This is the story of libspotify, as experienced by a Spotify customer and
libspotify developer for six years.
Step 1: Support your API for years
libspotify has been a
mostly nice–although proprietary–C library for integrating with the Spotify
music streaming service, providing both music metadata and full playback
capabilities. Language wrappers have been written for a plenitude of
programming languages (including my own
pyspotify). libspotify is integrated into
numerous open source projects (including my own
Mopidy), networked AV receivers, and rumour has it:
In addition to being closed source, there was another catch: in order to use
it, you need the Spotify premium subscription. Speaking from my own
experience supporting a project integrating with Spotify for the last six
years: lots of end users upgraded to premium in order to use the projects built
on top of libspotify.
Step 2: Stop accepting bug reports and stop releasing updates
In May 2012, Spotify released libspotify 12.1.51 for all supported
architectures, which now even included Android.
After months of endless requests from the quickly growing hoards of Raspberry
Pi users, Spotify released libspotify 12.1.103 for hardfloat
on January 22 2013. The release included minor API additions, like the addition
of explicit lyrics and means for accepting Spotify’s Terms of Service.
The additions in 12.1.103 never reached the other supported architectures and
12.1.51 remains the last release for those. There was no clear communication
about this being the end of libspotify, releases have just ceased. libspotify
has not been mentioned in a single developer blog post or developer email
That’s now more than three years ago.
Step 3: Create new APIs
Over the next couple of years Spotify released a new Web
API and iOS and Android SDKs. Through
their developer blog, they communicated quite a bit both about these and about
the deprecation of the apps inside the Spotify desktop client.
Here are some pieces from their developer blog to illustrate:
The Web API grew steadily, as documented by the Web APIs
changelog. Over time, its
feature list improved, supporting anonymous endpoints for generic music
metadata as well as OAuth protected endpoints for managing your own music
collection and playlists. The only major part missing that prevented developers
replacing libspotify was music playback, as the Web API only provides 30
From what I recall of 2014 IRC discussions with Spotify employees, they had
built a new much smaller library for streaming music. The iOS and Android SDKs
were simply platform specific wrappers around this new playback library and the
new Web API. My impression is that, after a number of beta releases, the iOS
and Android SDKs seamlessly replaced libspotify on those platforms. The plan
was apparently to release the new playback library for desktop too, so that it,
in combination with the Web API, could replace libspotify there as well.
That was all back in 2014.
Step 4: Deprecate old APIs
At some point, Spotify deprecated their old web API, the Metadata
API. There was no
blog post about it and it was not mentioned in any Spotify Developer News email
I’ve received in recent years. I guess they only published this fact as a note
on the Metadata API web page; it is therefore hard to track down exactly when
it was deprecated and how the deprecation was communicated. Anyway, it was
deprecated, and the natural upgrade path was to the new Web API. Spotify even
has a migration guide
mapping the concepts of the Metadata API to the new Web API. All good.
In May 2015, after 28 months without a single release or any news, libspotify
is officially deprecated. The communication channel of choice? A note on the
libspotify web page. No post on the developer blog. No Spotify Developer News
email. To be able to use libspotify, all developers have registered and
requested a personal application key. To my knowledge, none of these registered
library users were notified directly.
Step 5: Shut down an old API
On January 20 2016 Spotify end-of-lifed their Metadata API. I don’t know if
this date was communicated on the Metadata API web page well in advance of this
shutdown. There’s no blog post on the topic. There’s no news email. There’s no
tweet from @SpotifyPlatform or
@SpotifyStatus. I can’t find anything
except users commenting on various Spotify documentation pages that the text is
outdated because the API is no longer merely deprecated, but entirely shut
Hopefully they did publish the shutdown date ahead of time. It had a full
replacement API and a migration guide. Fair and square. Nothing much to
complain about here. It’s time to get porting your code to the Web API!
But frankly, I don’t really care about this Metadata API because I don’t use
the Metadata API, do I?
Step 6: Break your API without warning
February 3 2016, Mopidy users start
transient error” when searching Spotify. This is a libspotify error message
known as “
SP_ERROR_OTHER_TRANSIENT” with error code 16. This error usually
means that there is some unspecified issue with the Spotify service. We’ve
actually seen it before and like its name suggests, it is indeed transient and
soon goes away.
According to a series of
my fellow Mopidy developer Nick Steel and @SpotifyCares it appears that the
libspotify search functionality was backed by the Metadata API’s search
functionality. Who knew? I’m not aware of any relation between these APIs ever
being mentioned publicly. No libspotify user could possibly have known that
the Metadata API shutdown would affect them.
Let’s summarize: libspotify hasn’t had any releases for three years and it was
officially deprecated in May last year. But, there have been no warnings about
any shutdown. The libspotify project is likely no longer staffed at all. Did
someone just forget that libspotify depended on the Metadata API they were
Many newer networked AV receivers use the Spotify Connect libraries that are
exclusive to Spotify’s commercial partners. But some receivers probably still
use libspotify. If so, did Spotify just break hardware sold with Spotify
support as a major feature? Something that people are paying a monthly fee to
It seems they did!
In the Spotify Community forums there are numerous reports of broken devices
and software that all have two things in common: the date the problem started
occurring, and that search is the only feature that is broken.
including models: CEOL N8
- Logitech Squeezebox media
including models: M-CR510, M-CR610, NR1504, NR1603, SR5007, SR6008
including CR-N755, TX-NR509, TX-NR609, TX-8050
- Roku media
Surely, Spotify will quickly explain themselves and fix this?
Step 7: Stay quiet
Since the API shutdown, Spotify has been very quiet. No posts on the developer
blog. No email newsletter. No tweets from @SpotifyPlatform since December 1
Some users at The Spotify Community forum are quoting responses from Spotify.
Most responses seem to link to the Metadata API migration docs and state that
application developers must migrate. In other cases the responses point the
finger at the commercial partner which only adds to the confusion.
Some of these devices may use the Metadata API directly, and in those cases the
application maintainers are probably to blame. However, I’m quite certain that
the libspotify search issue is responsible for a fair share of these
complaints. libspotify, in contrast to the Metadata API, has never been
officially shut down. The responsibility for any breakage caused by
libspotify is Spotify’s alone.
What I want from Spotify
Apologize to your paying customers and supporters.
Get substantially better at communicating deprecations and shutdowns. We
want all news, not just good news.
Give us a new supported C library for audio playback. Now! Not later this
year. I’ve heard that promise for three consecutive years now.
We can live with pre-release software quality initially. Getting the library
out sooner rather than later shows us that there is a road ahead for all the
projects that stream music from Spotify. Let us get started making new
Release Spotify Connect specifications and libraries.
We want to make music players that can be controlled by the Spotify mobile
We want to make music controllers that can play music on all the Spotify
Connect software and hardware players we’ve invested in.
You’ve created this technology, now let us use it.
Thanks to Nick Steel for reviewing this blog