Site-specific browser extension: All Music Guide

Written by Adrian Holovaty on July 19, 2004

Lots of people are talking about All Music Guide's for-the-worse redesign. Here's an initial attempt at fixing it -- routing around the damage, so to speak.

I've written an extension for Mozilla Firefox that, when installed, alters the display and functionality of allmusic.com. Specifically, it does the following:

(If you have any ideas about what else the extension could do, please post a comment here or contact me. One idea I've had since I wrote it yesterday is to expand the length of the "Song title" table cell on album pages.)

To install the extension, just click the following link while using Mozilla Firefox 0.9+. It might work in 0.8, but I haven't tested it.

Then, restart your browser, and you're all set. Pretty easy, eh? You can uninstall it later in Firefox's handy extension manager.

A few tiny bugs exist -- namely that the extension makes the allmusic.com home-page link colors a bit funky -- but it's intended as a proof-of-concept more than anything else. To my knowledge, using browser extensions to "fix" Web sites, or add extra functionality, is unexplored territory.

There's a huge potential here. Site-specific Firefox extensions are an elegant, one-click-install solution to the problem of, well, lousy Web interfaces -- a problem Web users have had to shut up and deal with for as long as the Web has been around.

Let's do more of these things.

UPDATE, Oct. 15 -- I've updated the extension to work with Firefox Version 1.0 Preview Release. Thanks to everybody for the continued comments.

Comments

Posted by John Roberts on July 20, 2004 at 12:53 a.m.:

Why not use MP3.com (http://www.mp3.com) as Veen suggested?

I'm not much of a music fan, so not experienced with either site.

I think this is a cool idea, but how many sites are worth routing around the damage for? If I ran such a site, and I found such an extension (for a legit problem), I'd be in a hurry to change things.

Posted by Levi on July 20, 2004 at 1:15 a.m.:

Thanks, Adrian. Once again, your AMG fixes come in very handy.

I'm still using Firefox 0.8 (or maybe 0.8+), but almost everything seems to work fine for me. The "read more" and almost all the links work (there are a few on the front page that act a bit strange now, but not any that are a problem).

I did notice a strange error with the "Explore by" column and everything under it (it's all scrunched together vertically) on the site's front page, but otherwise the extension works well in 0.8.

Posted by Andy Baio on July 20, 2004 at 10:59 a.m.:

MP3.com is a limited subset of the complete AMG database.

Posted by Adam Bramwell on July 20, 2004 at 12:21 p.m.:

That's powerful stuff. I especially noticed the inconvenience in the new site of only receiving tidbits of information, then having to wait for a full new page rather than using something dynamic. Why don't more sites use DHTML it's got great applications. Just look at the IHT.com website.

Regardless of the interface issues, the content on allmusic is still great.

Posted by marc MonGo on July 20, 2004 at 3:39 p.m.:

Scott Harding is listed not on Mp3.com in any relevant way. If I can't find Scott Harding then the problem is not solved. Was allmusic.com really that good? What happened to Scott Harding, patient zero for allmusic casualties. Maybe I am nit-picking but I used this thing daily and for professional purposes.

And like looking up "thaumaturge" in the dictionary, if I can't find Scott Harding–listed EXTENSIVELY–on a music reference website, then I know I am dealing with a subordinate resource.

Posted by scott on July 20, 2004 at 5:31 p.m.:

I really like how the "Read More..." links have been transormed on the album reviews. Is this possible for artist Bios as well?

Posted by Adrian on July 20, 2004 at 5:52 p.m.:

Scott: Those links on artist bios should already be transformed. If it's not working for you, can you post an example of an artist detail page on which the transformation doesn't work?

Posted by john on July 20, 2004 at 7:07 p.m.:

awesome--thanks

Posted by nipsey russell on July 20, 2004 at 11:02 p.m.:

i'm so excited that someone tried to fix this abomination that i'm posting my thanks even before trying this! If it works, great....if not, oh well fight the "power"! These AMG clowns need to get taught a lesson!

Posted by nipsey russell on July 20, 2004 at 11:19 p.m.:

alright! its a start

you get a hug

Posted by Adrian on July 21, 2004 at 3:11 a.m.:

John: I'm totally with you on the "if someone did this to my site, I'd hurry to fix it" sentiment. Some sites have different priorities, I guess. The All Music folks corresponded with Andy at waxy.org and brushed aside some complaints.

Of course, I should mention that the goal of the extension is to become obsolete. When (if) allmusic.com fixes some of its UI shortcomings, the plugin becomes irrelevant and everybody wins.

Posted by richard on July 21, 2004 at 1:29 p.m.:

thanks man, it's much appreciated!

Posted by Rick Fletcher on July 22, 2004 at 2:35 a.m.:

Regarding the extension becoming obsolete: the javascript links fixed by the extension appeared a good two years ago. I doubt they'll be corrected on AllMusic's end any time soon. (They've been my most hated design choice since the day they made the change.)

Posted by Paul on July 22, 2004 at 6:30 p.m.:

Hey -- I'm using Firefox 1.0.2 on a Mac, and it's not working. It says it can't find the install script. D'oh!

I'm working (yes, working) with an old computer here (OS 8.6). And a subpoint about the new AMG -- it doesn't work with the latest IE for Macs.

What a joke! Thanks for the fixes.

Posted by O Kiefer on July 23, 2004 at 11:34 a.m.:

Hi there,

as much as I appreciate the work Adrian has done, I unfortunately still can't get the site working... The extension has been installed properly after rebooting Firefox (I use 0.9.1), but still the "Go"- and "Advanced Search"-Buttons don't do anything, neither do the java links. I am somehow stucked, and I'd be thankful for any hints :). BTW, with IE 6 it's all the same, though I've set it up just the way the AMG guys stated. I ain't got very much web design knowledge but am a pretty advanced PC user, I guess, so I really wonder what's the cause for the trouble I experience...

Posted by Lars Hvidberg on July 24, 2004 at 12:11 p.m.:

Hi.

The Allmusic-corrector seems very useful, but I still have the very same problem as O Kiefer. Any hints or suggestions?

