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Social music site offers easy access

Sneak peak of private beta music site, Jango, reveals new take on play bar features.

Webware is always happy to see new competitors challenge the status quo.

Jango attempts to combine Pandora's simple interface, Finetune's control over playlists, Facebook's ease with profiles, and the music community of Last.fm.

While this latest DIY Internet radio Web site doesn't open to public beta until November 12, we're sharing it with you now. It adds nice social-networking features in a simplistic way that others just don't have yet. (We've also managed to get some early invites to Jango for CNET readers before the site officially goes public.)

"What we tried to do was build a site that would let users create super-custom radio stations in the easiest possible way and for it to be fun and social if they wanted," said Jango CEO Daniel Kaufman.

While the site is a little blah in terms of its color palette, Jango has designed easy, quick-access features.

From right within the play bar, listeners can scroll playlists, label songs for weighted preference, view band information, scroll lists of like-minded listeners, play others' lists, view others' profiles, and send their station to others via a link.

Jango's play bar. Jango

A profile is automatically created when a person signs up. It includes a place for information provided by the listener, their stations, a data cloud on the artists they play most, their friends, their like-minds, songs they've recently labeled as "loved," and a place for comments.

If you don't want to commit to friends, send an automatic "thank you" to someone after listening to their station. It's sort of like poking someone on Facebook only without the ambiguity of what doing that act actually implies. Jango's poke is just a simple thank you, said Kaufman.

The music collection includes approximately 200,000 songs and 10,000 artists from all the genres except classical, which Jango plans to add. As with all the DIY music station sites, on-demand song choice is forbidden by law, but Jango does allow listeners to add preferred artists to a playlist. Jango will also make suggestions.

Jango play bar with personal profile open. Jango

Jango's system for choosing music is based on three components: similarity, which Kaufman said is based on how music editors group music, popular music analysis engines of the "if you like this, you'll like this" variety which have opened up their API, and user ratings.

This method of analysis and the relatively small music collection is Jango's weakness. There is also one search bar for finding songs, and another for finding listener and band profiles, an interface issue Jango says it's going to fix.

"Playing the forgotten B-sides, well there's a reason in general that those songs are the forgotten B-sides. More of the people are going to like the popular songs more of the time," said Kaufman.

There is a long list of those who might disagree with that B-side sentiment.

On the other hand, if you're not really interested in finding new bands, then you probably don't need Pandora's extensive music collection and analysis. Jango has the social component Pandora lacks and the control of Finetune playlists without complications.

Wondering about the name? That's just what was available from a list that included Mesmeradio, Mamatune, Eskimojo, and RustyLobster .

"I wish it were the name of one of our dogs, but we just wanted a fun, music-sounding name, and Jango was the best we could get ahold of," said Kaufman.