Facebook goes LastFM, creates Über-Napster

At F8, Mark Zuckerberg showed off Timeline Facebook’s neatly displayed version of “I know what you did last Summer (and in case you forgot you can look your life up here)”.

Facebook's Timeline: diving deeply into your private data parts.

But the really big step happens in the background. The ubiquitous Like-button introduced an explicit way to write some information into Facebook’s Open Graph. You like a piece of content – press this button. That’s one way to fill your Timeline, and a fairly cumbersome one.

The new social apps expand this collection of user specific data. Instead of having to press a button, the social apps rely on implicit submissions. Last.fm pioneered this approach with their audioscrobbler technology. As soon as you started listening to music, last.fm collected all relevant meta data, building up a data warehouse which could deliver recommendations based upon real usage. A powerful tool.

Facebook puts this sniffing technology onto a new level. Instead of filling a single container (dubbed: music), Facebook collects data from all over the place. Listening to music on Spotify or Mixcloud adds data as well as watching a movie via Netflix or reading some news on the Guardian app.

This massive data hoarding is combined with the most powerful recommendation mechanism in the world: endorsements by people you know. As Spotify’s Daniel Ek points out: this is like Napster. Not the still existing empty brand name of today, but the original  p2p powerhouse started by Sean Parker, and who had played an important role in the early days of Facebook as well.

The old Napster opened up the hard disks of fellow music fans, who happened to share a digital copy of a song you were looking for on their PCs. The real fun started by browsing what else was in the directory. Was it just a fluke, that this guy shared Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”? Or, maybe, some other strange music I never heard of might be something I like to hear download as well. Which was of course completely, utterly illegal, and the music industry preferred to commit collective suicide instead of working with this altered reality.

Facebook’s open graph enabled (music) partners are of course going the legal way (that’s why you won’t get Spotify or Netflix or … in this or that region or country). But, compared to the old Napster, they can combine the power of content neighborhoods with real life relationships. What happens with a social app looks more or less like this:

  • A friend listens to some music.
  • The apps share the titles automatically, and write it into the listeners open graph. That’s the “scrobbling”-part
  • But now, the app posts this information immediately into the Facebook tickers of the listeners Facebook friends.
  • If you happen to like (or maybe, you like him or trust his tastes), you just click, and you can listen as well.
  • Or have a look what else this person likes to hear … or read … or watch … or where they run … or what they cook … or …

But be careful: as long as you app is Facebook-enabled (be it on the web, your iPhone, an Android handset, a smart TV …), everything can will be shared. So you better keep Facebook’s privacy settings manual at hand.

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