Lars

Posted by Reni on July 27, 2004 at 10:48 a.m.:

hello to everybody

what about people like me that use normal internet explorer but not mozilla forefox? i was not online for a few weeks and now - unpleasant surprise ....i can't use "all music guide" at all ..........it informs me about errors all the time offering to debug them ... for me all music guide was very usefull but now ....... what will be your advice to me?

Posted by Adrian on July 27, 2004 at 11:35 a.m.:

Reni: My advice to you is to use Mozilla Firefox.

Posted by Bryan on July 27, 2004 at 3:10 p.m.:

"I've written an extension for Mozilla Firefox that, when installed, alters the display and functionality of allmusic.com."

So in other words, you've decided to rework a website in your browser of choice to your liking based on things you've found "horrible" and "annoying" and inconvenient, and then offer it to others who are of the same opinion????

Wow, seems to me we've seriously crossed the line with this one.....

Posted by Adrian on July 27, 2004 at 3:32 p.m.:

Bryan: Yup, your rewording of my statement is accurate.

Posted by Bryan on July 27, 2004 at 4:33 p.m.:

Just curious how you might feel if I offered people an extension in Safari that hid the comments on this page because I found them "horrible" and "annoying" (mine excluded of course :-)

I think you are wise to be consulting w/your legal representatives.....

Posted by jillofspeed on July 27, 2004 at 4:43 p.m.:

Bryan: I don't think you don't get it. Some of us use this site EVERY day. It was great, it worked well enough all the time, and it became my number one reliable source for immediate music info... It's a big problem that it doesn't work. And who knows when they will ever get it fixed? Better to light a single candle than to sit and curse the darkness, dontchya know. I think writing a workaround for now was a great idea.

Posted by Bryan on July 27, 2004 at 4:56 p.m.:

jillofspeed: I get it (or I don't....don't get it, or something).

Making a site work that entirely breaks is one thing - removing elements that you personally find annoying or unusable, from a company website that you have ZERO obligation to, ZERO relationship with, and ZERO understanding of their overall user base and long-term business goals/needs is something entirely different. From what I've gathered, this project falls in the latter category.

I think the Flash scroll-ad on ESPN is extremely annoying, and occasionally it locks up the site for me. Does that give me the right to kill it for myself and others under "site-specfic browsing" approach?? I say no.

I'm not flaming in any way, I'm simply stating that I believe this crosses an obviously very debatable line.

Posted by Adrian on July 27, 2004 at 6:09 p.m.:

Bryan: If you made a Safari extension that hid comments on this site, I'd think that was pretty cool. :-)

Unfortunately, I don't think many people would download it from you, because people tend to like the comments on this site. If you did create an extension that improved the browsing experience on this site, though, I'd thank you for bringing it to my attention, and I'd make the browsing-experience improvements myself to the "real" site, so everyone could benefit.

It's important to note that the All Music Guide extension doesn't take away from All Music. It adds to it; it makes it easier to browse and more enjoyable to use for readers who use tabbed browsing. As I've noted before, the goal of the extension is to become obsolete.

I certainly could see ethical (but not necessarily legal) problems with an extension that deliberately hid ads or otherwise took revenue away from a site. But problems with an extension that people voluntarily install to make a Web site more inviting? Nope.

It's certainly an interesting discussion topic, though, as you note. Thanks for the alternate view.

Posted by Bryan on July 27, 2004 at 6:45 p.m.:

It's very interesting and there is no correct answer - however, my point is that user preferences and issues with company sites should be expressed in certain ways, and not in others. Extensions such as these are a slippery slope that takes user interface design/control out of the designers' and programmers' hands - this is my primary issue with this.

Whether anyone would download my Safari extension is irrelevant - I have no business writing it because it's YOUR site and I am not privy to the background information that has gone into the way you've designed it's interface, functionality, and content. If I have an issue with it, it's time to pack up and go somewhere else - that's the bottom line for me.

Anyhow, here's another take on it I found over at DutchCelt: http://www.dutchcelt.nl/weblog/D20040725/

Posted by Nipsey Russell on July 27, 2004 at 10:47 p.m.:

It's very interesting and there IS a correct answer: whatever works for the user!

i know its becoming an obsolete idea that people pick and choose what content they want, but it doesn’t seem so foreign to me. It’s perfectly OK to "take user interface design/control out of the designers' and programmers' hands". Why not? If I rent a movie that has a scene that I am not enjoying, am I obligated to watch the movie start to finish or may I fast forward past the objectionable scene? When next month’s issue of Discover magazine arrives in the mail, must i clear extra time on my calendar to read the advertisements or am i free to skip them as usual? I know that keeping your customers happy has become second to guarding content, but… personally I'm not playing that game!

Note that people who truly care about content (eg Adrian, or say...Arlo Guthrie*) don’t mind when the message is used in ANY way by the user!

Good job, Adrian!

*per Techdirt:

"Guthrie, after all, is the same singer who once put the following copyright notice on his work: "This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright # 154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do.""

http://techdirt.com/articles/20040726/1733230_F.shtml

Posted by Daniel Jones on July 28, 2004 at 11:03 a.m.:

Hear hear, Nipsey, and good job Adrian. Caution is one thing, but mentions of "censorship" and the like is just a symptom of today's paranoiac-kneejerk histrionics. All that is being modified is the *presentation* of the site, and not its content. Virtually since the dawn of stylesheets, web browsers including Internet Explorer have permitted the user to override a site's style with their own CSS, which could be used to very similar ends to this extension; I recall somebody using it to block pop-up ads not long ago.

Much of the beauty of the Web is that it puts a great deal of control back into the user's hands. The boom of RSS and other content-only feeds are a testament to this fact, and contributions such as Adrian's are a positive thing indeed.

Posted by Bryan on July 28, 2004 at 1:03 p.m.:

Nipsey: Here's the difference in your movie rental/magazine comparisons.....you already PAID for the priviledge of using those in ANY fashion you wish.

Daniel: An entire piece of Flash navigation was removed because it was "annoying" and you don't see this as a modification of content? "Annoying" as a business case? LOL. Also, if the "read more" link adjustment impacts the site's usage statistics.....???

