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Qbox could be the ultimate music player...

Qbox makes a great promise: the site and associated player will catalog all music stored on social networking sites, including MySpace, Bebo, and YouTube. But so far, I can't get it to work.

Update: Qbox seems to have fixed the problem, and songs from MySpace now play fine within the Qplayer. See my updated post here.

With the Web allowing any artist to present music to the masses, listeners are less likely to distinguish between the local band they saw down the street and major label acts they heard on the radio. Of course listeners know the difference, but they don't care--they want to be able to flip between all the music they're interested in without hunting each song down on a particular Web site. Unfortunately, local artists with limited resources tend to stick to social networking sites like MySpace, and finding music on these sites can be painful. Plus there's no guarantee the music you want will be on the particular site you're searching.

That's why I was excited to read about Qbox, a new service that entered public beta-testing today. It attempts to be an all-in-one catalog of all music stored on social networking sites. At launch, the service catalogs tunes from MySpace, Bebo, and YouTube.

The Qplayer embeds MySpace music pages, but when I tested it out, I couldn't get the songs to play. MySpace, The Curious Mystery

I visited the site and ran a search for some fairly obscure Seattle-area artists I've played shows with before and really admire, like Wah Wah Exit Wound and The Curious Mystery. Sure enough, all the songs they've posted on MySpace appear immediately. It's not like MySpace, where I have to make sure I've selected "Music" rather than "People" from the dropdown menu, then wade through a bunch of sponsored links to visit the musician's site.

World-famous bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floydalso have songs on MySpace, and therefore appear in the search results. In theory, I could construct a playlist with all of these songs interspersed with one another. So far so good.

Until I hit the "play" button on the site and was informed I had to download a desktop application, Qplayer. Grumble grumble--if this stuff's all being streamed from the Web, why should there be a desktop app? Nonetheless, I downloaded, shut down my browser, installed the player, opened my browser again, signed in to the site again, conducted a search for Curious Mystery, and hit play. This time the player launched. As you might be able to tell from the screenshot on this page, it looks like little more than a modified Web browser: it basically displays the relevant MySpace page on the right, with a playlist on the left. The artist's graphic appears above the playlist, but below that appear two random images which link to other artists--presumably some sort of promotion.

Fine, but where's my music? Unlike the case when I load a MySpace page into my regular Web browser, it didn't start playing when the Qplayer loaded. So I hit the "play" arrow above my playlist. Nothing. I went back to the Web site and tried hitting the "play" icon next to the song I wanted, and it just relaunched the player. No music.

The audio-only user guide didn't help. The FAQ didn't help.

Alas, that's beta software. Take a deep breath. Uninstall. Come back next week and try again.