Forbes recently broke a rumor that Facebook has signed a deal with Spotify, the music streaming service, to join forces in bringing a cloud music service to the masses, as long as it keeps you deeply rooted into the Facebook ecosystem.
Firstly, a few details about this so-called deal and what it means for both companies, and of course, you the consumer. Of course this is a win-win situation for both firms involved, Facebook gets a music-streaming service to rival the likes of Google, Apple and Amazon, and Spotify gets about a bazillion more users, who will hopefully upgrade to a premium account. The deal makes perfect sense for both parties if we’re thinking rather linearly about revenue, but what does it mean for us? And maybe more importantly, what does it mean for music?
Lets be honest for a second. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a bit nerdy, you care more than most about technology and about these web services that I’m harking on about. Now, most people in the world are not nerds, they don’t particularly care about the ongoing battle between the web heavyweights, therefore they don’t really care where their music is coming from; they care about what’s the easiest. Now for most people, Facebook is the easiest, it’s where they spend most of their time on the web and it’s where most of their friends spend the most time on the web, therefore, it’s the ideal place to listen to their music.
Let me quickly clarify who I’m talking about here. You know the person who says, to your face, “add me on Facebook so I can invite you to my party” without a hint of irony. Yeah, those people. Those people, who I’m afraid are extraordinarily abundant nowadays, are going to lap this service up, and most importantly, they won’t even notice they’re choosing a music streaming service simply because it will integrate so easily into their current online life.
Now for us, the nerds/geeks/techies, this poses a sort-of problem. If most people (because most people are heavily invested in Facebook) unwittingly choose this service, it may starve the purpose-built streaming services out of users, which ultimately may lead to them closing up shop. Of course this is all postulation at the moment, but nonetheless it’s something we should be worried about, heck, it’s something most web services should be worried about.
You see, Facebook is growing, and I don’t mean growing in user base (of course it is but that’s not my point), I mean growing in the services it offers. The average Facebook user today is using such a plethora of services that they don’t even know they’re using, to demonstrate, I’ll list a sample of these services with some alternative web apps.
• Social updates (Twitter, Myspace)
• Photo storage (Flickr, Picasa, MobileMe)
• Video storage (Youtube, Vimeo)
• Social location updates (Foursquare, Gowalla)
• Chat (Google talk, AIM, many others)
• Social calendar (Google calendar)
• Email (Gmail, MobileMe, Live mail, thousands of others)
• Online games (google “online games”)
• An inane place to share pointless rubbish (Tumblr…aw snap)
My point being, look at all the different web apps a Facebook user would need to use to replicate the services they’re most likely using without knowing it. This is why, if this deal between Spotify and Facebook goes ahead, it will be just another bullet point on my list that the common user won’t even notice they’re using, but will still bring in the revenue for the two companies.
Now, us being nerds, we know that the service Facebook offers is awful, and that if we want all these web services the best thing to do is use the alternatives. The analogy being, a Ferrari 458 is going to go round the Nürburgring ring quicker than a Vauxhall Zafira. The purpose-built sports car is better at going quickly than the jack-of-all-trades MPV. Although, the analogy holds that someone who knows nothing about cars and isn’t interested in going fast, will pick the car that can carry more shopping. The average person will choose the one-stop-shop of Facebook over the various boutique sites that offer the better service. It’s all about preference. The only problem is, we’re not all the average user, and there’s a horrible possibility that our boutique sites will be run out of business by the mega-mall approach that is Facebook.