I know I won't be swaying any "users" of this site, and I concede that censorship is probably not the term for this - but if you don't see the long-term impact of this on website development, and the MAJOR problems it could create for people like myself then you just don't have enough experience on both sides of this issue.

Seacrest......OUT!!

Posted by Pikselatoir de Norvège on July 28, 2004 at 5:40 p.m.:

What if a distributor of a national newspaper or regional broadcaster of a documentary edits out pages of the paper or scenes of the documentary to fit "his" reader/viewership? Would that be OK?

I think you should at least issue some kind of clearly visible statement or disclaimer with your plug-in. It should clearly present to the user of the plug-in (he/she may very well be unaware of it -borrowed equipment, etc) that the publisher of the site has content for him/her that the plug-in has removed or altered.

I must also say i don't care much for utterings like "the annoying Flash spinner thing". How annoying it is is an absolutely subjective issue, and it is ultimately an issue between the publisher and the end-user of a site (read: "if you don't like my site, your free to don't use it/ find another one/ make your own, etc..)

Posted by Nipsey Russell on July 28, 2004 at 8:07 p.m.:

Bryan -

I DID pay the required fee for AMG...it just so happens that its free. I have told AMG themselves that I would be willing to pay a nominal subscription fee, if they'd just bring back the old site. At this point, though that would just feel like blackmail.

"annoying" doesn’t need to be a business case. This is where you lose me. This is for people who want to look at their own browser however they want. I don’t need a biz case every time i decide HOW to read a webpage!

"the MAJOR problems it could create for people like myself" - i guess you are talking here about say usage statistics? Well, Adrian created this in response to changes on their end. If this solution to a "problem" they created causes problems for them...then its ultimately their fault for not understanding how users want their site to be.

Pikselatoir

- i believe it is quite clear that if you download this extension that you are changing something.....does anyone really care about how a person who borrowed their laptop sees one website!?!?!?

- and can we quit mentioning censorship, please? it has NOTHING to do with this.

Nipsey... OUT!

Posted by anonymous on July 29, 2004 at 11:08 a.m.:

Wow, this is fantastic! AMG is a hundred times more useful now. Thank you very much.

Posted by Bryan on July 29, 2004 at 1:35 p.m.:

Alright Nipsey, thought I had enough but had to respond....

"annoying doesn't need to be a business case...."

-You're absolutely right, in fact it isn't one (which was my point). But to alter a company's website, you DO need a business case - and you usually you need to work for the company. (By the way, do you know what a business case is? - just checking....)

-Yeah, you can look at your browser however you want, but once my website's in it, I get to determine how you look at it - Sorry, those are the advantages of investing millions of dollars and thousands of hours in its design. But then, it doesn't seem like you have a clue what its like from that side of things, and this is starting to feel like trying to teach a gorilla how to write - eventually they get frustrated and stab you in the eye with the pen.....

Posted by Nipsey Russell on July 29, 2004 at 4:33 p.m.:

a) We have a basic disagreement: you say you DO need a business case and I say you DONT. When you phrase it as to "alter a company's website", I would tend to agree with you since it implies that Adrian is altering the code (sorry if this is incorrect, I am not a technical person, just a business guy...who knows what business cases are within a certain framework) and thus altering how it looks to the world. However, Adrian has simply altered how the site looks on his browser and his alone. He has offered the technology to other people, but its up to them to implement or not based on its functionality. In any case, I'm obviously right since it has been done.

b) Sorry, those are NOT the advantages of investing $ into the site. You are trying to take rights that I feel you simply don’t have. I also don’t feel that I need a clue how things are form that side of things.

c) from one gorilla to another, at least I can have the discussion without name calling, Mr. Poopypants! ;)

Flame on, and sorry to Adrian for hijacking this comment page and detracting attention from his great tool. Um, that didn’t sound good, I’ve now digressed to the level of a 2-year-old

Posted by Bryan on July 29, 2004 at 5:12 p.m.:

"a) .....in any case, I'm obviously right since it has been done."

Wow, too bad Napster's lawyers never thought of this - "But judge, we're obviously right since it has been done."

"b) Sorry, those are NOT the advantages of investing $ into the site."

They aren't???? LOL - whatever, you win.

*By the way, dissenting opinions a "flame"?? Well, at least you got the 2-year-old part accurate, an assessment you were finally qualified to make.

-Me, just stabbed in eye *-(

Posted by Nipsey Russell on July 29, 2004 at 9:01 p.m.:

Ok, lets agree to disagree. I think we both know exactly what the other person thinks, and we will never meet in the middle. That’s fine, and i actually welcome that you have a dissenting opinions. But... "Flame": to insult someone electronically. Examples: disparage ones business acumen, declare one without a clue; imply that one has the intelligence of a gorilla. That’s all I meant.

Posted by Steven on July 30, 2004 at 10:56 a.m.:

If I purchase a magazine, am I "allowed" to tear out and not read some pages ?

If I pick up a free newspaper, am I "allowed" to tear out and not read some pages?

Note that in neither case do I change anyone else's copy.

Posted by Bryan on July 30, 2004 at 1:27 p.m.:

Alright Nipsey, agreed.

Regarding the flame claim - your posts suggested you didn't understand what a business case was, and they also suggested you've never built, maintained and managed a website. Therefore, my analogy had to do with trying to teach something to someone who will never understand it from my perspective because they don't have experience in that arena. The implication was never concerned w/your intelligence.

peace

Posted by Nipsey Russell on July 30, 2004 at 2:22 p.m.:

peace

Posted by Zama on July 30, 2004 at 7:24 p.m.:

I'm usually the first person to say, "there's no right or wrong here -- just different perspectives."

Not this time. There is indeed a correct answer on this topic: Nipsey is right, and Bryan isn't.

As a content producer, you are welcome to design your XHTML, CSS, and other related files however you would like to design them. As the content consumers, we are welcome to view those files in whatever manner we choose, be that via Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Netscape, IE, or browsers built into mobile phones and other embedded devices. Different browsers are going to render those XHTML/CSS files differently, depending on how the browsers were authored. Your site isn't going to look the same on my mobile phone as it does on your desktop version of Internet Explorer. Sorry, but that's just the way it is.

