want to hear a song” and “I want to share a song with a friend.” Released on November 8, its popularity is growing rapidly: We’re poised to reach one million songs played within just a week of launching Songza.

Songza is also an interface showcase. I’ve used the interface principles discussed here on the Humanized blog to design Songza to be humane, slick, and viral. Play with the interface for a bit, and you’ll find habituatable pie-menus instead of slow linear menus; an inviting design that uses only two icons, both of which act as illustrations for words; an incredibly high density of content and a correspondingly low amount of interaction; undo instead of warnings; and transparent messages that don’t break your train of thought.

Ironically, there’s a lot that went into making Songza so simply. Achieving such a high level of simplification required a lot of code, in part because we couldn’t just use standard widgets. It was worth it, though.

You can’t be better without being different — I think Songza is both.

It is really nice to see a simple UI that uses Ajax as a means to a end.


Posted by Dion Almaer at 7:11 am

4.2 rating from 36 votes


Comments feed TrackBack URI

It uses the YouTube api, and that’s about it from what I can tell. So it buffers the movie and only plays the audio…

Comment by Matt — November 19, 2007

This is nice but won’t they have problems with licenses? I mean Pandora was banned from Canada (and other countries I think) and they just streamed random songs according to the user’s tastes, whereas Songza lets you play whatever you want to hear…

Comment by Michael — November 19, 2007

They will soon. They are in direct violation of several YouTube TOS terms. I’m sure one of those is playing the audio and not the video. I’m curious to see how long this stays up…

Comment by Matt — November 19, 2007

They are only as successful as YouTube allows them to be. I checked out Songza pre-launch and aside from the uncluttered look I failed to see what the fuss was all about. It’s a YouTube playlist that in theory you can share with others. However, I was unable to successfully embed the code into my personal site so that the player would play the selected song – it just didn’t want to play.

I’m also not sure what happens if/when a file gets yanked from YouTube. I doubt that the embeddable player gives the user any indication of this as it’s completely transparent that they are using the YouTube API. Nowhere on the website do they mention where this seemingly free, copyrighted music is coming from. I’m a little cautious as to why that is.

I give it a 2 weeks before we hear about Songza being in some sort of legal trouble. By that time I’ll be back to Pandora again.

Comment by Ed Knittel — November 19, 2007

I think the UI is sort of neat, intentionally different by design and so on. It may seem a bit wacky, but this is the sort of thing that inspires people to think differently when designing UI elements and interaction stuff.

Comment by Scott Schiller — November 19, 2007

What a nice way to waste bandwidth AND listen to music.

May almost seem like something legal, but will trigger some discussions.

Comment by Ilian Hristov — November 19, 2007

I love how the untalented bash this sort of thing. Its an awesome interface. and its a clever use of the YouTube api? How many of you have created something this cool, fluid, and practical?

Comment by I digg — November 19, 2007

Wow, I digg, you’re pretty superficial. Do you think it’s hard to design an interface like that? Or to even write one? Honestly, the idea of using only audio from YouTube videos has been apparent ever since people have been making those mashups and music videos on there. There’s nothing clever about it, it’s not fluid, not cool, and certainly not practical.

It’s a good idea on the outside, but if you actually take time to see why it can be a bad idea, it is. I can’t wait until they take this down.

I love how the ‘about’ page calls this thing the “brainchild” of some fellow with a bunch of credentials. Are you telling me the only thing that guy can come up with is a cheesey search tool that breaks YouTube’s TOS?


Comment by Daniel — November 19, 2007

@ Daniel
Have you read their ToS? Where do you see this infringing their terms? Or anyone else for that matter?

Comment by Joe — November 19, 2007

@ Joe

What about this:

4. C. You agree not to access User Submissions (defined below) or YouTube Content through any technology or means other than the video playback pages of the Website itself, the YouTube Embeddable Player, or other explicitly authorized means YouTube may designate.

Comment by Michael — November 19, 2007

What have you done Daniel? Donut?

