Last.fm's new look has most of the tell-tale signs of a bad Web site redesign. What should be the real purpose — easy access to data about listening habits, and lots of it — is no longer the site's main function. The top most recently listened tracks used to be visible at the top of a user's profile, but now the list cannot be seen without scrolling down the browser. Old profiles showed the top 50 overall songs and artists, which can be adjusted, but the default is now just fifteen. And the expanded overall charts only seem to go to 200, down from 500. That's 300 overall top artists and top songs that users no longer have access to, not matter how the settings are adjusted. How can removing content be seen as an upgrade?
Apparently, last.fm thinks users are less interested in scrobbling and having access to their own charts than they are with turning last.fm into an underdeveloped and unnecessary social networking site: the Shoutbox is creeping up the bottom of the screen like a mutated MySpace comments box, and do we really need a Facebook-esque recent activity section?
The only plus to the new direction is the increased focus on in-site listening. The top tracks playlist high on people's profiles, but they seem slow to load, and there's already a lot of mistakes with songs where the playlist will include a live cut or a remix that is clearly not the intended song.
No precedent comes to mind of a Web site reverting to an older layout after doing a redesign, no matter how much the users complain, but the least last.fm can do is restore the full scope of the charts instead of cutting info out, even if they keep the eyesore design.