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Pandora revamps website, now offers unlimited music for free [Update]

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Update with comments from Pandora below.

Facing stiff competition from the likes of Spotify and MOG, Internet radio pioneer Pandora announced today its official launch of a completely revamped web interface. In addition to the new UI, the company says it has also removed the 40-hour listening cap, meaning unlimited music for all users, regardless of whether they have a paid subscription to the service.

Pandora’s completely overhauled website is now powered by HTML 5, which makes the UI “more responsive, easier to use” than the company’s past web experience, according to the press release. And, we have to say, they’re right.

The site is now super-polished. Once logged in, a new toolbar appears at the top of the screen, with play, pause, and skip buttons, as well as “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” voting buttons. The name of the song currently playing, along with artist name, album name and cover art also appear in the right corner. On the left side, users can type in the name of song or artist from the provided search tool, which will automatically generate a new station based on the selection.

Below, a left-hand sidebar shows a list of all a user’s stations. Beside that, a window showing album art from the playlist, which can be clicked to pause or play the music, or vote the currently-playing song up or down. Lyrics from the current song, as well as an “about the artist” section appear below that. For non-paying customers, ads appear on the right side.

The site revamp will soon include a number of new social features, as well, like a ticker-style “music feed,” which is intended to serve as “a centralized place to find, like and comment on what friends and like-minded listeners are discovering and enjoying on Pandora.” Individual stations will also now have their own URL, making it easier to share with others through social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter.

Now that anyone gets unlimited free music, it is not yet clear whether Pandora will maintain its Pandora One subscription service, which was previously the only way to remove the 40-hour cap. Pandora One also removes all advertising or the site, and makes it possible for users to skip as many songs as they like each day. Unpaid users have thus far been limited to a certain number of skips per day.

Pandora did not immediately respond to our request for comment on the service overhaul. We will update this page when we hear back.

UPDATE: Pandora Corporate Communications Manager Amanda Conti has given us a bit more insight into the motivation behind the site overhaul, and the discontinuation of the 40-hour listening limit. See her full response below:

Digital Trends: Will Pandora continue to offer the Pandora One paid subscription service? If so, what features will paying users receive that non-paying users won’t?

Pandora: Pandora will continue to offer the Pandora One service. Pandora One subscribers enjoy unique benefits,  including no ads of any kind, higher audio quality and other features such as easy access through a desktop application and customization options.

Did Pandora choose to offer unlimited free music in response to competition from other services, like MOG, Spotify and Rdio? How does Pandora believe the changes to its user interface, as well as the offering of unlimited free music, will effect the streaming music market.

Pandora is focused on personalized radio and it’s clear that the transition to this personalized radio via the Internet is happening. Listeners are flocking to this listening experience and advertisers are following suit. We pioneered a new form of radio and have utilized HTML5 to redesign and enhance our site to reflect that same essence of personalized radio that is exciting, full of new discoveries, engaging – something our listeners feel passionate about. We want to make sure people have as much time as possible to enjoy the enhanced features on the new site so the listening cap has been lifted and we’re staying firm to our commitment of making sure people hear exactly what they want to hear on Pandora depending on their individual taste.

Will the updates to the Pandora website change the type, and amount of, advertising users see and hear on the site? If so, how will this aspect of the user experience change?

The redesigned Pandora site offers a host of new HTML5 enabled advertising products and opportunities for brands including additional screen real estate, simplified cross platform execution, bigger videos and enhanced social features. Advertisers can further leverage the Pandora personal radio experience to connect directly with listeners who will experience more visually compelling ads that are easier than ever to interact with. Full details can be found here: http://blog.pandora.com/archives/press/2011/09/redesigned_pand.html

For pictures of the new Pandora check out New Pandora Radio website redesign.

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