Many browsers are actually written with (gasp!) user preferences in mind. You can change which font you want type to be displayed with, at what sizes, and with your preferred color when the text is a link. Many browsers even allow you to specify your own local stylesheet that takes precedence over any external stylesheets referenced by the XHTML you are viewing. This is how the web is designed to work. You produce the content, and my browser decides -- along with some input from me -- how to render the content.

But, of course, there will always be people who want to control others, to take the control away from the consumer and give it to the producers. (These people often have RIAA and MPAA stamped on their paychecks.)

And now, for some real nuggets of wisdom...

"Extensions such as these are a slippery slope that takes user interface design/control out of the designers' and programmers' hands."

Yes, control that shouldn't have been there in the first place. See above.

Moreover, producers should be thrilled that consumers have the ability to use this medium (i.e., the web) to customize the content's appearance to suit each consumer's individual preference -- all without the producer having to lift a finger. Is it different than what the producer designed? Sure. But the producer should be happy to have the consumer stick around instead of going somewhere else. That's the point, isn't it?

"I think the Flash scroll-ad on ESPN is extremely annoying, and occasionally it locks up the site for me. Does that give me the right to kill it for myself and others under 'site-specfic browsing' approach?? I say no."

Then you, Bryan, are a masochist. If a site's "feature" locks up my browser, it's gone. If you want to support ESPN and view their ads, that is entirely your perogative. If another viewer decides she would rather not be distracted by epilepsy-inducing animated advertisements, she has every right to selectively filter them out. If ESPN -- or you for that matter -- doesn't like this they/you need to find a new business model.

"If you don't see the long-term impact of this on website development, and the MAJOR problems it could create for people like myself then you just don't have enough experience on both sides of this issue."

Bunk. Sheer, unmitigated bunk. I design and manage a multitude of sites, nearly all of which are operating in order to generate income. I have plenty of experience on both the producer and consumer sides of the equation. And yet I myself can't invalidate your ridiculous assumption above, because I do see the potential for problems it could create for people like you and me. The difference is that I don't whine about it.

You see, these potential problems you talk about are our problems, not consumers' problems. This is something we will have to adjust to. We don't have any divine right to make a buck. If the marketplace changes, we have to adapt. If you don't like this, please go get a public sector job.

"But to alter a company's website, you DO need a business case - and you usually you need to work for the company."

Wrong. You don't need a business case to alter a web site. I alter web sites all the time -- sometimes I do so because there's a potential return on the investment (time, money, etc.), and sometimes I do so because I just feel like it. Sometimes those sites are sites I manage, and sometimes they aren't. You don't get to decide the how's and why's behind people's decisions to alter sites. This is the web, not a print magazine.

But the following is by far my favorite quote. The abject hilarity of it never ceases to crack me up. I'd print it out and put it on my wall, but then passersby might mistake me for a fascist.

"You can look at your browser however you want, but once my website's in it, I get to determine how you look at it."

Really? If I modify my browser to customize the way your content displays in my browser, it seems pretty darn clear to me that you are no longer determining how I look at your site.

Clearly you meant to conclude with "...I should get to determine how you look at it."

...to which I answer: says who? Why should you get to determine how I look at it? Because you plunked down the cash and paid someone to design your site a certain way? Nobody forced you to pour thousands of dollars into your site design. Just because you decide to do so does not give you any right to complain about it when people don't like the results of your investment. Well, actually, you can complain -- just don't expect to get too much sympathy.

In short, you can whine on and on about the ability to customize one's consumption preferences, but that's not going to change consumer behavior.

"If I have an issue with it, it's time to pack up and go somewhere else."

Then put your money where your mouth is. Put that quote in the About section of your site. You could even provide a more detailed version for your readers:

"We designed this site the way we wanted to, and it cost us quite a bit of money to do so. We don't like it when people customize the appearance of our content in their browsers. If you don't like us having complete control over how you render our content in your browser, please leave now and take your business elsewhere. We simply don't want your kind around here."

I think that kind of honesty would go over smashingly. Don't you?

In conclusion, if you don't think people should be able to use customize their browsers to meet their preferences, then you, my friend, have picked the wrong medium.

Go publish a magazine. You'll have much more control, which is clearly what you're after.

Posted by Nipsey Russell on July 30, 2004 at 8:41 p.m.:

XOXOXOX!

Posted by Adrian on August 1, 2004 at 1:30 a.m.:

Wow, Zama, nicely put.

Posted by dzd on August 1, 2004 at 8:53 p.m.:

So, bryan, what do you think of a browser like lynx that almost totally ignores all the design features of HTML/CSS? Shall we ban it?

Posted by Zama on August 2, 2004 at 12:56 p.m.:

Thanks, Adrian. Just felt like it needed to be said. :)

Posted by Bryan on August 2, 2004 at 2:02 p.m.:

Alright Zama -

So to "Cliff Notes" your essay, you are in support of this, you are right, and there is no room for discussion/debate - Yet I'm the fascist?

And to sum it up, you are willing to allow users to customize your site's content freely and in ways you can't anticipate irregardless of money, time, research, etc. I'm not - Yet I'm the masochist?

Makes sense to me...

Posted by Bryan on August 2, 2004 at 6:59 p.m.:

dzd - I think maybe you have misunderstood my position. My fundamental issue is where the creation, and most importantly, the open distribution of extensions such as these can lead. Browser characteristics and settings can be anticipated and accomodated during development and have nothing to do with my position on this topic.

I simply think it crosses the line but concede it is a debatable line. (Although if you take a look at AMG's "Terms of Service" you may find that perhaps in this particular case it isn't that debatable....)

Maybe we should have a big barbeque and kegger to discuss this further. I'll bring the twister board.

Posted by Nipsey Russell on August 3, 2004 at 1:36 p.m.:

re AMG's Terms of Service, i'm not sure how beholden someone like Adrian should feel to these. Seems like their only recourse would be to revoke his membership.

Posted by Bryan on August 3, 2004 at 2:45 p.m.:

I don't see how the severity of their recourse is relevant to the discussion.

