Soundcloud has long been a favorite tool among sound creators — it currently has the 15 million users to prove it — however, it has never really been that strong of a social network. Well, if a new update to the service is any indication, that’s all about to change.
Since its inception back in 2008, SoundCloud has done everything from roll out apps for Android and iOS to partner with a variety of companies in order to make it easier to share sound around the web.
Still, when it comes to the service itself, it has always seemed more like a distribution platform than a place to stay and listen to tunes. Wednesday, though, we began to see a shift in that MO when Soundcloud rolled out a brand-new version of its web app titled The Next Soundcloud.
With additions like new profile pages, continuous play, playlisting abilities and notifications, it’s clear that Soundcloud wants users to stay on the site — and not just to upload songs and distribute them elsewhere.
For years now, tech pundits have been wondering when a site will come along to replace the much-embattled Myspace — a destination where musicians and fans alike can share, create, discover and listen to new jams. Facebook has been bandied about quite a lot lately in discussions about a possible substitution — especially after it more deeply integrated with music subscription services like Spotify and Rdio last year. However, that network is obviously “social” first, “music” — well, not even second. Music is just one part of the experience. Which means MySpace’s throne is still essentially empty.
Well, judging by the tweaks that Soundcloud launched this week, the young company could be ready to ascend to the ranks of social network royalty pretty soon.
Check out the new — much more social — digs below:
The new Soundcloud homepage is much less cluttered and more readable than the previous iteration. The main stream features all activity from users you follow organized under three umbrellas: Stream (recent activity), You (your activity) and Explore (basically the old dashboard — tracks, groups, you, etc). It might take a bit of getting used to for users who are accustomed to having all that info right out there in the open, but in the end it’s much less overwhelming to click through to access more content.
Together, these changes make for a much easier user experience, making the site more browsable than simply utilitarian — a must when you’re looking to keep people from getting overwhelmed and clicking away.
More Facebook-esque Profiles
You know how when Facebook Timeline kicked in, all a user’s info was moved to the top of the page? The same is true on Soundcloud. Previously, the profiles were a bit cluttered — the user’s “About” section was all crowded over to the left (along with links to their relevant social profiles), and tracks, sets, comments, favorites and all communication options (sharing tracks, messages, etc) were crammed under the profile picture. Now, the page is much easier to wade through — all bio info is at the top next to very prominent “Message” and “Follow” buttons. Clicking on a “follower” icon will reveal info like comments, favorites etc. Other info — like who that user is following and “friends” in common — is located on the left side of the page.
The focus here is clearly on interacting with the user — hence the prominence of the “Message” button and the addition of mutual friends.
It would be nice if the profile image were bigger on the profile page than in the stream. Or, to take the Facebookification further, users could add an attractive cover image.
Take a look at the brand-new waveform, Soundcloud’s signature feature. Here you can see the aforementioned bigger profile picture, as well as a more dynamic, attractive waveform. In the past, users had to mouse over every comment at the bottom of the waveform in order to see what other users had to say about a track. Now, users can click to read all comments in a drop-down menu. This new view focuses more on conversation and will likely engage more users inclined toward discussion.
With this update, Soundcloud has taken a page from Tumblr’s book, allowing users to repost sounds and sets that they enjoy to their own streams. This move — in addition to the pre-existing ability to comment, send messages, etc — definitely takes Soundcloud more toward the realm of “social network” than “backend sound platform.” It also increases the visibility of user content within the site.
You’re nobody until somebody loves you — so why not be notified as soon as possible? Now, when another user follows you, likes a sound, or reposts your content, you’ll get a notification in real time. Very smart, Soundcloud — everyone knows that colorful notifications are like Internet crack.
Soundcloud also shows you which other users are online via your homefeed now, so you can anticipate which of your friends will be doling out the “likes.” All that’s missing is a “Chat” feature — at least for now.
Never Stop Listening
This is basically our favorite new Soundcloud feature — now, when you start listening to a sound, it will keep playing even if you click around the site. Awesome move, but we think Soundcloud could do more. Right now, when you navigate away from the original waveform, the only option you have is to silence the track by clicking on an icon at the top of the page, or to turn the volume up or down. You can’t rewind, fastforward or pause a track. This seems like an oversight. Perhaps a pop-out player is in order? Or at least a player that runs along the bottom of the page.
Now you can create playlists from user content — or what Soundcloud is calling “Sets.” Instead of simply saving tracks to “Favorites,” you can now create entire themed collections of sound. Again, this move makes Soundcloud much more like a social network than just a tool for content creators — now users can go through and organize tunes for easy listenability. Users can also share sets and like and repost their friends’ collections.
The new Soundcloud is still in private Beta. Sign up here.