I usually don't write about the Croatian "web scene" because I have the mental health of my visitors in mind, but I just HAVE to write a few sentences about this lousy attempt of creating the first legal music download site in Croatia. Now, I have to mention that I'm not a big fan of T-Com, the leading… nah, who am I kidding – the almost-exclusive telecommunication services provider in Croatia. Not that I have anything against the gals and guys that work there, I just don't like their… "bussiness plan". But, they do allow me to connect to the 'net every day, so I have to show some respect now.
So, the gals and guys decided recently to launch the first legal MP3 download site in Croatia, called Fonoteka. Behind the obscure address (mdp.tportal.hr – WTF? – http://www.fonoteka.hr isn't working at the time of writing this) lies the revolutionary web service. Not.
The first thing that I noticed is the obnoxious "BETA" underneath the logo. I just don't see the point of marking a web service as "BETA" and trying to sell it (or something at it). Sure it'll be updated and sure it has bugs – which (web) app doesn't? – but don't tell me your product isn't finished yet. Why should I use it if it's not finished?
Next, the layout. Oh, the horror! The whole T-Portal website shares a similar framed design which makes me want to scream every time I visit it. It just annoys me – sometimes it screws up the "back" button, and I can't simply copy/paste the link to the site I'm currently watching. Terrible.
Now when the site experience is already ruined, let's see the offer… It's not too rich, but it's not too poor, either. The fact that it's not too long online (hey, it's BETA) and that they'll probably add some songs and albums as they go helps them a bit. There are a few albums that are interesting to me (I like albums, not separate songs, so I didn't check out that offer), but now comes the interesting part – the price.
Albums are usually not cheap in Croatian music shops (real-life, not virtual :)) – the price for albums of Croatian performers goes around 60 – 100 kn (around 8 – 13,5 €) and around 110 – 150 kn (around 14,5 – 20 €) for foreign artists. The prices at Fonoteka are: 7,32 kn (around 1 €) for a single song, and 73,20 kn (around 10 €) for a whole album. I wouldn't even think about buying a single song if it was two times less expensive than that. It's just damn too much. As far as the whole albums are concerned – it's true that it's probably cheaper, but when you add the ADSL traffic (or the time on the 'net for dial-up users) you spend to download the album, it's the same. Not to mention the inferior quality of MP3 over a regular audio CD and the lack of the original CD booklet. As far as I'm concerned, I'd rather walk a bit to the local music store, buy an original CD for a bit higher price and enjoy the full-quality audio CD with the original booklet.
And the last thing – the payment methods. Or, the payment method. The only way of paying for the songs is over the T-Com telephone / internet bill. Noup, no credit cards, no cheque orders – nothing. Sad, especially because T-Com has its own Pay Way service – an online credit card authorization in real-time. Maybe they'll implement that when they take off the "BETA" out of their logo.
All in all – really poor. Bad site design, poor user interface, weird and monopolistic payment method, insanely high prices and the limited range of songs and albums just don't make me want to use it. Thumbs up for the initiative, but two thumbs down for the implementation and the prices. At least for now.