21. May 2012–
Our resident tech-head Paul Nelligan was lucky enough to get in on Beta testing of Soundcloud Next. This weekend saw a demonstration at Soundcloud HQ of the new, feature-rich iteration of the music service. Here are his initial thoughts...
For Soundcloud's Global Meetup Day, I was among the lucky members of the audience at Soundcloud HQ to witness CEO Alex Ljung proudly present "Soundcloud Next". In Alex I see someone who is clearly passionate about his product, no doubt a contributing factor to SoundCloud's phenomenal success – the company has just announced that they've broken the 15 million users mark.
As a beta-tester of Soundcloud Next, I was already familiar with some of the features of the overhaul to the SoundCloud web app, although watching Alex's presentation gave me a clearer view of exactly what Next is, and why they approached it the way that they had.
For those of you wondering how much of a departure Next is from the classic SoundCloud we've all come to know and love, let me just say right now that it is a significant change.
To begin with, Alex explained that the waveform is something which represents a track very well, and allows comments to be mapped over time as the track progresses. As a result, the waveform now takes precedence on the page. The new UI looks pretty different, moving slightly in the direction of a "desktop app", and while it takes some getting used to, is without a doubt an evolutionary step forward.
But apart from just the UI, Next is feature-rich. For instance, the "repost'" button allows any user to post a track from another user onto their profile. This puts SoundCloud more in the social arena, and is particularly useful for labels who represent a number of artists, or simply for fans who want to repost favourite tracks.
Also notable is the fact that browsing on Next no longer interrupts the music stream, which only changes when the user selects a new track or leaves the page. The waveform button in the top right-hand corner returns the user to the track currently playing.
New key controls for faster browsing
Also demonstrated were the new key controls for navigating, stopping, starting, even looping tracks. The "H" key opens up this treasure trove of hidden features, along with the feedback form. Admittedly I hadn't been aware that these features existed, and perhaps it's slightly counter-intuitive to hide the key shortcuts away under a menu item entitled "About". But as Alex said, Next is in Beta, and no doubt it's something which will continue to evolve.
Overall, what impressed me most about Next is SoundCloud's willingness and ability to be creative, to take a risk, and to be confident that they have done a great job with this new iteration of the service. Roll on full release!
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