SpiralFrog Goes Live

Let’s start with the good news about SpiralFrog: it’s free, and it’s faster than LimeWire.

The ad-sponsored music download service began an invitation-only launch earlier this month. I’ve had a little time to play around with it, and it’s not half bad. It requires a Windows Media Player 11 plug-in, which took a bit of finessing to configure in Firefox (you have to do a somewhat hiccup-y manual install). It’s easier with IE; the steps install a system tray “download manager” that’s a bit cryptic on its face. All playback occurs in Windows Media Player.

I located Weezer’s “We Are All On Drugs” and clicked the download icon, got past the bot guard and the tune came over in about a minute. All songs, regardless of length, take the same amount of time – it’s assumed you’ll stare at the on-screen ads while waiting. However, if you alt-tab to another program, the download will continue. Based on reports when SpiralFrog was first announced last year, I expected a screen switch would pause the file transfer.

The only real limitation is the one-at-a-time rule, and of course the 30-day life of the file. I’ll have to wait a month to see what happens when song licenses start expiring.

The music “library” is the most annoying facet of SpiralFrog. I searched for John Lennon, found “Plastic Ono Band” and clicked through to find track listings, but no download links. Oops, the record isn’t available, but that’s only apparent after five wasted clicks. At least Rhapsody filters out albums it doesn’t offer.

There’s a lot of information in the artist biography sections, including some lengthy reviews. That’s nice.

I’ll write more as I learn more, but for the moment, I give Spiral Frog a better than passing grade. The songs are free, and the ad watching experience isn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared.