The full implications of Spotify and Facebook’s love-in became quite apparent today. The first point of controversy: you now need a Facebook account to create a new Spotify account. I’ve already got a Spotify account and a Facebook account so this didn’t really bother me, even though I think it’s a strange and exclusive move (as in, excluding non-Facebook users).
But when I got home this evening and logged into Spotify, it dawned on me that Spotify and Facebook really, really want me to combine my accounts:
(Update, 27th September: this morning this same dialogue now comes with a ‘No thanks’ button. Phew.)
There’s a few things that worry me here. First: the single button: ‘Get started’. Where’s the opt-out? Or is this the point of no return? Well, to be fair, there is a cancel dialogue on the next screen when Spotify asks to connect to Facebook. But I get the impression it’s going to get harder and harder to avoid the inevitable ‘merging’ of Facebook and Spotify.
Secondly: the idea of Spotify suggesting songs based on what most of my Facebook friends listen to scares me (I’ve blogged about social media and the subject of personal taste before). Certain friends, however, I’d be really interested in keeping tabs on; but haven’t we been here before with the likes of Last.fm?
Third: there’s a signal versus noise problem here. For starters it’d be virtually impossible to keep track of all the music my friends are listening to. Secondly, how would I know if there’s something I really would enjoy listening? That brings us back to what made social media great in the first place: sharing. Human curation. A good friend of mine recently shared The Lonely Island’s latest single with me:
She knows me and knows my sense of humour. I loved the song and shared it on Facebook. Would I have listened to it if it had been a fleeting link on a Facebook update screen? Probably not. Showing what all my friends are listening too is a cool feature and all, but it will never beat person to person recommendations.
I read a great blog about this by Mark Sorrell today which really nails this music sharing business:
There are two more nefarious and subtle elements to the lack of new connections on Facebook. Firstly: sharing is boring. If I share music, by listening to music on Spotify, you see me listening to that music and you decide to also listen to that music. We sit there, both listening to that music. We were listening to different music. Now we’re listening to the same music.
He also goes on to my final point: privacy and the right to listen to eighties power ballads without ridicule.
One of the best things about the internet was how it let you be weird in private. It let you look at anything you wanted, anything at all, no matter how strange, unsavory, socially unacceptable or simply at odds with your carefully curated public image. The world had been a place of mass-production and mass consumption. There are four cars, which one do you want? There are twelve bands, which one do you want to listen to? Be normal, you have to be normal, we can only do normal.
I’m sure Facebook is going to do some cool things with music and Spotify. But generally I’m worried Facebook is aggregating so much of our online life automatically that so much of what made it great in the first place is going to be lost. The serendipity is under threat: I may not talk to a few of my Facebook friends much, but I love the random links that appear on my timeline from some of them. And that’s still one of Twitter’s massive strengths: it’s fun, chaotic and with such an unfiltered stream from so many contacts (many strangers), there’s never a shortage of bizarre, interesting and fun links to enjoy.