Grooveshark releases HTML5 mobile app

Music streaming service embraces web standards for mobile

Following in the footsteps of the likes of the FT and Kobo, Grooveshark has unveiled a beta version of an HTML5 mobile app.

Since its inception, the music-streaming service has come under increased legal pressure, largely over licensing rows. Native apps were pulled from both the iOS App Store and Android Market, and the company is currently being sued by EMI (Reuters) and other labels (Gizmodo). However, the new web app again makes the service readily available for mobile users, enabling them to search for music, listen to 'stations' and browse popular tunes. Background audio worked nicely in iOS when we tested the beta.

Paul Geller, Grooveshark SVP External Affairs, told .net that the HTML5 app actually arrived from the annual 'Grooveshark Challenge', which sees the company break into small mixed teams comprising designers, developers and business-relations staff: "We work on a project of our choosing. The HTML5 project was developed from inception to completion in about 60 days as one team's contribution. We were all pretty wowed by it and decided it was baked enough for a beta release. It was not part of a development roadmap – just a great project by a great bunch of sharks that deserved to see the light of day."

However, Geller said that the app will nonetheless benefit users on mobile that can't currently access the service: "While you can still get official Grooveshark applications on jailbroken iPhones, Android phones and others, the HTML5 app is a great way to listen on a wider variety of devices. We're even told that it works on a lot of devices we hadn't foreseen it working on such as the Windows Mobile 7 Mango releases." Geller also stated that Grooveshark remains confident it will "be back in the app stores in one form or another" in the future, in response to our question as to the company being 'forced' to go down the HTML5 route.

When we asked developer Matt Gemmell for his thoughts on Grooveshark's new app, he reiterated previous comments about user-experience: "People prefer focused experiences, and apps that are truly at home on their platform. All other things being equal, HTML5 web sites will remain a compromise rather than a true substitute for a fully native experience." And on Grooveshark specifically, in terms of how it's ended up avoiding walled gardens, he said: "A decision about implementation/deployment technologies should be taken for the right reasons – technical suitability, development efficiency, target market and general commercial viability." He suggested that 'circumvention' would "almost never enter into the equation".