Mark Zuckerberg's brief but kind words about Spotify made headlines: "Spotify is so good." The streaming music service and Facebook would go on to ink an official partnership this year, and at the F8 developer's conference in San Francisco on Thursday, media executives are expecting the two companies--along with Spotify's competitors--to make a major announcement about a new multimedia platform on Facebook. So far, it looks fairly certain that the first iteration of the platform will focus on music; "Facebook Music" is the blogger shorthand for now. Looking ahead, however, Facebook has a bigger vision, one that not only affect streaming music services but positions Facebook globally to become the central hub for sharing media. Looking back, Zuckerberg's remarks about Spotify sound less like a compliment than a threat to dethrone Apple as the king of media online. He may as well have said, "iTunes is so bad."
Based on the rumors, Facebook's media platform will supply ammunition for media startups not only to compete more aggressively with each other but also to create a larger network of users that challenges corporate competitors that are struggling to launch cloud services. The New York Times writes:
By putting them in front of millions of users, Facebook's new platform could introduce the music services to vast new audiences. "If it works the way it is supposed to, it would be the nirvana of interoperability," said Ted Cohen, a consultant and former digital executive for a major label.
But the new plan will ratchet up the competitive pressure on these fledgling services, forcing them to offer more free music as enticements to new users.
The strategy behind the move works just as well for music as it does for other media like movies and TV shows. With iTunes facing competition from freemium media services Spotify and Hulu, Apple looks like Goliath, battling to defend their very profitable, pay-to-play media model. Google and Amazon are similarly struggling to create cloud-based products that strike the right balance between paid and free. In a pretty interesting way, Facebook is choosing not to stand eye-to-eye with these competitors, but rather to supply the stones to the dozens of David-like media startups out there.
Without any confirmed details about how Facebook's new media platform will work, we can't really predict its viability. If Facebook does make the announcement this week, though, they'll get the jump on Apple as well as the other Silicon Valley Goliaths in launching a cloud music service that everybody can use right away. Apple's iCloud is rumored to be released September 22; Google Music is still in beta; and Amazon Cloud Drive lacks licenses with most of the major record labels. With Netflix floundering and Hulu struggling to find a buyer, Facebook's imminent offerings for movies and TV can't be far behind.
Facebook has made a habit lately out of copying competitors, and the results have been pretty boring. Again, we don't know exactly what Facebook Music or Facebook Media or whatever they call it will look like, but the idea of pitting startups against each other against the corporations actually sounds pretty exciting.