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Pandora CTO: We jailbroke the iPhone, love HTML5

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Tom Conrad - CTO and EVP of Product, Pandora at Mobilize 2011Pandora (s P) has seen huge growth from mobile platforms, but its start in mobile was actually a little rocky, revealed the company’s CTO and EVP of Product Tom Conrad at GigaOM’s Mobilize conference on Monday. Conrad said that Pandora used to develop implementations for around 50 different feature phones a few years back, but none of these took off. Then the iPhone came along, and the folks at Pandora were so excited that they ended up jailbreaking an iPhone to get a head-start on developing for the platform.

Pandora ended up shipping their app through the official iTunes app store the day it launched three years ago and has since seen its user base explode from 13 million to over 100 million registered users. Conrad has also since made peace with Android, about which he had previously said that he needed the platform “like I need a hole in my head,” referring to the confusing state of Android fragmentation. On Monday, Conrad didn’t want to go into the specifics of Android vs. iOS market share amongst Pandora users, but he called Android’s growth “nothing short of remarkable.”

Still, Pandora’s future may not be in apps on either platform, but in HTML5. The company launched a new HTML5-powered website last week, and Conrad said that using HTML5 helped to both dramatically increase the performance of the site as well as implement new social features. Being able to turn features like these around rapidly is one of the big advantages in developing for the web, Conrad said: “The good thing on the web is that you can experiment really, really quickly.” Changes could be pushed out over night, whereas the same could take a month or more with native apps.

That doesn’t mean that Pandora will move away from apps for mobile platforms, even though Conrad said he could envision combining HTML5 and native code into a hybrid kind of app. However, HTML5 will also play a huge role in another big future growth area for the company: Devices that bring Pandora to the TV screen. Conrad called HTML5 a “key enbaler for connected devices,” and aded that he foresees that this kinds of devices as well as solutions to bring Pandora to the car dashboard will have a major impact on Pandora’s audience:

Right now, Conrad explained, 70 percent of Pandora’s listening happens on mobile devices. “In the future, the majority of Pandora listening will happen in the car and on the connected device,” he said.

10 Responses to “Pandora CTO: We jailbroke the iPhone, love HTML5”

  1. Developers should be wary of moving to HTML5 on iPhone. Apple is notorious for making code changes without any advance notice or justification. We tested our web based audio application and recently found that some standard HTML5 features (that previously ran without a problem) no longer work in mobile Safari.

  2. Pandora absolutely requires Flash. I know the difference between the old site and the new one; the new one is much prettier and more usable, but if you try to load the site without Flash, you’ll get a big, ugly “you must have Flash enabled” error.

    • Actually, that doesn’t appear to be the case. When I visit Pandora using Safari, I get the message that I must have Flash… but, if I then change the User Agent (still in Safari) to Firefox or IE9, then Pandora loads just fine without Flash. It appears that for some reason they’re checking user agent and if it’s Safari it won’t load the HTML5 site. :(

  3. It’s all over the press that Pandora has gone to an HTLM5 site, yet when I go to it on my machine that has Flash disabled, I still only get a one-sentence notice to enable Flash support in order to visit What gives? Wild horses couldn’t drag me back to using Flash. My machine is so much healthier without it.