Editorial

Facebook wins the Cloud Music war without firing a shot

Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have his priorities in line yesterday. At the f8 developer conference keynote, Zuckerberg went in depth on the new profile feature, Timeline, and discussed the various ways OpenGraph has been changed to report on even more of your arguably meaningful activities on the Internet.  It just so happened to be that one of those new capabilities that OpenGraph brings to the table is media sharing. This was talked about briefly, almost glossed over, and Spotify CEO Daniel Eck was brought on stage to give a perfunctory “Hi. We think this is pretty cool. Bye” before Zuckerberg quickly moved on to another order of business.

Many news outlets already had articles already halfway pre-written announcing the beginning of a Facebook music service, predicting that feature to be the highlight and blockbuster feature of the event. In fact, we had a bit of an editorial struggle here yesterday deciding who was going to devote an entire post just to the Music announcement. In the end, we decided it wasn’t worth it, given the dearth of actual information provided.

This is surprising because it almost seems like Zuckerberg didn’t realize how much of a grand slam he hit in making Faceify happen (That was Facebook/Spotify for the DIY-contraction challenged). I wrote a while back about the battle of the titans in the cloud music space, and wondered when someone – be it Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple, or Spotify – would create the one killer app to rule them all, a music cloud/subscription service that would include the features necessary to overcome the steep competition. Facebook was not on that list. At the time, the platform just wasn’t ready. Here’s what I said:

Nevertheless, the game isn’t over by a long shot. Facebook has been conspicuously absent from the fray, and considering their own presence in the infrastructure and content hosting industry, it's only logical that they make a solid attempt at entry. They do have plans to partner with Spotify to offer the popular subscription service on their social network platform, and adding cloud music storage to that equation could be golden for them. However, that hasn’t been announced in any way, and is purely wishful speculation.

That all changed yesterday.

Facebook is taking the social music platform that Spotify started and giving it a shot of adrenaline in the heart. All of a sudden, your measly 10 Spotify friends who aren’t paying enough attention to your playlists to make it worthwhile have become your hundreds of Facebook friends that are basically forced to notice every time you listen to a track. They are then able to listen to that track immediately, implicitly creating feedback and creating a sharing loop that every social media outlet dreams of.

According to my feature list, Facebook comes out of this looking like a champ.

Subscription options – Facebook isn’t providing this service, but is smartly partnering with other services to make Facebook the hub of every music subscription model that would ever want a few million more users. Spotify is the headliner, mainly because of price, but you can bet that Zune Pass, Rhapsody, Rdio, and all the other players will be wanting a piece of this.

Streaming + Offline Storage – Regrettably, this is something Facebook will not be able to offer. However, that doesn’t mean that developers won’t be able to write apps for it. Whenever Zune Pass gets a Facebook app, there very well may be the capability to store your music offline, integrating nicely with Zune Desktop and Mobile software. Don’t rule this out yet.

Music Matching – Once again, this is going to be primarily up to the developers. Since Facebook isn’t offering the music itself, it won’t need to actually match your music. One could argue, though, that by matching up your music with others, and allowing you to stream other people’s libraries, Facebook is actually providing a matching service here. It’s kind of a stretch, though.

Mobile Access – Heck, ya. I don’t think Zuckerberg could have stressed the mobile aspect of the new Facebook features enough. The goal is to make everything announced for the web client available for mobile clients. Since Facebook is just a little ubiquitous in the mobile scene right now, mobile music sharing services will be all Facebook, all the time. This is one area where Google could have preempted the competition, but their sluggishness with Google Music (Beta) and their non-willingness to negotiate with labels or partner with third-parties caused somewhat of a feature-barren and non-social cloud music scene for them.

Library Organization – Developers will be on this like a hobo to a hot dog (as they say in the local vernacular). With all the Music in an accessible OpenGraph API, it shouldn’t be too difficult to offer ID3 tag assistance and album art finders. Some services may be better at this than others in the end, but you can’t have a great music sharing platform if everyone’s tags are different. Standardization is key here.

Pricing – This is the exciting part. Until now, each service has existed in its own walled garden, so to speak. Each subscription had its own client, player, website and pay model. Facebook will be the great equalizer. Now that all services will essentially be competing on the same stage, marketing to the same users, all pay models will have to face a Spotify-induced reckoning. Spotify, while bursting onto the Facebook scene, also announced that it was opening its free subscription to all of the US, and for six months, you can have unlimited music streaming. Spotify hopes that by the time the grace period is over, many users would rather pay the $5/month for basic access rather than limit themselves to 10 hours of music a month. The $10/month services will have to adapt to this or simply forget competing on Facebook. I love competition.

Overall, this was a genius move by Facebook. They are offering the most robust music sharing option to date, allowing for more options than the industry has ever seen on one platform, and they don’t have to actually store any music. They get all the data mining/hoarding benefits of applying music preferences to the OpenGraph treatment, and they are letting the already-entrenched subscription services do the dirty work for them. In the end, Facebook comes out a huge winner, at little cost to them. Services like Spotify and Rhapsody salivate at the chance to be part of Facebook’s 800 million strong user base, and Facebook now has the development platform in place to really make this happen.

