Firefox extension for Allmusic
August 3, 2004 5:41 PM   Subscribe

Last month, people voiced their disappointment with AllMusic's for-the-worse facelift, and a week later someone at wrote a Mozilla Firefox extension that "routs around the damage" and allows for cleaner browsing. Some are pondering the legal consequences.
posted by dhoyt (29 comments total)
Wow, I hadn't seen the earlier thread. I'm glad I'm not the only one pissed at the nonfunctionality of the new AMG vis a vis Firefox.

Seems to work better now anyway, but I still don't think I like it. I'll check this out.
posted by nath at 5:53 PM on August 3, 2004

Allmusic fixed their new design to work with Firefox, Opera, etc. after getting completely hammered when they launched the site. Loads of sites linked to it to say "it's teh borken in everything except IE" -- their server went down a few times that day, and they probably got lots of emails about supporting other browsers too.

They released a statement at the time, which they've since removed from their site, but here's part of it that I saved:

"Optimizing a site of allmusic's complexity and size for all browsers and operating systems is no small feat. This isn't a simple "brochure-ware" site of static pages. While we would love to optimize the AMG sites for all browsers and all operating systems, we simply don't have the necessary resources to do so. Despite some users flattering comparison of our site with that of Google, Amazon and Yahoo!, we are a small company with limited resources. So, we had to pick the most widely used browser by our users (over 87%) to optimize the site for and then work on compatibility issues with the other major browsers as we go forward.

We are concentrating on making the site more accessible through Opera, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari. We know how important it is to our users and we're moving quickly."

The new design seems to work pretty decently now... I'm not sure why you'd use an extension to fix a site that is no longer really broken.
posted by reklaw at 6:04 PM on August 3, 2004

Yeah, but their statement's crap. No one's asking for "all" browsers or OSes, just a reasonable sample of what people are using nowadays. If, in the process, you could avoid pretending like IE6 on Windows XP is the only setup anyone uses, that'd be great.
posted by yerfatma at 6:11 PM on August 3, 2004

The folks at NTK have been following the stories of several guerilla redesigns of noxious British websites recently.
posted by gimonca at 6:18 PM on August 3, 2004

Register version of the same tales.
posted by gimonca at 6:23 PM on August 3, 2004

The new design seems to work pretty decently now...

Really? Then why does it take almost twice as many clicks as it did before to get to basic information like an album review for a particular artist? By what standard of browsing does that count as a freaking improvement?
posted by mediareport at 6:24 PM on August 3, 2004

I thought that it was my computer that couldn't handle AMG! In hindsight, what a silly thing to think. Anyway, I still can't use AMG with any degree of speed, even after disabling many of the scripts and ads with adblock. I'll give this new extension a try since I rely heavily on the site and refuse to give up my firefox. Still disappointed with AMG though - they certainly could have made it easier to navigate, and frankly, the previous design was much better than the current one. Oh for the good old days.
posted by ashbury at 6:36 PM on August 3, 2004

By what standard of browsing does that count as a freaking improvement?

I guess you were just used to the old design. That sucked just as hard, but it was uglier.
posted by reklaw at 6:40 PM on August 3, 2004

I disagree, the old design was much better in that there were fewer click-thrus to get to the content.

Anyway, the extension doesn't help with the speed of the site at all. Too bad.
posted by ashbury at 6:46 PM on August 3, 2004

I guess you were just used to the old design.


