clouder track view

Soundcloud etabliert sich immer mehr als das „Social Network für Sound“ im Netz. Egal ob DJs, Bands, Independent Artists oder Radiostationen und Podcaster - Soundcloud ist der Ort an dem Audiofiles geteilt, diskutiert und gehört werden. Mit Clouder! ist eine inoffizielle Soundcloud App für Windows 8 verfügbar die bereits über 200000 Downloads aufweisen kann.

Clouder! deckt nahezu alle Funktionen der Webiste ab: Account Login, kommentieren, Download von Tracks, Re-Post und Like. Die App läuft stabil und ist auch schon in einigen Sprachen verfügbar.

Wir haben den Entwickler kontaktiert um mehr über das App-Projekt Clouder! zu erfahren.

Please introduce yourself. What is your day to day job, how do you make a living, what’s your education?

Hi! My name is Fabien Nicollet and I live in Lyon, France. For the last 5 years I have been working at Business Geografic as a front-end developer, creating web applications for our customers. We create mapping software; think Google Maps for public and private organisations, as well as Business Intelligence mapping plug-ins.

I have a masters degree in telecommunications and networks and mostly taught myself programming. I also run two French-language blogs, for which I have written more than a thousand Adobe Flex and HTML5 tutorials as I learned to programme.

Why have you decided to develop a Windows 8 Soundcloud app? Are you a musician, a soundcloud fan, or simply because no official app was available?

As I was learning how Windows 8 works, I started writing tutorials in French so that readers could also learn how to develop on this brand new platform. I needed to create a project that would start from scratch and cover most of the interesting topics: project structure, calling a web service, displaying the result, making it look good, working with different types of media, etc.

So I had to look for an open API, a website that would allow developers to browse and retrieve content. I use SoundCloud a lot to listen to and discover electronic music and I realised that it would make a good example. The SoundCloud API is pretty well done and the documentation is good. Creating an account is easy so readers can experiment very quickly. I ended up writing about 20 tutorials which covered the basics of Windows 8 programming.

Because I was one of the earliest Windows 8 users to have a developer account, I was also part of Microsoft’s Accelerator Program which helps developers get their apps to market. I then decided to try and publish a better version of the app, with some more features. The first version of Clouder! was born and was available in the Windows 8 Store for the Windows 8 launch.

From idea to  first release in the  marketplace - how long did it take to create the first version of your soundcloud app Clouder?

The first version took me a little longer than usual because I was writing tutorials about it at the same time and I was learning how the Windows 8 platform works as well. I created Clouder! on my own time, after work, so it is hard to count but I would say that I developed a working version pretty rapidly, after about 20 hours of coding.

Once you are done coding, one of the hardest parts comes, which is getting accepted into the Windows 8 Store because you have to go through a manual review of your application, which can take days or weeks and have very unexpected results! Clouder was rejected a few times before getting in; sometimes for silly reasons, sometimes for very unclear reasons.

For instance, Clouder! has been rejected because some track images uploaded by users showed some inappropriate content, which they asked me to moderate, as if I could moderate every song that gets uploaded to SoundCloud. I had the same issue with having bad words in track comments -  users love to express their joy with passion :).

But in the end, it was accepted just before the release of Windows 8, which I thought would be massive but was actually  a little disappointing.

Your app offers the most important functions from the soundcloud website, like downloading tracks, logging in and managing sounds (commenting, liking, repost,..). What was the hardest part to implement?

The hardest part to implement was the log in function. It might seem trivial but it isn’t. SoundCloud offers a way to log in called oAuth, a kind of standard where the user gets redirected to the SoundCloud website, logs in, and SoundCloud redirects you to the original website with a token that you need to send afterwards in all your requests to SoundCloud to authentify the user.

The process works well when you are in a website context but an app is pretty different as it sits in a „sandbox“ which offer only a few ways to communicate with the web. First I tried integrating the SoundCloud log in page in a pop-up in the app, but I ran into trouble with mixed content (HTTP content can’t be shown on an HTTPS page by default). Also, you can log in with Facebook, but Facebook forbids such an integration and many users started complaining that Facebook login would just give them a blank screen.

In the end, I had to circumvent the issue by letting the user open a new Internet Explorer window to the SoundCloud website that would redirect to the app using a mechanism called „pseudo-protocol“ that unfortunately only works in IE. So logging in is still a bit hard but you only have to go through these steps once.

You recently reached 200,000 downloads. Do you make any money with the app? What will the future of the app look like (planned features etc)?

The apps gets about 700-800 downloads every day, and more than a thousand on good days. The total now exceeds 220,000, which is pretty amazing. I don’t make any money through the app as there is no in-app purchase and no adverts. I find those two options annoying as a user so I didn’t want to annoy everyone with ad banners or exclusive features.

