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Pandora overhauls site amid Web music boom

Doug Gross, CNN
Pandora founder Tom Conrad speaks at this year's TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
Pandora founder Tom Conrad speaks at this year's TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pandora music streaming site rolls out major overhaul
  • Site gets new look, retooled controls and a new focus on social interaction
  • The 40-hour per month cap on free listening was also removed
  • The changes come as sites like Spotify, Turntable.fm and even Facebook enter online music

(CNN) -- Pandora, the music-streaming service that's a soundtrack for many a desk-bound music lover, rolled out a slate of changes Wednesday, even as a host of up-and-comers are emerging in the online music space.

"New Pandora," according to a post on the music service's blog, is "more responsive, easier to use, and better integrated with the friends and music lovers in your life."

"For the last two months we've been gradually rolling a preview of the new site out to our listeners, taking their feedback, fixing bugs and making improvements here and there," Tom Conrad, Pandora's founder, said in the post. "With all those little fixes and refinements in place, today we're rolling out the new site for everyone."

Among the new features on the site, which uses what creators call the "Music Genome Project" to predict users' tastes based on the songs they've already liked, are:

-- Simplified station creation

-- A bigger focus on social interaction. Enhanced user profiles let friends "like" or comment on what they've been listening to and share songs or stations with friends on Pandora as well as on Facebook, Twitter and other networking sites.

-- More information about the song that's playing and its artist -- including lyrics and detailed biographies.

-- Removing the 40-hour per month listening cap to let users listen for as long as they want for free. (An "abuse prevention limit" of 320 hours a month still exists, so if you plan to listen for more than 13 entire days, watch out).

The social changes will roll out to users over the next few days, according to the blog post. Users may edit what others can see using Pandora's privacy settings page.

The changes also place ads more prominently on Pandora's pages. As of July, Pandora had 100 million registered users and 36 million monthly active users.

Eric Mac of PCWorld gave the Pandora overhaul high marks.

"The new design certainly feels a lot less 2005," he wrote. "It has a clearer, more intuitive user interface that includes a large control bar at the top of the screen with the familiar play, next track, thumbs up, and thumbs down buttons. Loading times do seem faster, although not always instantaneous as promised."

The overhaul comes as sites like Spotify and turntable.fm have emerged as hot new commodities in the increasingly crowded online music space.

And Facebook is expected to unveil a free music service as early as Thursday -- potentially leveraging its massive user base as an audience.

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