Posted by Nipsey Russell on August 3, 2004 at 10:40 p.m.:

you have repeatedly stated that this may be "crossing a line" of some sort. It would appear that myself and several other posters don’t see what line is crossed. We don’t believe that any legal line has been crossed. None of us feel any kind of ethical line has been crossed. Your last post further clarified that this may cross the line drawn by the AMG TOS. My point is that we don’t seem to feel bound by these terms and in any event, if AMG were to call us on it, the line is such that crossing it results in our memberships being withdraw and access to the site denied. Obviously we don’t feel that access to the site is a valuable proposition ...without some repairs being made. Someone here has taken the step of making a few repairs and in the process perhaps helping AMG to retain some customers; whether they like or not.

Posted by dwh on August 3, 2004 at 11:20 p.m.:

When Istanbul once again becomes Constantinople, you will be served much strong coffee. I use Allmusic serveral times a day and their redesign has been a major PITA. Maybe events like this (and the Odeon rewrite that had everyone's panties in a bunch) will make major sites think more about usability and standards before they start signing cheques ...

Posted by mike davis on August 3, 2004 at 11:55 p.m.:

The question came up about killing a flash scrolling ad so that it doesn't lock up the browser. The person stated for some vague possibly legal reasons that they wouldn't. Point: If your browser locks up, there might possibly be some corruption of the browser over a period of time..kill the ad? I say hell yes! I would base my decision to do so as a legal issue. The offending ad may be damaging software on my PC and that killing the ad by editing my hosts file to send the ad back at the server and refusing the server's connection to my machine via the flash scrolling ad is a choice that has been afforded me by way of the Windows OS...legal claims against me are non-sequitor based upon the fact that Microsoft's OS enabled me, without alteration of the OS itself, to refuse such a connection. I would then set counter suit against the company carrying the offending advertisement for attempting to maliciously damage my browser software which in itself may fall under laws that have been used to convict virus writers.

Posted by Andy on August 4, 2004 at 11:56 a.m.:

Adrian, sir, thank you. My mouse evolved to include a scroll wheel, and it wants it to be used. All I can figure is that it sprouted the extra button so I wouldn't left click so much.

Posted by Bryan on August 4, 2004 at 1:52 p.m.:

Nipsey -

In my opinion, it's pretty black and white....

".....You agree not to decompile, reverse engineer or disassemble any software or other products or processes accessible through the AMG Websites, not to insert any code or product or manipulate the content of the AMG Websites in any way that affects the user's experience...."

Since you and Zama have yet to respect or even acknowledge there are two sides to this discussion (hence the "I'm right, you're wrong" opening statements), I thought maybe you would respect the legal terms and conditions of use of AMG's website. Probably not.

Finally, I'm in no way disrespecting the time and intentions of this extension. I'm also impressed with the effort because I know how much time something like this can take. But these points are irrelevant to this discussion, a discussion that is divided probably 50/50 within the web community (despite popular belief among the choir here).

Posted by lumpy on August 4, 2004 at 5:32 p.m.:

First - Bryan is a knob, a sheep that likes being a sheep and is baaaa-ing because it sees other sheep jumping the fence.

Second - "... not to insert any code or product or manipulate the content of the AMG Websites in any way that affects the user's experience...." - hell, since their redesign is IE-specific, this bit of legalese could define any non-IE browser as code that manipulates the user's experience. ALL browsers manipulate the code in some way by default, and user preferences can manipulate it further. Adding more user preferences isn't a big deal, it just builds on the basic premises that the web was founded on before marketing took over.

Third - source code? AMG isn't the only site that is wonky.

Posted by lumpy on August 4, 2004 at 5:37 p.m.:

doh - got it, xpi is a zip, jar is a zip.

Posted by Bryan on August 4, 2004 at 6:15 p.m.:

I'm the only one in here offering the other side of the argument, and I'm "the sheep"? You and Zama should give each other a big hug and kiss. You're heroes, you support the poor little user's rights, I'm the big marketing guy trying to control everything and stomp those rights......but did you know I won 3 purple hearts??? LOL.

Whatever, you've all obviously got it ALL figured out so I'll let you get back to your grabassing.

Sorry to disturb - BAAAAAA.....OUT!

Posted by Nipsey Russell, dammit on August 4, 2004 at 6:28 p.m.:

" respect the legal terms and conditions of use of AMG's website"...brings me back to why i felt the recourse they have is relevant. What I am saying is that I CAN "...manipulate the content of the AMG ..." (only on my end of course) as long as I accept that AMG may decide to "terminate Membership and deny access ".

Like any contract, I can choose to breach the contract as long as I am willing to pay the consequences. In this case, the consequences are that my membership will be revoked. I doubt that AMG would be able to prove any material damages arose from my configuring my broswer how i choose...thus, if AMG revokes my membership, fine. Case closed, we all go home.

That having been said, I looked a little more closely at the language and I am not so sure that it is black and white as you sated since, I'm not sure exactly WHERE I am prohibited from inserting code*. It is part of the sentence below which seems to be in reference to "products or processes accessible through the AMG Websites"....in any event its not clear. And further, I fail to see how they can prohibit my changing the settings in my own browser.

*"You agree not to decompile, reverse engineer or disassemble any software or other products or processes accessible through the AMG Websites, not to insert any code or product or manipulate the content of the AMG Websites in any way that affects the user's experience"

Posted by Nispey Russell on August 4, 2004 at 6:33 p.m.:

well, thanks, I will go back to my grabassing. sorry i ever accused you of flaming, i stand corrected.

on a more civil note: with mozilla i use "real alternative" (i think its called) to play a/v clips on mozilla instead of WMP or Real. I can play the windows media clips at Amazon and other sites fine but cannot get the AMG clips to play at all. Anyone else having that problem?

Posted by Bryan on August 4, 2004 at 7:29 p.m.:

So are you saying that after being called a "fascist", "masochist", "knob", and "sheep" that I flamed the joint???

BWAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

You really DO have the blinders on - Rock on brother!

Posted by Zama on August 4, 2004 at 7:43 p.m.:

I think it is rather amusing that Bryan had only two brief comments about my diatribe above. Since he didn't address my other points or concede any of them as valid, I can only assume he had no basis from which to challenge them.

