It's been a good seven months since Yahoo killed off its own music service in favor of teaming up with RealNetworks' Rhapsody. The evolution of this partnership finally surfaced on Yahoo's search results late Wednesday evening. Now any time you do a search for an artist or song name you'll be able to play up to four of their tracks, in full length, right from the results. Previously the system only allowed for 30-second previews.
The updated service allows for up to 25 full-length plays per month, although users who sign up to be a part of Rhapsody's $13-a-month subscription service can get unlimited streaming plays. The music plays from the built-in Yahoo Media Player the company is calling FoxyPlayer. It automatically keeps track of how many plays you've had and includes shortcuts to the source album, lyrics, and artist page. Once you move off the page the player disappears, so if you want to keep listening you have to leave that window or tab open.
In my testing I found the player to be excellent, however Yahoo's system is still fragmented. Using Yahoo's audio search still provides short samples that play without the benefit of the player, and the basic search does not always pick up your artists, despite them being in Yahoo Music's catalog.
In the case of a big band like Oasis the only full-length tracks available were karaoke samples; once played, they still counted toward the 25-song monthly cap. When I wanted to see other songs in the collection it hopped me over to the download page where you could only listen to 30-second samples, something that will be switching over to full-length tracks "soon" according to a post on Yahoo's search blog.
All of this jumping around is bound to be confusing to the average user unless they're looking for big-name bands. Going forward, the most powerful option is going to be a player that follows you from page to page and smarter recognition of band names that are pulled up when users are searching.
Update: Made a correction regarding the FoxyPlayer being related to technology from Foxytunes.