Zuckerberg implied that the changes to OpenGraph will cause tectonic shifts in every industry it touches; I’m not one to fall for keynote hyperbole, but the potential for disruption here is enormous. The industry had it coming, and musical consumers will be the ultimate winners here.

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41 Comments

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Thread said,
I don't think Zuckerberg could have stressed the mobile aspect of the new Facebook features enough. The goal is to make everything announced for the web client available for mobile clients.

How about he spends more attention on just the base iOS and android apps? Facebook fails to work for me now 90% of the time on iOS since the latest update. They just don't care about it or there new 2 star app rating.

Google+ on the other hand has received updates and patches and works perfectly for a app so young in it's development cycle. It's put's Facebook's mobile development team to shame.

in the article, you mention zune music will want a piece of this... but yet they aren't represented in the picture of all the music providers

In my opinion, none of the services in the article win the cloud music war, mainly due to the fact that none of them are available in Australia. Apple's iCloud is likely going to be the first of the services available here and will likely be the only one to do so for a long time. This whole Facebook Music announcement is really pointless for the 1 in 2 Australians who use Facebook; and that's not even counting the other countries where these services are also not available. True cloud music is a pipe dream at the moment, especially if you don't live in the US.

Same here. So sick of Facebook.

Spotify decides now to integrate only with Facebook.

A person that wants to join Spotify has to create a Facebook account in order to use Spotify. Uugghh!

This is definitely a bad sign of the future, if a person wants to use apps/services, he/she is forced to join Facebook.

cykotoxik said,
Same here. So sick of Facebook.

Spotify decides now to integrate only with Facebook.

A person that wants to join Spotify has to create a Facebook account in order to use Spotify. Uugghh!

This is definitely a bad sign of the future, if a person wants to use apps/services, he/she is forced to join Facebook.


No.. you can use Spotify all by itself..

itsthenewDC said,

No.. you can use Spotify all by itself..

If there is a method to join/use Spotify without a mandatory registration to Facebook, I'd surely like to know how.

I know, prior to yesterday, Spotify gave a user an option to register through Facebook or just directly. That alternate option to register directly, without Facebook, has since been removed.

There is no freedom of choice now.

Edited by cykotoxik, Sep 24 2011, 1:55am :

Arghhh, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, everywhere I'm getting really sick, almost turning green with that word... Facebook is sooooo overrated....

MountainSnake said,
Arghhh, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, Facebook, everywhere I'm getting really sick, almost turning green with that word... Facebook is sooooo overrated....

You mean blue

... let the downfall slowly begin... welcome everyone, ladies and gents, to... MySpace NEXT. (not 2.0, but NEXT cause it's slightly better looking)... The new changes, the timeline, this, it's all slowly building into an overcrowded mess. Gah, and Facebook used to be really good.

NeoDecay said,
... let the downfall slowly begin... welcome everyone, ladies and gents, to... MySpace NEXT. (not 2.0, but NEXT cause it's slightly better looking)... The new changes, the timeline, this, it's all slowly building into an overcrowded mess. Gah, and Facebook used to be really good.

Have you even tried timeline? It's pretty good.

Somehow this all makes me not to use Facebook again. Mainly because I dont want to spam my friends with all that crap. If they would want to know what I listen or where I went jogging I would be more than happy to tell them.

"All of a sudden, your measly 10 Spotify friends who aren't paying enough attention to your playlists to make it worthwhile have become your hundreds of Facebook friends that are basically forced to notice every time you listen to a track."

So, it went from 10 friends who cared enough about music to get Spotify and share playlists, to hundreds that listen to a bunch of crap pop music and let everyone know about it.

Myspace didn't fall apart because of the stupid music playing pages with sparkle gifs, it fell apart because the signal : noise ratio blew up (alright, mostly because of the music and sparkle gifs). While Facebook thinks all this sharing is a great idea, it's too easy, and it will quickly become everyone trying to limit what they hear from their "friends".

threetonesun said,
"All of a sudden, your measly 10 Spotify friends who aren't paying enough attention to your playlists to make it worthwhile have become your hundreds of Facebook friends that are basically forced to notice every time you listen to a track."

So, it went from 10 friends who cared enough about music to get Spotify and share playlists, to hundreds that listen to a bunch of crap pop music and let everyone know about it.

Myspace didn't fall apart because of the stupid music playing pages with sparkle gifs, it fell apart because the signal : noise ratio blew up (alright, mostly because of the music and sparkle gifs). While Facebook thinks all this sharing is a great idea, it's too easy, and it will quickly become everyone trying to limit what they hear from their "friends".

Hence the new front page, it let's you choose what you want to see and from whom. Whle the ticker has the noise, out of the way.

HawkMan said,

Hence the new front page, it let's you choose what you want to see and from whom. Whle the ticker has the noise, out of the way.

I don't have many friends, and I find the redesign to be absolutely horrible. The filtering is not intuitive, and they placed the ticker on the other side of a row of adds. Not to mention, if mobile is their main feature, the iOS app is terrible at presenting anything of interest on my feed.