"So to 'Cliff Notes' your essay, you are in support of this, you are right, and there is no room for discussion/debate - Yet I'm the fascist?"

Correct. Well, at least the part about you being a fascist. ;)

As I said above, I'm usually the first person to support alternative viewpoints. And my comment about you being "wrong" on this topic is, of course, only my opinion. I never said there's no room for discussion or debate. On the contrary, I welcome it. That doesn't change the fact that I think you are flat-out wrong regarding this topic.

"And to sum it up, you are willing to allow users to customize your site's content freely and in ways you can't anticipate irregardless of money, time, research, etc. I'm not - Yet I'm the masochist?"

Also correct. Your use of irregardless proves it. ;)

This isn't about engineers versus marketing dweebs. I am a marketing dweeb. I have an dual-concentration MBA in Finance and High-Tech Marketing, so I know all about the bottom-line economics of web development. Why on earth would I worry about users customizing my site? If I've done a good job, they won't need to. If I haven't done a good job, they usually let me know, and I try my best to make sure the site reflects the preferences of my customers. So, thanks for trying to turn the tables around, but it's an empty effort.

I'm listening to my customers. You aren't. If those aren't the actions of someone who enjoys suffering, then I guess we have different definitions of masochism.

In the end, you are a masochist because you're trying to fight a war that can't be won. It's a shame you're too stubborn to accept this as a possibility now, because it's just going to cause you no end of grief until you take a moment to understand how the web is different from what you clearly want it to be.

Posted by Bryan on August 4, 2004 at 8:07 p.m.:

Zama - almost every single one of your points had either been made by others or could easily be lumped into the same side of the argument which I had already responded to. Do you also bring sand to the beach and then expect people to do jumping jacks?

-But I'm sorry if you wanted more attention.

By the way, your link to irregardless - "Usage Note: Irregardless is a word that many mistakenly believe to be correct usage in formal style, when in fact it is used chiefly in nonstandard speech or casual writing."

If you'd like to nail me on a formal use of a word, "grabass" is available.

Posted by Zama on August 4, 2004 at 8:20 p.m.:

"...which I had already responded to."

If you say so. I've seen nothing that constitutes a response to the points I've made.

"Do you also bring sand to the beach and then expect people to do jumping jacks?"

Hilarious. Really. What are you, a poorly-engineered Ross Perot clone?

"But I'm sorry if you wanted more attention."

Okay, sure buddy. Guilty as charged. I'm just an attention whore. Yet again, a very substantive response. About as substantive as your grabass comments.

Oh, and quite a selective quote you pulled from the Dictionary.com entry. I especially liked how you skipped the part below where it clearly intimates that usage of "irregardless" makes you look stupid. But I guess at this stage pointing that out would just be too oxymoronic.

Posted by Bryan on August 4, 2004 at 8:45 p.m.:

Your point was you agree with the extension and have no problem with its distribution. I think there are potential problems. You are right. I am wrong. Which part of your point did I miss?

*Since I simply took the first sentence of the "Usage" section you sent me (omitting nothing), you seem to have misused the word skipped in this particular case - surprising considering your advanced use of grammar and vocabulary that you are so eager to share with others.

I do, however, agree that you are an attention whore, and you just got a little more......(*Zama blushing*)

In the words of Ali G - "Respek"

Let me guess, you're going to spell check this one.....LOL!!

Posted by Zama on August 5, 2004 at 1:51 a.m.:

Which points did you miss? It's hard to tell, since it seems you didn't understand them enough to even respond to them. Potential problems? You haven't even mentioned any of significance, instead relying on vague references to slippery slopes.

"Omitting nothing." Classic. Please lend me whatever it is you are smoking. Since you appear to have trouble with basic reading comprehension, I'll do you a favor and lend a hand:

"[Use of the word 'irregardless'] has been considered a blunder for decades and will probably continue to be so."

That is what you skipped. That's right -- skipped. If you had bothered to read the definition you so generously provided...

"To pass over without mentioning; omit"

...you would see that "skipped" is exactly what you did. No improper usage here. Sorry, try again. I understand that it's natural to try to redeem yourself after a gaffe like that, but honestly, you're going to have to do better than that.

"*Zama* blushing"

ROTFL. As if. Honestly, I'm embarrassed for you.

At this point, I'm sure other readers are quite bored of this horrificly lopsided banter. I know I am. If you have any specific, substantive input to contribute, please let us know. So far, I haven't seen anything in this thread that even remotely qualifies.

I suggest we put this one to rest. After all, we agree on the basic premise: extensions like this will probably be disliked by some content producers. You are one of those content producers, and you don't like it. I am also a content producer, and I don't have a problem with it. My answer is: "Stop whining and listen to your customers instead." This is clearly where we differ. Let's just agree to disagree.

Posted by sidney on August 5, 2004 at 7:44 p.m.:

This a bit offtopic from the flaming :-) but here's a technical bit you might want to know about relevant to your idea of site-specific customisation:

This Bugzilla entry for Mozilla seems to indicate that near future Mozilla may support much of what you want in user stylesheets.

Posted by Rockerone on August 5, 2004 at 8:14 p.m.:

It didn't work for me...

I got Firefox 0.91, I installed the extention and restarted Firefox. I go allmusic.com and it still didn't work. Can anyone help me?

Posted by Zama on August 6, 2004 at 2:48 p.m.:

Thanks for pointing that out, Sidney. So, conceivably, a browser preference pane or extension could be written that's just a GUI for the user's stylesheet. This GUI would allow the user to customize the user stylesheet differently for any number of sites. Very, very cool!

Just goes to show that without the Mozilla Foundation, browser innovation would be all but non-existent. Microsoft won't even take the time to fix simple rendering bugs in IE, much less develop innovative functionaity.

Posted by knewbie on August 9, 2004 at 5:34 p.m.:

Just wondering, does every firefox plugin launch a grand debate on ethics and our rights as end users?