For years, I was a technical writer whose job included talking with programmers and Web designers about streamlining and clarifying their code so that end users had a smoother and more efficient experience. I was honestly stunned at the inefficiency of the new Allmusic design, and can only believe they fell prey to the "more clicks at all costs" mentality that's affected so many other sites. It's sad, and in no way an improvement.
posted by mediareport at 7:05 PM on August 3, 2004

Where exactly have all these extra clicks been added? As far as I can see, there's one extra click (on "discography") to get to what I'm looking for -- but now the design doesn't make me go "eww", and a lot of the confusion that seemed to rule in the old design has been removed. I don't understand why people find the new design so annoying, now that it actually works, so I'm just chalking it up to resistance to change.
posted by reklaw at 7:14 PM on August 3, 2004

fixing the design to work with firefox still doesnt fix the fact that its a terrible and confusing redesign. who even uses the "like the stooges only more melodic" bs anyways?
posted by Satapher at 7:21 PM on August 3, 2004

Satapher, you read enough band bios, your eyes go buggy from reading the ugliest descriptions of what someone obviously thinks is music that language can provide.

These people are begging to be better described. You think I'm kidding.

And until that happens in a large-scale way, then the search function on AMG or its similar siblings is always going to be a little inaccurate.
posted by chicobangs at 7:41 PM on August 3, 2004

i just dont understand why they have to make it so complicated.... its a disease that so many developers have...

just cause you can, doesnt mean you have to, or should.

i guess everyone uses AMG differently -- im mostly interested in Discographies
posted by Satapher at 7:50 PM on August 3, 2004

Anyone want to fix
posted by NortonDC at 8:16 PM on August 3, 2004

I'm not sure why you'd use an extension to fix a site that is no longer really broken.

The extension allows you to open up links in new tabs.

That alone makes it worth it's weight in gold.
posted by signal at 8:28 PM on August 3, 2004

Where exactly have all these extra clicks been added?

You're kidding, right? Here's an example torn from real life: I saw an Etta Jones CD - 1960's "Don't Go To Strangers" - in a used record shop in Raleigh last week. Since I know nothing about her, I decide to check Allmusic before shelling out $8. I go home, type the familiar url and encounter the horrid gray-on-gray of the new design for the first time. Immediately, I feel a much less friendly vibe. I mean, *gray on gray*? Puh-lease.

Anyway, I type "Etta Jones" into the search field, click "go" (#1) and get the first 7 lines of a Scott Yanow bio, with an inducement to "Read More." Under the previous design, I'd have been able, on this page, to not only read the whole bio but also scroll down to links to Jones' first few records, including "Don't Go To Strangers," which means I'd have learned about her career *and* gotten the review I wanted in just two clicks. That's no longer the case. Instead, I'm asked to click to "Read More" (#2), which gets a few more lines of biography, without any links to the individual albums. I then have to move my attention back *up* the page to the discography link, click (#3), and then click again (#4) to get to a review of the album I'm interested in.

I'm surprised this isn't obvious to you, reklaw. There's only one reason for this kind of redesign, hon: Money. The only method advertisers know for measuring value is clicks of the mouse, which means site after site after site (Salon, NYT, etc) has made a conscious decision to screw basic user-friendliness in favor of clunky decision trees that increase so-called "hits." From a pure design standpoint, the development is disgusting. At a site like Allmusic, the shift to such a pathetically money-driven design is cause for massive disappointment.

I'm happy to see the links (in this thread and the previous one) to alternative sites. None of us should take this kind of crap from any company that purports to appreciate the value of the Web.
posted by mediareport at 10:54 PM on August 3, 2004

Thanks for this.

I recoiled in horror at the new Allmusic.
posted by rudyfink at 10:55 PM on August 3, 2004

...then click again (#4) to get to a review of the album I'm interested in.

Which page, it should be noted, requres *yet another* click to "Read More" (another 4 whole lines!) of the full review.

I'm sorry for being blunt, but this is utter horseshit design.
posted by mediareport at 11:01 PM on August 3, 2004

You read the reviews? That would explain why I didn't notice, I guess. It does seem that your entire complaint can be summed up as "I don't like the 'read more' thing", though.
posted by reklaw at 11:31 PM on August 3, 2004

and *whimper* it doesn't work on our computers at work anymore which means no more casual clicking in order to find the obscure side project you never knew existed.
posted by redsparkler at 12:40 AM on August 4, 2004

Claiming "we have to optimize for IE then adjust for everything else" is the most pathetic excuse in the book.