Who knows, maybe they'll clear it up. Facebook isn't interested in people sharing data, they're interested in people generating data so they can sell it to advertisers.

im sorry. but i go to youtube when i wanna listen to music. and ill NEVER make a facebook account.

and i download my music from youtube.. i dont waste bandwidth.

ShareShiz said,
im sorry. but i go to youtube when i wanna listen to music. and ill NEVER make a facebook account.

and i download my music from youtube.. i dont waste bandwidth.

Music on YouTube IS the definition of wasting bandwidth, higher bit rate, lower quality, and designed for movies, not for finding music and artists.

Spotify however, lower bit rate, better quality, designed for music. I used WiMP thoug, it has an iPad app, and pink Floyd.

duckhuntdog said,
lol @ downloading music from youtube. enjoy your high quality audio.

**** sounds the same no matter the quality. and at least its free.

jDownloader FTW

and downloading once and listening to it a million times on my HDD is saving bandwidth. instead of just steaming **** 24/7. difference is a few MBs vs a few GBs

ShareShiz said,

**** sounds the same no matter the quality. and at least its free.

jDownloader FTW

and downloading once and listening to it a million times on my HDD is saving bandwidth. instead of just steaming **** 24/7. difference is a few MBs vs a few GBs


Maybe you should educate yourself on how spotify works. And then compare. High bit rate spotify song to your same sounding YouTube "****"

HawkMan said,

Maybe you should educate yourself on how spotify works. And then compare. High bit rate spotify song to your same sounding YouTube "****"

That's when you apply the 80-20 rule. I don't pay sellers when I can get 80% quality from Youtube. Why do I *need* the remaining 20% quality? Does my life depend on the 20% quality of music that I should give it value by spending my hard cash? Sometimes I get 100% from Torrents. So, in those situations, why pay for music at all?

Your point is stupid and it is exactly what Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft want you to think when you buy music.

Edited by Jebadiah, Sep 24 2011, 12:53am :

[quote=Jebadiah said,]
That's when you apply the 80-20 rule. I don't pay sellers when I can get 80% quality from Youtube. Why do I *need* the remaining 20% quality? Does my life depend on the 20% quality of music that I should give it value by spending my hard cash? Sometimes I get 100% from Torrents. So, in those situations, why pay for music at all?

Your point is stupid and it is exactly what Apple, Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft want you to think when you buy music.[/quote

His point is stupid? You're supporting ILLEGAL methods that could have you sued for all the music you illegally downloaded. Who's stupid here? hmm...

I actually really didn't want my Spotify telling my friends on Facebook that i have been jamming out to the new Britney Spears all week . So I turned off all of the features mentioned in this article.

Shadrack said,
I actually really didn't want my Spotify telling my friends on Facebook that i have been jamming out to the new Britney Spears all week . So I turned off all of the features mentioned in this article.

That doesn't mean you can't find new music through the ticker that your friends are posting, which is what FB is really just doing. Sharing info about things you do/like etc.

O5M3L said,
Little by little it is turning into Myspace and we all know what happened to that

There's a difference between sharing your own crap uic on a badly deigned webpage, and sharing the music you listen to.

O5M3L said,
Little by little it is turning into Myspace and we all know what happened to that

as long as it doesn't start playing some EMO or punk song every time you click on a users profile, it wont go that route

O5M3L said,
Little by little it is turning into Myspace and we all know what happened to that

It got sold on for peanuts and a re (re) launch imminent?

HawkMan said,

There's a difference between sharing your own crap uic on a badly deigned webpage, and sharing the music you listen to.


I'll be the first to say that I miss being able to have my own customized profile. The default profile sucked but you could change anything about it and that's what I liked. Also it was actually who you were, the song you chose described you along with the layout. It was more personal for me.

Personally I am not a big fan of pay for listening model, I buy vinyl and CDs, but if I had to pick up one of these services I would pick up MS one..

IMO FB is the 21st Century plague and I would not get associated with it even if it was offering music for free.

Besides my personal position I can assure you that there are a lot of people that do not care or flatly despise FB; and therefore there are plenty of opportunities for other competitors like MS, Amazon etc. etc.

I am sure that they will be successful but say that just because FB entered the arena the game is over is inaccurate to say the least.

Jose_49 said,
I agree, except for vinyl, but I do buy CDs. Is the only way I can get FLAC from my audio.

There are sites that have immense amounts of music all in FLAC. . .

Fred 69 said,

There are sites that have immense amounts of music all in FLAC. . .


Really? Would you point me to some of them... Seriously, I want to know . Thanks.

M_Lyons10 said,
I'm rather surprised that the Record Labels haven't complicated this. Give it time I suppose...

Record labels freely, and fairly frequently, pull music from Sptofiy, but if you're lucky, they'll later put it back. I guess it's due to promotions, or being dissatisfied with the revenue Spotify produce for them. For example, Rammstein barely has any music there now, but had a huge part of their discography there before.

Also, Spotify is a subscription service, unless you count the severly limited (even by playing time) free service.

So, summarized -- record labels are in 100% control of what Spotify serves there. If they're dissatisfied with the profits, they can pull any and all music from any artists they own at a whim.

This is probably also why they're happy with things right now.