RealNetworks introduced a trial version of a new, Web-based digital music service that allows both PC, Mac and Linux users to access the system from any major Web browser.

RealNetworks introduced a trial version of a new, Web-based digital music service that allows both PC, Mac and Linux users to access the system from any major Web browser.

The Web-based version allows users to search the Rhapsody music database and stream music from their Web browser without requiring a download of the full Rhapsody client software or a credit card registration. Instead, new users are prompted to just create a username and password.

The effort is part of a new Web services initiative that is designed to let third party Web sites offer Rhapsody music services. The program allows sites to link directly to Rhapsody songs, albums, playlists and radio stations. Non-subscribers selecting the music links will now be able to listen to the full song, up to 25 per month, without signing up for the Rhapsody service. Users of the Web-based service can only stream songs, not download tethered files, and subscribers won't be able to access their Rhapsody library or playlists.

According to Rhapsody representatives, the effort is designed as a promotional campaign to draw new users to the Rhapsody service, letting them experiment with it without committing to the software download. Additionally, it opens the doors to Mac users, as the full Rhapsody client does not support the Mac platform.

Announcing their support for the new system are Comcast and RollingStone.com. Comcast is making available a Rhapsody-based Internet radio service to its broadband Internet cable customers. RollingStone.com, meanwhile, is allowing visitors to sample full length tracks for free, as well as link to Rhapsody music videos.

Integration with the Microsoft Windows Media Player is expected in the coming weeks. Additionally, Microsoft will add the Rhapsody online links to music-related MSN Search results, and plans to integrate it with the MSN Messenger and MSN Music services soon.