Google launched a major rebranding of its online media and app stores last month, and now the company is updating the recently-renamed Google Play Music with its own set of experimental features. Tucked away behind a new "music labs" settings menu are options for desktop notifications, an HTML5 audio player, and a new ratings system. Chrome has long offered notifications for Gmail and other Google applications, and now the browser provides the same functionality for the music player, popping up a Growl-style badge whenever a new song from your library starts playing — a handy tool when you have the player minimized or hidden in the background. The HTML5 player is a less flashy add-on, simply replacing the default Flash-based option on any browser that supports playing MP3s with HTML5 audio. Chrome, Internet Explorer 9 and above, and Safari 3.1 and above are all listed as compatible browsers; an HTML5-optimized version of the player rolled out for iOS devices last September. The new ratings system offers exactly what it sounds like: a more granular way to rate your music beyond the binary thumbs-up and thumbs-down options Google Play Music normally offers.
As with all Google Labs features, they're to be considered experimental until fully integrated into the product, but we found all three to work as advertised. With each making Google Play Music's somewhat basic player just that much more refined, we hope they become permanent additions sooner rather than later. Of course, the improvements will likely be of little concern to those outside the US, who are still waiting for Google's music offering to expand internationally.