Facebook introduces media apps

Mark Zuckerberg touts 'magnitude of content' at f8 conference

At its f8 conference Thursday, Facebook introduced a new class of apps that will allow viewing and sharing of content on its massive social platform via partners including Netflix, Hulu and Spotify.

The apps allow Facebook users to see which songs, movies, TV shows, news and games are being consumed by friends and to sample that content as part of a reformatted Facebook page layout.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg emphasized that the new feature allows for more discovery of content in a way that could reshape the media business. “This next wave of companies understands if you can help people discover an order of magnitude of content than they could before, that enables all kinds of new models to work,” said Zuckerberg, who mentioned both advertising and subscription models. “These new companies aren’t just rethinking the experience of watching new content with your friends, they’re helping to rethink these entire industries.”

Zuckerberg was joined onstage by Netflix founder Reed Hastings, who is also a Facebook board member. Hastings said that while he was initially skeptical about sharing so much user information with the service, he realized there was upside to tap.

However, Hastings warned that the U.S. will be the only one of the 45 countries where Netflix is available that won’t be able to enjoy this integration at launch due to a privacy law the company is currently lobbying to have changed.

Content can be discovered both in new Facebook sections known as the ticker, which provides a real-time rundown of friends’ consumption habits, and the timeline, which presents user info in a biographical format. Content can also be shared more selectively in the news feed that is currently a part of the Facebook experience.

Other content partners that will allow for video-sharing include DirecTV, Dailymotion, Flixster and IMDb.

The actual video viewing transpires at the partner site, not on Facebook itself.

While Spotify’s Daniel Ek also appeared onstage at the f8 conference, Facebook is actually partnering with several other major music streaming services including Slacker, Rhapsody, MOG, Turntable.fn, TuneIn, mixcloud, Jelli, Songza, Rdio, Soundcloud, Earbits and Clear Channel Radio (via its iHeartRadio app).

Users will be able to see which songs or videos are being accessed by friends via Facebook’s live-feed ticker (currently located in the upper-righthand corner of people’s pages). By clicking the play button on the feed, they’ll join the song in sync with their friends and open up a chat window, allowing the two to discuss the song.

In addition to the live stream, users will be able to explore their friends’ musical history, with breakouts for top songs, top bands and top albums. That’s meant to act as a music discovery service, something the industry has been struggling with in the digital age.

Viewers will also be able to watch musicvideos together through an integration partnership with Vevo.

Notably, users won’t be able to join their friends in listening to songs unless they’re members of the same streaming service. (For instance, if one subscribes to Spotify but the other uses Rhapsody, they won’t be able to listen together until one switches services.) That setup underscores the competitive nature of the music streaming biz and how this closer integration with Facebook will heighten that.

Rhapsody fired the opening salvo in what’s likely to become a broad war among the streaming companies, announcing a new 30-day trial program for Facebook users, which will provide unlimited access to its catalog of 13 million songs. Users won’t be required to provide credit card info when they sign up and won’t have to worry about being automatically converted to subscribers at the end of the trial. (The service normally costs $10 per month.)

The first service to gain critical mass on Facebook could well prove the winner in the streaming music space.

On the news side, News Corp. will create a Facebook app for its iPad-only publication the Daily. Huffington Post, Yahoo News, Mashable and Slate will also have Facebook apps.