It simply is not true. Hasn't been for years.

There are basic principals on the use of HTML (hell, even DHTML and Javascript) that work cross-browser. These days you have to make some pretty serious, almost deliberate mistakes in your coding to produce a site that works on IE and fails on others. Unless you need to use ActiveX controls (and a pretty simple database driven website like this website like this wouldn't) or something like that, there's nothing IE can do that Mozilla can't, and there's nothing those browsers can do that Opera can't if you know what you're doing. All the fancy code in Allmusic is server-side - it takes some deliberate fucking up around to make the client-side incompatible.
posted by Jimbob at 1:36 AM on August 4, 2004

your entire complaint can be summed up as "I don't like the 'read more' thing"

Now you're just being obtuse. I'm out.
posted by mediareport at 5:29 AM on August 4, 2004

The new design seems to work pretty decently now...

Well, I'm using Firefox 9.1 on a win xp box and the whole thing is still completely forked for me. It recognizes some of the links, but no the ones to members of the band, similar music, etc. Also, it's horribly slow and the basic search comes up dead half the time. And there must be some weirdness with that login bar on the top because I keep seeing it differently messed up every time I go to the home page and wait five minutes for it load.

In fact this is giving me disturbing dialup flashbacks. I really wish there was a decent alternative. freedb is great but doens't have any reviews or links to similar. And all the other ones seem to be about electronic music, for which I do not care a rodent's nutsack.

And you know what? While I was writing this, I was waiting for it to load another test search, and this time the genres, members, etc ARE clickable. So now instead of telling you that you can't use it because of your browser, it's randomly becoming useless with no warning.

Way to redesign yourself into irrelevancy, allmusic. Bravo!
posted by lumpenprole at 6:43 AM on August 4, 2004

count me in with the naysayers. formerly, i used the site extensively. now, i use google. or (blush), but that's only b/c my friend works there.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:48 AM on August 4, 2004

Which do you think makes more money for AMG, the free website, or the paid-subscriptions for direct DB access they sell to other businesses?

I suspect that what we are seeing here is one very bored guy in the webteam doing something/anything to justify his continued existence...
posted by nomisxid at 10:51 AM on August 4, 2004

In Firefox 0.9.2 I haven't been able to get to album credits since the redesign, not even with the plugin. I am prompted to log in, but I am just taken back to the front page, over and over and over ... (and yes, I have cookies enabled).

As a former web developer myself I can appreciate that they made a business decision to put IE users first, but as Jimbob said there's absolutely no need to exclude other modern browsers. Just write standard code, for heaven's sake (maybe they're just not interested in learning how?). The main reason stuff like this happens is that development goes on and on and on without anyone ever trying out the site in another browser.
posted by Songdog at 12:08 PM on August 4, 2004

Songdog: I've been able to see the credits (same version of Firefox) using a login from
posted by kenko at 1:44 PM on August 4, 2004

You read the reviews?

Man, some of those reviews are real crap. To pick two of my favorite albums as examples (which should only take 10 or 12 clicks to get the information I want...)

On the Flaming Lips' The Soft Bulletin: "[N]ot just the best album of 1999, The Soft Bulletin might be the best record of the entire decade." Apparently beign the best album of the decade only warrants 4 1/2 stars out of 5. Also, it isn't even the AMG pick for a Flaming Lips album.

On Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea: "[T]he songs are far too cryptic and abstract to fully sink in -- In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is undoubtedly a major statement, but just what it's saying is anyone's guess." What do you mean? It's freakin' about Anne Frank and the Holocaust! I think if you listen closely enough you can pretty damn well get what it's saying, and if you're getting paid to review the album for a major website, you sure as hell better be listening closely.
posted by nath at 3:17 PM on August 4, 2004

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