Comment by Paul — November 19, 2007

Holy crap, somebody rattled the monkey cage today.

Comment by Cal Jacobson — November 19, 2007

@Cal: I don’t think it’s a cage getting rattled. It’s just hard to take Aza and Scott so seriously when a lot of us are left scratching our heads and asking “So, what did you do exactly?”

“Songza lets you listen to any song or band.” Really?

It’s more like “Songza lets you listen to crappy compressed audio of a crappy compressed video illegally uploaded to YouTube. And by any song or band we mean just the ones that aren’t on a major record label.” Or did I miss the big announcement that said YouTube was given exclusive rights to freely distribute the music libraries of the members of the RIAA and that Songza was told they could piggyback off if it?

I still stand by my 2 weeks prediction.

Comment by Ed Knittel — November 19, 2007

The interface is, as advertised, easy to use. I wonder why they made the widget background color so similar to the body background color? It seems that it would be easier to use if the widget color were more distinguishable from the body.

Comment by Will Peavy — November 19, 2007

This widget is functional and thought out with regards to its purpose. However, I think Aza is doing himself and his work a disservice by using so much jargon in his messages. I expected, based on the description, to be wowed and engrossed in the site for the next 30 minutes. But felt a sense of ‘that’s it?’ after about a minute. It’s certainly something to be proud of, but not necessarily inspiring. My mental image is of a son begging his dad to put his work on the front of the web 2.0 fridge. He didn’t deliver on the expectation in my opinion.

Comment by Harry Hopkins — November 19, 2007

The article focuses mainly on the UI and Ajax experience. Not how they stream videos from youtube and etc. No one asked for your comment on how they stream the music.

Comment by Con — November 19, 2007

Sorry this review may sound harsh but… it doesn’t meet even minimal Web 2.0 expectations of the back button working. For example, I search ‘Prince’ then get scared about actually playing one of those songs for fear the RIAA is watching me via their Sony trojan so I hit back to pull up my previous search. WACK! Back button don’t work (Firefox 2) or Back button takes me to the site before I visited Songza (Opera 9.24, Safari 3 and that Microsoft browser too). Bookmarking the page doesn’t save my search list etc. Also why is “Watch on YouTube” an option off the share menu – seems out of place to me as I don’t want to share it, just watch it. And no offense but your color scheme is really bad – it hurts my eyes, all the orange/red makes me angry, and roll over states are almost impossible to read on crappy monitors. For a self professed slick interface this leaves a lot to be desired. Did anyone on the team have a graphic design background?

Comment by Chris Phillips — November 19, 2007

Pie menu is neat – first time ever really coming across it before in an application, and could see how it’d be really useful.

That aside, gets a big “meh” from me. So, I type in Spastik – and I get to hear a 27 distorted clip of Hawtin playing Spastik at a party. Really now – that’s useful (not).

I’m more impressed by say – seeqpod for simple music-finding ability. (Although not a fan of the interface at all)

Comment by Cron — November 19, 2007

@ Michael

You don’t think the YouTube API is their “explicitly authorized means” ? It looks that way to me.

Comment by Joe — November 20, 2007


You should check out the easyGestures Firefox add-on, and its older sibling, RadialContext. Once you use them, it’s hard to go back to traditional right-click menus.

Comment by Peter Mularien — November 20, 2007

forget even violating YouTube TOS.Unless there are legal agreements in place with the publishers of those songs it could possibly be copyright violation as well.

How are the publishers/artists who’s songs are being played being compensated? Do they have agreements with ASCAP, SESAC, or BMI?

How much of those songs are legally on You Tube in the first place.

I haven’t even been able to find artists like the Beatles on LEGAL sites like Napster or in a Legal Juke box at a bar, and I am to believe they are legally streaming Beatles songs for free?

Comment by Tony V — November 20, 2007

Try to create huge playlist !!

Client side heap will be screwed up!

Comment by Bollysite — November 21, 2007

I think is better and it allows you to store your playlist. There music search tends to return better results than songza also.

Comment by zmoothg — February 11, 2008

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