Facebook had been blasting its users with updates for the past week (lists, subscriptions, "featured news" feeds) and today unveiled its most striking overhaul in years. The dramatic new look of Facebook incorporates, significantly, music and media offerings. And at the Facebook's f8 developers conference in San Francisco Thursday morning CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that just about every streaming music service out there participated in the design of the social network's new music functionality.
The music integration (a part of Facebook's new version of open graph) will be rolled out immediately, and exists in the form of social apps that will track and share all of your music listening activity on Facebook's new "Ticker." Once you enable the app, all of your listening activity is shared automatically. Every bit. From the Katy Perry song you clicked "by accident" to the your stream of the Wild Flag debut. And you are never again specifically prompted to give permission, nor do you have to take any action to share a particular album or song. You can limit which friends you share with when you install the app though.
As part of the redesign, activities that are shared get filtered out into the Ticker, presumably so they don't annoy your friends. So the question becomes, why share this activity at all? The answer, according to Zuckerberg, is to help people find music through serendipity and to identify listening patterns (say, a large number of your friends are all listening to the same thing, you will get a notice in your regular news feed, not just the Ticker. You'll also get updates if a friend finds music though your activity.
Hovering on notices that a friend is currently listening to something allows you to listen to the same thing (via whatever service the friend is using) and opens a chat window for the two of you (and any other friends who care to join) to talk. Sort of like a stone-age Turntable.fm.
The big players in streaming and subscription services, Spotify, Mog,iheartradio, Rhapsody, Rdio, as well as smaller companies such as Turntable, Earbits and Slacker, all participated in the development of the new offering, but Zuck singled out Spotify for special love, and then brought Spotify CEO Daniel Ek on stage.
"Facebook users on Spotify listen to more music and a wider variety of music," Ek said. He then claimed that "because they are social they are more engaged and they are also twice as likely to pay for music."
The Zuck said it's become clear over the past couple of years that, "The key to making the music business work isn't trying to block you from listening to music," and declared, "It's not only time to rethink music but to rethink the whole music industry."
Ek, for one agreed that Facebook would play a part in this, saying "By putting music on Facebook, we are moving back to people paying for music again."
Notably, the company that does get people to pay for music, Apple, was absent from the list of partners. The reason, we can all assume, was not the wild success of Ping. Not that Apple, one of the most valuable corporations in the world, is likely very concerned.