No FOSS for Spotify

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Just as the excitement started to hot up, first with the news that the controversial and increasingly popular legal free streaming music service Spotify was to open up with the release of a third party developer API, and then with the actual announcement of the availability of Libspotify itself, so the reality of the situation pours cold water upon it. What the heck am I talking about? Well, Spotify is perfectly poised to cash in on the potential gap that might open up in the online music market as first Apple, and now Amazon, introduce 'variable rate' pricing for downloads. As most consumers will tell you, variable rate usually means the good stuff will cost more and the old rubbish less. Spotify has the advantage of coming with just one rate for everything, and that is free.

It is the perfect time, then, for Spotify to start to broaden its appeal by allowing third party developers to write applications for the service and create a whole raft of new features and functionality while truly opening up Spotify as a viable contender for the title of numero uno online music platform.

The trouble is, the whole Libspotify API (initially with support just for Linux on IA-32) comes with conditions attached which make it anything but open and hardly likely to propel it out of the iTunes shadow. For a start there is the small restriction that means the applications built by those third party developers will only be available to Spotify Premium members, that is those ones who pay a monthly fee in order to remove the advertising that subsidies the free service. But it is the free service consumers who have provided Spotify with the high profile it is starting to enjoy, and those very same users who are now being told they cannot enjoy the spoils of that success. Nice way to alienate users, methinks.

But far more problematical, I reckon, will be another set of restrictions. Namely those set out in the Libspotify terms of use which for starters forbid any "attempt to embed or integrate the API into any website or otherwise allow access to the Service via the web rather than via the Application" and to finish with make this a very closed source affair with no real hope of allowing any FOSS applications to emerge and flourish. While Spotify may well talk of user empowerment and how Libspotify will "encourage the developer community to expand our service" I cannot help but think that ignoring the potential of the open source community to take it to the next step with regards to being out there and getting real grass roots support is a massive mistake.