Also, all the content hosted on SoundCloud is not mine and I don’t pay anything for hosting or domain names so I don’t have any costs I need to cover. Users should pay for songs they like instead of paying only for a way to access them.

I have another app in the Windows 8 Store called Maps Pro (which is a paid app (1.99€/2.49$) with no in-app purchases and a trial period of 7 days. It is also available in German as Karten Pro!.

Future versions are really based on the feedback I get from users. Most of the latest features came from user feedback: streaming to Xbox, changing the default download path, repost function, etc. In the next update, there might be some UI changes: many users have told me that the tiles are too big and they would like to be able to display more tiles at once on their screen. Also, playlist management seem to be a big demand.

I also try my best to fix reported issues but some are very hard to reproduce. I actually found one tonight that will be fixed in the next update!

Are you in contact with Soundcloud? Do they like your app? Do you know if they work on their own Windows 8 app?

I am not really in contact with SoundCloud, only for technical requests. Sometimes their API changes and it breaks my application, which is annoying but also the cost of having an app which is entirely dependent on one service.

They also contacted me once because of issues with copyright infringement. Basically, Clouder! allowed you to download any song that you could stream. It was a very basic implementation, I was just allowing the user to download the mp3 being streamed, on his hard drive. It is kind of like when you could record music from the radio or a CD onto a tape :). There is very little they can do about this kind of hack apart from warning the developer but I wanted to be fair with the website and the artists so now you can only download the tracks that the artists allow you to download.

They told me they like my application and that they are not currently working on an official application, which doesn’t surprise me. Creating a way for developers to communicate with their platform (the API) is a way for them to get developers like me developing apps on many platforms that they just couldn’t do they themselves. They only provide an official app for the crucial platforms such as iOS and Android because they need to make sure they provide quality on those. On platforms with a lower user count they can leave individual developers creating an app, the result being as good as it gets.

From your experience, what are the pros and cons of developing apps for Windows 8?

Windows 8 is very different from the other platforms such as Android and iOS. The most important difference being the devices you support. When creating a Windows 8 app you only target desktops, laptops and tablets running Windows . You do not target smartphones, which makes a huge difference in terms of what you can and should build.

For instance, my other app Maps Pro allows the user to browse a map, choosing from a large range of map providers. Should you add GPS navigation or offline mode, knowing that people will not use it on smartphones but mostly on laptops? When are you ever offline on your home computer? Almost never. But still, it makes sense to tablet users and I have had many requests for offline mode.

Windows 8 is an hybrid platform; apps are in competition with classic desktop applications (say Microsoft Office suite) and the range of web browsers still traditionally favoured on home PCs.

The good side is that it is still Windows and it is not going away. I could believe that Apple might disappear in 5 years but Windows is still the king of desktop computers which are here to stay for a long time. This means that you can address millions of potential users as people renew their OS or their machines, and it is really valuable for app developers.

The Windows 8 Store is less crowded than iOS or Android stores so there is still a way to publish an app and still be noticed, which is now almost impossible on other mobile platforms.

Do you get any support from Soundcloud? Do you know if Soundcloud works on their own app for Windows (at time of writing there is still no official Soundcloud client for Windows Phone from Soundcloud)?

I don’t get any support from SoundCloud unfortunately. I keep a close eye on developments on the SoundCloud website in order to keep Clouder! up to date and true to the website from which it is inspired.

As far as I know, they are not working on their own app for Windows. Maybe they feel that Clouder! does the job already.

Have you also worked on Android or iOS apps (tablet apps)? What are the differences (besides marketshare) compared to Windows 8 (available resource, dev environment etc.)?

The Windows 8 resources provided by Microsoft are pretty good, the SDK contains all the tools necessary for free. You have to work with Visual Studio which was completely new to me, I usually work with IntelliJ IDEA at work, but unfortunately you can only develop and compile Windows 8 apps within VS.

The Microsoft documentation was an excellent surprise to me as it is up to date and filled with code snippets and samples in every language. Documentation is usually rare or outdated but Microsoft really did an excellent job on that part.

Of course, because you have fewer Windows 8 developers, you are less likely to find other devs with the same issues as you on forums such as StackOverflow but the Microsoft forums are pretty dynamic and people are always willing to help you. I got help a few times from the official Microsoft forums, which is always appreciated.

Overall, Windows 8 is a good platform, and they had the good idea to provide a HTML5 stack so that you can develop apps using your existing skills as a web developer (HTML / JavaScript / CSS). This is quite unique and allows developers to quickly become efficient, because they don’t have to learn a new language, they can get straight to coding.

Wer eine Soundcloud App für Windows Phone sucht findet ebenfalls einige Angebote.