Read your favorite blog while listing to uninterrupted music. Fire.fm plays personalized Last.fm radio stations from your Web browser toolbar. The Mozilla Firefox extension taps into your Last.fm profile and plays everything from your favorite artists to music that is recommended for you.
After downloading Fire.fm, a thin music player appears on the right hand side at the top of your browser. The add-on will prompt you to log into your Last.fm account when you click "create a station," and if you do not already have one, click "create a Last.fm account". This process is fast; to start using Fire.fm all you need is to enter some of your favorite artists into your profile.
Fire.fm is intuitive. When you click "create a station," typing in an artist will automatically start playing a streaming playlist of similar bands, including songs from the artist you entered. From there, you can choose to be as interactive with the player as you want. If you love a song, click the heart icon and the song will be posted to "loved tracks" on your profile. If you dislike a song, click the "ban" icon and Fire.fm will not play this song again. Clicking the tag icon lets you tag a track, album, or artist anyway you want--your caption will show up on the respective Last.fm page. There is also an Amazon icon which will open a page where you can buy the track.
This add-on is great for tapping into your Last.fm account. You can play a radio station based on your Last.fm library, recommendations from Last.fm, and your friends' libraries. There is an extra choice to play all of your "loved tracks" in a playlist; however, this is accessible only when you have a paid subscription with Last.fm. Other options include starting a radio station by picking another band from the similar artists tab, top artists tab, and playing a station based on your "neighborhood": users who like the same music.
Aesthetically, Fire.fm is minimalist; it does not take up a lot of space on your tool bar. Every time a new song comes on, a box decorated with the respective album artwork will pop up smoothly at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen displaying the artist, album, and song you are listening to.
The add-on is useful because you can listen to music with no interference to other Web pages and vice versa. Unlike other online radio stations, such as Pandora and Slacker, Last.fm radio lets you skip as many songs as you want. Do you hate commercials that come between you and your jam session? No problem, Fire.fm is commercial free. A great downfall, however, is the lack of pause button on the user interface. The only navigational buttons are the play button--which turns into a stop button while radio is playing) and the skip button. This is a massive inconvenience when you love the song but need to interrupt it. Pressing the stop button will halt the station altogether; when you press play again your track will be gone and there is no way to tell when the song will make another appearance. Nevertheless, this should not come as a surprise since Last.fm navigational features and restrictions are the same in the Fire.fm extension.
Fire.fm is a great way to listen to your favorite music while discovering new artists that are similar to your taste. The player not only plays music from your Last.fm profile, it also "scrobbles" it to your page. This way, you can refer back to all of the music that played while sharing it with all of your Last.fm friends. Aside from the missing pause button, Fire.fm is blazingly useful.
Disclosure: Last.fm is a part of CBS Interactive, which also publishes CNET Downloads.