December 4, 2005 9:00 PM PST

RealNetworks moves Rhapsody to the Web

RealNetworks' core music subscription service is migrating onto the Web on Monday, in a move that includes some of the first fruits of its recent antitrust settlement with Microsoft.

The company is creating a new version of its Rhapsody digital music service that will let people search and listen to its catalog of songs from a Web page, instead of requiring them to download software. Along with that new version, Microsoft will begin promoting Rhapsody over the next week through its Media Player software and on the MSN Music site.

RealNetworks executives hope the new version, in conjunction with a previous offer allowing people to listen to 25 songs for free, will make it easier for Web surfers to understand what a subscription music service is all about.

"Prior to downloading the software, people don't know what the experience is," said Dan Sheehan, the company's senior vice president of consumer services. "It's like the TiVo problem. Until you experience it, you don't get it."

RealNetworks' move is part of a broader drive to make music services more accessible on Web pages, rather than through the downloadable software that is typical of most music stores and subscription plans today. Companies are hoping they can reach an audience that has so far stayed away from paying for digital music, by making their products simpler to find and launch from any Web browser.

America Online, which recently purchased Circuit City's MusicNow division, is developing a new Web-based subscription plan, for example. Napster also recently said it will begin offering more music though its Web site.

"People use the Web and search tools to find more music," GartnerG2 analyst Mike McGuire said. "If (companies) can provide that easy entryway--that showroom to try the services out before buying--it is an important step."

The new online version of Rhapsody will have most, but not all, of the features of the downloadable older version, which will still be available. Unlike the older version, it will also be compatible with Macintosh and Linux-based computers, however.

Listeners will be able to search the database of 1.4 million songs and make a playlist of up to 25 songs for free. Playing the songs will pop up a small music player in a separate window.

Paying subscribers to the service can listen to unlimited amounts of music through the Web-based version. However, they will not have the same ability to download songs to their hard drives or MP3 players, or manage the other music on their computers.

RealNetworks is also hoping that other Web sites, from music magazines to MP3 bloggers, will post links to the service. The company is providing a way to link directly to individual songs through this Web-based platform, so that a blogger might allow visitors to listen to a favorite song for free by popping up the Rhapsody player.

The direct link to songs will initially be demonstrated on the RollingStone.com site, which is operated by RealNetworks.

Microsoft's role in promoting Rhapsody remains small for now, without the direct links inside the MSN Messenger service that the two companies showed off in October. Those features will likely appear by mid-2006, RealNetworks executives have said.

8 comments

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I assume
That we're going to have to use Real Player to listen to any songs we've bought. May I just ask..Who here actually still use Real Player???
Posted by Gerry1981 (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I STILL USE REALPLAYER
Realplayer is a true cross platform streaming protocol. Forget the mp3 music crap. The best sound for the money for the MASSES is still good ol red book audio based CD's. The RIAA and major computer software vendors have turned the MP3 situation into a confusing mess for consumers. If CD's were priced @ $8.99-10.99 very few folks would even bother with any of these services. What's important about Realplayer is that it is available as a server and a client on Unix,Linux Windows and Apple platforms. Windows media players and servers aren't. Although you can find alternative players for windows media on other platforms when Microsoft updates or changes formats you may be out of luck for a small period of time until your player gets updated with a new codec.
Posted by Captain-Atari (80 comments )
Link Flag
More stupidity from Real
"Paying subscribers to the service can listen to unlimited amounts of music through the Web-based version. However, they will not have the same ability to download songs to their hard drives or MP3 players, or manage the other music on their computers."

Y'know, it's like RealNetworks wakes up every morning and says "How can we possibly suck more?" I suppose this is in accord with Rhapsody's current "Owning music is stupid" ad campaign.

Just simply amazing...
Posted by willcate (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I can't believe.....
... that RealNetworks is still in business. No one I know uses any
Real product, I almost never encounter encounter any .rm files.
I've yet to hear any positive comment on Real and it's products/
services. And my own experience with Real some time ago
convinced me never to try again.

There are too many good companies around to ever bother with
Real.
Posted by Earl Benser (4310 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Doomed
With their suspicious manners and lack of respect fot their customers, RealNetwork is on its last breath. They will learn the hard way. Their products suck and more and more people know that.
Posted by petersider (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I'm confused
I tried Rhapsody since it was offered free to Comcast subscribers. The whole Rhapsody/RealNetworks schmear is too confusing to try and keep up with. Now this old subscribers can't do that, new subscribers can do this, or whatever, makes me really happy I didn't subscribe to their schtik. I don't care about MP3--want good audio--and like the buy one song as I hate to spend good money for a whole CD just to get one or two decent songs, but I haven't found any service worth my money.
Posted by kenny-J (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Rhapsody
I have never used real player unless I was forced to but I have been using Rhapsody since it's launch and I really like the service. The few files I have bought are not in mp3 format and were easy to burn. I think what they're doing is providing a web portal to those who just want to login via the web and but in so doing you limit the functionality you can provide because of the limitations of the portal, not the service. The downloadable interface will remain the same.
They are just trying to make it more accessable to people who just want to check it out without having to download and install some software. I probably wont use the web interface but only because I already have the software installed and have no reason to complain.
Posted by (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
go real!
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/lincoln_town_car_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/lincoln_town_car_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by 208774626618253979477959487856 (176 comments )
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