Facebook's growing strength as a major platform for services is perhaps best represented in its new deal with Spotify. The U.K.-based music service, recently arrived in the United States, now requires every new subscriber to log on with a Facebook ID.
The move is part of a series of major changes and new features for Facebook, announced on Thursday. One of those is a new service called Facebook Music, which includes Spotify as well as other services. But Spotify is the only one requiring users to get a Facebook identity.
While the requirement can be seen as tying Spotify's fortunes to Facebook's, there's at least one immediate, huge benefit: According to music industry consultant MusicAlly, Spotify is now getting about 250,000 new users each day.
In a statement responding to critics of the deal, Spotify said Monday that, since "most of our users are already social and have already connected to Facebook, it seemed logical to integrate Spotify and Facebook log-ins."
The music service said that it uses Facebook "as part of our back end to power our social features," and that, by adopting the sociali-networking giant's log-in, "we've created a simple and seamless social experience." It added that the Facebook log-in for new users means there's "one less user name and password to remember," and users don't need to go to the Facebook site once they've logged in on Spotify.
An audio ad is delivered to users of the music service, at a rate of one audio ad per three songs, plus display ads in the client. Facebook users will only hear the audio ads. There are about 8 million worldwide users of the ad-supported, free Spotify service, and about 2 million who pay subscriptions to avoid ads. Spotify launched in the U.S. in the summer.
Spotify is not the only music service offered through Facebook Music. Other partners include Rhapsody, Earbits, iHeartRadio, Rdio, Mog and Slacker. Facebook members can share playlists of tracks from these services so that friends can listen to the same music.
Brad Shimmin, an analyst with Current Analysis, said Facebook's biggest market value is its platform for third-party apps that "leverage the value of attendance." He said that a partnership such as Spotify's does not appear to have a precedent, but that, especially given the 250,000 new members each day for Spotify, he could "see other small companies wanting to grow their potential with this kind of shot in the arm."
The price, he said, is that they are not only "Facebook-friendly, but Facebook-dependent."
The impact of this new, major way to listen to music is far from being determined, but some observers have raised concerns about Facebook becoming an increasingly powerful, possibly even dominant, platform for the distribution and social sharing of music. With more than 800 million users worldwide, Facebook could dwarf any other platform for new music.
The other concern is the ongoing one of privacy, and whether Facebook is responsibly handling all of the information it is obtaining about users and their musical preferences.