Facebook appears ready to announce its long-anticipated music service at its f8 developers conference this August. GigaOm canvassed the music services that have been talking to Facebook and unearthed a few new details.
Here's what you can expect from Facebook Music, an apparent attempt by the social networking giant to internalize lots of what music fans do elsewhere with hooks to a variety of services, so that whether a user prefers Rhapsody, Spotify, Rdio or any other potential music partner, Facebook will be able to track their listening activity and make it social:
Persistent Play button: This will let you control playback in the supported music service of your choice wherever you are on Facebook, without the song stopping -- just like on Rdio.
Listening history: Facebook Music will include a page that tracks the songs you've listened to, your top tracks, and playcounts -- just like Last.fm.
Music notifications: Facebook will tell you when your Friends have listened to stuff based on the fact that you have "liked" it or posted it somewhere -- sort of like Rdio.
Activity feed: Facebook Music will contain a news feed that shows what your friends have been listening to, and what they have liked -- just like Rdio.
"Happening now" ticker: Finally, Facebook Music appears to offer something new! Facebook will reportedly let you see what your friends (presumably, just the ones who have the feature enabled) are listening to right now, and this ticker may or may not come with you as you travel around Facebook, the same way the persistent play controls do.
Either way, this feature has the potential to turn Facebook music into a big Turntable.fm-style listening party. If your friend is listening to My Morning Jacket on Pandora, you could join them, or if you're both Spotify subscribers, you'd be able to listen to the same playlists at the same time.
Facebook could also list the number of other listeners who are there, turning the system into something of a DJ popularity contest (thus our Turntable.fm comparison). I picture Facebook Music's "happening now" ticker looking something like this:
Your friend Bobcat Goldthwait is listening to "The Day Is Coming" by My Morning Jacket on Rdio (1 other listener)
Your friend John McCain is listening to "Dancing Queen" by Abba on Spotify (10 other listeners)
A musician you like, Javelin, is listening to "Dor e Dor" by Tom Ze on Pandora (5 other listeners).
Unlike the rest of this reported Facebook Music service, this real-time aspect will be new -- and it could be huge, because who doesn't like to listen with their friends (or, even better, the artists they like), instead of on their lonesome?
This group-listening feature would be a neat way to befriend new people too, which always makes Facebook itself more valuable, because you'd presumably be able to chat with everyone else who's listening to the same thing.
All in all, we're excited to sample what Facebook is trying to do here: annex the social features other companies have been working for years, combine them with the massive friend networks many of us already have on the network, and add real-time listening.
If Facebook's plan works, three things will happen:
1. There will be less point in using other social music services, because Facebook has the network effect behind it, big-time.
2. Music services that focus on other things (like unlimited subscriptions) will be fine, because Facebook would rather partner with them than deal with the labels directly. In fact, Facebook might be preparing to make their products much more attractive.
3. Music fans will spend more time on Facebook, in part because that "happening now" ticker will probably be updated much more frequently than your friends' status messages.
Follow Eliot Van Buskirk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/evolverfm