Regardless, thanks for a fantastic idea and a job well done, this plugin has finally made me abandon Opera in favour of Firefox once and for all.

btw this kind of ability to modify webpages to your liking has been around for years, in the form of the proxomitron:

http://www.proxomitron.info/

Posted by anonymous on August 18, 2004 at 12:13 p.m.:

Yeah,me to bitterly disappointed with the new AMG look.Why did they change it anyway?I also find that the information is not allways reliable.Why change something that works perfectly well just for the sake of changing.Do you no any other websites like the old AMG used to be?

Posted by anonymous on August 18, 2004 at 12:17 p.m.:

Bravo. Best plugin this year. I'm really curious how you did it Adrian, source code?

Posted by Jeff Albro on August 18, 2004 at 2:10 p.m.:

Putting my two cents in and adding another point of view...

1) Legal issues aside, I think modifying the "standard" display of a site in such a way that it improves the user experience without interfering with that sites profit is ethically A-OK.

2) The visually impared have been using thier own style sheets instead of site-supplied ones for years. If they didn't, they wouldnt be able to use many sites. Blocking a user from doing so, or banning a user for doing so could concieveably open up a site to a ADA lawsuit, regardless of thier "Terms of Service".

Posted by Rikard Linde on August 18, 2004 at 4:40 p.m.:

"2) The visually impared have been using thier own style sheets instead of site-supplied ones for years. If they didn't, they wouldnt be able to use many sites. "

This goes for all of us when we access the web via a text-to-speech service. Being able to access a web page from different kinds of computers and equipment is sort of what the web is for. As Tim Berners-Lee put it:

"Anyone who slaps a 'this page is best viewed with Browser X' label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network."

I think we're heading for increased user control on the web and Adrian's plugin is a symptom of that.

Posted by Shaun on August 19, 2004 at 4:10 a.m.:

Did the old Amg site suggest other albums in the same genre that might be of interest when searching specific artists or albums? I have a vague recollection of it doing so, and this seems to be missing now.

Posted by likwidshoe on August 21, 2004 at 3:15 a.m.:

Two websites that will change your web viewing: 1. "Tha Shizzolator": http://www.asksnoop.com/ and 2. "pornolize": http://www.pornolize.com/

You are the master of your media. Nobody else.

Kudos to Zama for the excellent argument points.

Posted by Nipsey Russell on August 24, 2004 at 9:42 p.m.:

as an update, AMG e-mailed out the following response today:

Dear Nipsey,

Now that we’ve had a chance to catch our breaths following the July relaunch of allmusic, we wanted to take a moment to share with you, our core users, some site plans, tips, and responses to your feedback. First of all, we’d like to thank you for your patience through this relaunch period. This was a big transition and we didn’t escape without a few missteps. We’ve been working hard on fine tuning the site and its performance and will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead. We also appreciate all of the feedback we’ve received. We really do read it all and we make every effort to respond to those who provide their email addresses. We encourage you to visit the Site Guide and the FAQs where many of the issues users have raised have been addressed. Our user base is very diverse, ranging from those who come to the site with a very specific objective such as fact checking or research, to those who come with no specific purpose, but rather are looking for a music exploration experience. Having such a diverse user base is a challenge when developing the site’s content presentation and functionality. Our user feedback attests to this diversity. It is very common for us to receive back-to-back user messages that wildly praise the new site and hotly criticize the new site. The one thing all of our feedback has in common is passion! We love that our users feel so passionate about allmusic.

Click here to read more about site changes, tips, and responses to your feedback. http://amg.allmusic.com/t/188484/29035/1188/62/

Click here to cast your vote on a pending site change. http://amg.allmusic.com/t/188484/29035/1189/63/

Posted by D-503 on September 7, 2004 at 5:47 p.m.:

How about a site specific extension for Windows Update? So we really can ditch Intershit Exploiter :-). I wonder if it would even be possible. Probably need to ua string spoof and reverse engineer activex or something. I don't know shit from clay though as I'm not a programmer :-).

Posted by Eugene on October 5, 2004 at 6:43 a.m.:

I have been using AMG for the last 2 years. I loved the old site. I have not been able open AMG this month. Is it under construction? Where has it gone? Has anybody else been able to access it?

Posted by Matt on October 13, 2004 at 7:41 a.m.:

Any chance of an updated extension to allow compatability with 1.0PR? Thanks.

Posted by Adrian on October 13, 2004 at 11:26 a.m.:

A 1.0PR version is in the works.

Posted by Rudgero (brasil) on October 14, 2004 at 9:06 p.m.:

Looking forward for Firefox 1.0 AMG corrector ...

Posted by Lluisa on October 16, 2004 at 4:13 a.m.:

good news indeed! AMG corrector works with my Firefox 1.0! Long life & prosper to Adrian!

Posted by Adrian on October 19, 2004 at 1:34 p.m.:

Excellent, Lluisa. Thanks for the nice words. :)

Posted by roirraW on November 7, 2004 at 10:28 a.m.:

Wow. Thanks, Adrian for the extension! Did you have any idea when you wrote it that it would spark such controversy?

People take things much too seriously. If you don't like it, don't use it. If you do like it, use it and don't worry about it. Very good response, Nipsy Russell regarding Mr. Poopypants. :)

Posted by In Your Ear on December 23, 2004 at 7:30 p.m.:

I've downloaded and installed the corrector for Firefox 1.0. It doesn't seam to be working at all. That bloody spinner is still up top. I tried to reinstall, but that didn't help.

Posted by Peter on January 16, 2005 at 9:24 a.m.:

A firefox extension to let you do site specific CSS by editing your userContent.css file

http://extensionroom.mozdev.org/more-info/uriid

Posted by rotzboller on January 17, 2005 at 6:21 p.m.:

I am a music fan and I really liked the old all music site, it was easy to move around. quite aside from the ennormous quantity of information available. The new one is like the handling of a 1960s BMW motorcycle - like a water-soaked, inner-spring mattress.

Posted by Keith on January 17, 2005 at 6:44 p.m.:

Ditto "in your ear"s comments - don't know if something changed at amg, but none of the purported features of this extension appear to work now.

Posted by Vitaly on January 20, 2005 at 8:02 p.m.:

It seems that they changed the site code :( It had to be expected.

