Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…

Technology Crisis


I feel a Technology Crisis coming on. Here were my clues:

Exhibit A: I’ve been meaning to learn Flex for a while. I have got as far as “Hello World” four times now.

Exhibit B: The Rhapsody client sucks. I love having access to all the music in the world but the client really, really sucks. The web client doesn’t completely suck but it’s a web client so it sucks a fair amount.

Put those two together and you have yourself a challenge. Build a new client for Rhapsody in Flex. How hard could it be?

rhapsody1Pretty hard it turns out, because Rhapsody does every thing in its power to make it hard for developers to use their APIs for anything useful. They have an amazing RESTful API that was years ahead of its time. They have a fantastic affiliates program. But – to make sure that no one does anything useful with the API, they force you to use their crappy player.

Go read their forums and you’ll find four years of posts like this:

Dear Rhapsody,

I luuurrve your service but your client is crappy and I would like to write a better one. Hey! You know what? I have a great idea that would send new subscribers your way by the thousand! Just give me an api to play songs. I could even use your player if you’ll give me a method to play a song and let me know when it is done.


Your Biggest Fan

PS. Let’s make some $$$$ !!111!

And there are four years of replies saying,

Dear Biggest Fan,

We don’t have that API right now but I’ll mention it to product management and they’ll get right on it. Meanwhile we have this asinine JavaScript API. It doesn’t really do anything, but it’s what we have.



There was even one VC funded company that figured out a backdoor. The upside for Rhapsody was that they sent scads of new subscribers their way. The downside was that…no …wait…there was no downside. Anyway, someone at Rhapsody decided that they didn’t want all these new subscribers and set the lawyers on them.


I still check the forums for old times sake and there are still hopeful posts like this one:

Dear Rhapsody,

I love the new Flash Player. I see there is a sendMessage() method but I can’t figure out how to work it.


Another Huge Fan

and the reply pretty much says “Don’t be using the sendMessage() method or we’ll set the lawyers on you like those other people who wanted to help us make money.”

Makes you wonder.

Anyway. Fast forward to yesterday and I decided to make a start on my little project. I got stuck (as you do) and googled.

Instead of finding my answer, I found:

The Rhapsody subscription service, which is 51-percent owned by RealNetworks, lost approximately 50,000 of its 800,000 subscribers over the past three months

I went to the forums and found that they have just had big layoffs at Rhapsody. They are going to focus on their web services instead of client software. Oh. And they cancelled the affiliates program.

I wonder if they laid off the dude who decided that they didn’t want third party developers writing clients for their still excellent service?


napsterExhibit C: Napster just reduced their subscription service for all-you-can-eat music to $5 a month. They’ll even throw in 5 free mp3s of your choice. I was happy paying $15 a month to Rhapsody but if Napster’s client is even a tiny bit better, I am switching.

Exhibit D: I use my Sansa to play Rhapsody in the car. It’s pretty crap, but there aren’t too many choices. I’d soooo get an ipod if Apple had a subscription service (or let me use rhapsody).

g1Exhibit E: Napster works on the G1.

Exhibit F: I have been wishing I had a camera.

I don’t need too many exhibits to know that the times are a-changin’ and I might be finally ready to get a phone that costs more that $12, that has a camera and that plays music from a subscription service.

But you can’t rush into these things. I need to mull over the idea for a while. Maybe the interwebs will help me make up my mind.

I’ll finish my Flex app but instead of having it drive Rhapsody, I’ll make it drive the Most Excellent Squeezebox because the nice people at SlimDevices know that, if you have a great product, you don’t need to write all the software for it. Expose some useful APIs and The People will do the rest.