Spotify may be following its competitors to the Web. The company is planning on launching a browser-based version of its subscription streaming service, according to a report at TechCrunch. A Spotify spokesperson declined to comment when reached by Billboard.biz.
Spotify is the only subscription service in the U.S. that requires its users to download and install an application on a personal computer. Rhapsody and Rdio have desktop applications - PC-only for Rhapsody - as well as browser-based versions. Mog has a desktop application for Apple only. Muve Music works only on Cricket Wireless phones and does not involve personal computers.
Popular services in Europe are split in their use of desktop applications. Deezer offers only a browser-based experience for PC users, although it has an offline mode for premium subscribers (offline listening on a PC usually requires a desktop applications). Simy offers a desktop application for PC and Mac in addition to the usual slate of mobile apps.
Subscription services do have reasons for building a version for a web browser: a subscriber to listen from any Internet-connected computer and there is no requirement to install a piece of software. Lala.com was an early proponent of a browser-first streaming service. It launched in 2007 and was taken off the market after Apple purchased the company in late 2009. The subscription services that have followed
Spotify originally opted for the experience provided by the desktop client. Its FAQ page explains the desktop app provides "a much better user experience and audio quality" compared to browser-based sites. And although the desktop version lacks some of the visual frills of its competitors, Spotify is very fast and easy to use - two characteristics a browser-based version better live up to.
The TechCrunch report also mentioned a possibility of a lower price point for the mobile tier of the subscription service. No timeline or specific price point was floated in the article. Matters of pricing are more complicated because they involve the participation of the rights holders who have licensed their content. Spotify currently charges the standard rates of $9.99 per month for mobile access and $4.99 per month for PC access.
A browser would come at a key time for Spotify, which has grown quickly but has lost money, as well as ongoing competition from other services. The TechCrunch report comes just a couple of days after news broke that Apple is in negotiations with rights holders for an Internet radio service similar to Pandora.
A web app would open up Spotify's service to many more users and facilitate the process for its current audience.