Posted by Digby on February 3, 2005 at 3:03 p.m.:

Great idea.

I must get Firefox !

I am glad that I am not alone in disliking the new AMG layout ! the information was much easier to get then.

Does anyone like the new layout of AMG ?

Regards

Digby

New Zealand

Posted by anonymous on February 11, 2005 at 2:55 a.m.:

Here is another reason why you should switch to Firefox. All the cool extensions that are available. My favorites are BugMeNot and Chat'N Search.

Posted by Roy E on March 14, 2005 at 12:06 a.m.:

Wow! I sent an e-mail to AllMusic.com back when they first redesigned their site. I thought the new design SUCKED in numerous ways, which I spelled out to them. I never received a response (of course).

I didn't know that other people were as bugged as I was! (I think I even did a quick Google search of usenet, to check for complaints.) The number of clicks -- and server waits -- to read the full review of (for example) a given artist's earliest Greatest Hits album went from like 1 or 2 to like 5 or 6. And the site is often unbearably slow, so the length of time to do that task went up by a factor of 10 or 20!

Thanks for the script -- it helps a lot. Allmusic still spoons out too little info on each page, requiring too many clicks -- but this script is still a Godsend!

Posted by anonymous on March 21, 2005 at 3:23 p.m.:

you rock

Posted by Lainie on April 5, 2005 at 2:18 a.m.:

Ahhhhhhh...Perfect. Thanks.

Posted by Rick on May 4, 2005 at 2:32 p.m.:

Appently, the AMG site has changed.

Javascript console:

Error: window._content.document.getElementById("header").getElementsByTagName("span")[1] has no properties

Source File: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&token=ADFEAEE4781EDB49A87320D69B3C4FDABC7AF60CFE4EE98050234558C0A2305A9F0878FD09BADDD2B3FA75B135AEFD24A75E05D0CFFE3681&sql=10:mw5s8qpnbtb4

Line: 58

The swf is now in the 2nd div named "spider":

<div id="header">

<div class="logo"><img src="/i/pages/site/header/logo.gif" border="0" alt="All Music Guide" /></div>

<div class="spider">

<!--SPIDER-->

<object type="application/x-shockwave-flash" data="/html/lib/spinner.swf" width="413" height="117" id="flashspinner">

<param name="movie" value="/html/lib/spinner.swf" /><param name="menu" value="false" /><param name="scale" value="noscale" /><param name="quality" value="high" />

<img src="/i/pages/site/header/background.gif" width="413" height="117" alt="" />

</object>

<!--/SPIDER-->

</div>

<div class="login">

<div class="hello"><b>Welcome back, Rick</b>You are logged in!</div>

<span>

<form action="/cg/amg.dll" method="post" name="login" id="login">

<input type="hidden" name="p" value="amg" />

<input type="hidden" name="sql" value="26:" />

<input id="bout" class="active" name="logout" type="submit" value="Logout" style="width:65px;"/>

<input TYPE=HIDDEN name="samples" VALUE="1"><input type=hidden name=token value=ADFEAEE4781EDB49A87320D69B3C4FDABC7AF60CFE4EE98050234558C0A2305A9F0878FD09BADDD2B3FA75B135AEF52EA4500FD7DA8E2B></form>

</span>

</div>

</div>

I suggest placing such code in a try/catch block, so at least the following code gets executed if an exception occurs.

Posted by winstrol on August 3, 2005 at 5:05 p.m.:

Ahhhhhhh...Perfect. Thanks.

Posted by DekuDekuplex on January 6, 2006 at 2:35 a.m.:

I just tried it out in Firefox 1.5, but it doesn't work.

Will an update be available soon?

Posted by Donald Weir on January 22, 2006 at 5:45 p.m.:

I waited because I wondered could Greasemonkey . . . . possible be . . . . na . . . .I thought you were takling about a Mechanic. I guess my age is showing ! 65

Posted by steve on February 28, 2006 at 5:43 p.m.:

arrghhh... doesn't work with 1.5! Any chance that this will be fixed? The "new" AMG seems designed to frustrate, so I was really itching to try this out.

Posted by Rafa on March 9, 2006 at 7:36 p.m.:

Nice idea, Site-Specific Extensions definetly flow with Web 2.0. Putting the ability to use the content into the users hands, so they can use it how they like, is what the web is about. If some people can't come to grips with that, then thats too bad. If you need proof check out all the movments now. The prime objective is to put content into users hands. Suddenly the end-user is able to choose how they recive the content. Blogger"s integration of (XML)RSS, google's open distribution of their mapAPI, amazon's distribution of their API. It all is about the content and the user. Go Adrian, you solved a problem and shared your solution a pat on the back to you.

P.S. Posted by Bryan on July 29 at 12:36 PM ET: "this is starting to feel like trying to teach a gorilla how to write - eventually they get frustrated and stab you in the eye with the pen....." well looks like you were the first to make it into a insult battle. by the way was there an actual case of a gorilla eye stabbing, sounds hilarious (sad and painfull, but funny if its not you)

well I probally won't check back but have fun. good luck to all who are willing to try new things and cross those "Lines" LOL.

Posted by Justa User on April 9, 2006 at 12:05 p.m.:

Stumbled across this forum thread when a tech head friend told me that some guys were up to some stuff congruent with some ideas I have about altering/personalizing web page presentation on the user end. I had gotten the deep impression that developers have nothing but infinite contempt for users, as the shit products they so consistently kick out demonstrate to this frustrated user. This thread has been a ray of hope. Even the seemingly inevitable flaming has been of an extremely high caliber; kudos for the creative expression of even the base instincts. But gratitude for the revelation that there are developers out there who actually do give a shit about the users.

I have wasted too many rants on my "tech head friend" with my assertions that software and the web should tailored to the user and that this--if anybody in the development community gets a clue--is where both the future and the money will be. Looks like some people are getting a clue. Thank God.

Since so much of this discussion has addressed philosophical issues, anybody able to tell me why it is that when I suggest using some of this technology to make money with various "widgets" like Adrian's, I get shunned (at best)?

Comments have been turned off for this entry.