Will Facebook Music Kill

image from This guest post comes from Eliot Van Buskirk of

About ten years ago, third-year computer science student Richard Jones wrote the code that would eventually earn him $38 million.

His creation, AudioScrobbler, was a simple plug-in that tracked what people were listening to on various programs including iTunes and used that information to build an online profile of their listening habits that could be shared with friends or used to fuel music recommendations. acquired Audioscrobbler in ’03, earning Jones 15 percent of Four years later, CBS bought for $280 million, making Jones a multi-millionaire several times over. CBS let perform more or less as it had done, expanding its reach to an estimated 40 million users, turning it into a mobile app, encouraging developers to build stuff around its user profiles, and using its knowledge to power radio services for partners including AOL.

Meanwhile, Facebook was busy building its “Open Graph” — a profile of not just musical Likes, but movies, friends, books, education level, employment, social popularity, location, and anything else you can think of — and that was in 2008, well before it launched Facebook Music last week.

Facebook now “scrobbles” from every major music subscription service, as well as many streaming radio services, and even recent upstarts like Unlike, it actually provides the log-in authentication for many of these services, so it scrobbles what people do there automatically — even from users who aren’t smart or involved enough to figure out how to install an audioscrobbler plug-in, or enable it in programs like Spotify.

Yes, you can scrobble from to — but that means using Google Chrome as your browser and install a Chrome extension. On the other hand, you scrobble from to Facebook by simply using it as you normally would.

Facebook’s scrobbling not only requires less effort than’s — but less than a week after its launch, it arguably draws from more sources. MOG knows what you play on MOG. Spotify knows what you play on Spotify. Slacker Radio (and possibly Pandora) know what you play there. But only Facebook knows what you do on all of those services, can combine that data, and match it against your degree of influence over your friends, because it knows when they click on something in your stream.

If your listening habits influence your friends, Facebook knows about it — and also understands that ads targeted to you are more valuable. You’re what the marketing types call a “tastemaker.” has no visible mechanism for tracking that, because it is not a social network on the level of Facebook.

As if that weren’t enough, Facebook also trumps by tracking not only musical activity but, as mentioned above, the news articles you read, the television shows you watch, the movies you rent, the friends you have, and more — anything that uses Facebook as a log-in or is part of Facebook’s new and growing scrobbling ecosystem. All of these partners, from every media industry, have a big incentive to join up, because Facebook’s new Ticker and Timeline features are powerful engines for promoting content.

There is one thing does that Facebook Music doesn’t, as’s Andy Cush pointed out: It scrobbles from iTunes. However, it’s looking more and more like and iTunes are consoling each other outside the Facebook party, where all the action is. If a song plays in iTunes and scrobbles it, do your friends know? For most people, the answer will increasingly be “no” — they’ll be too busy seeing what you’re up to on Facebook. recently added the ability to find your Facebook friends on and add them as friends there, so you can see what they’re listening to, assuming they have the knowledge and willpower to add scrobbling to all of their devices. But why would the average person do that, when their friends are already scrobbling to Facebook instead, from Spotify, MOG, and countless other services — all without anybody installing or understanding anything?

Richard Jones made $38 million by inventing scrobbling. Ten years later, Facebook stands to make billions from the same concept. It’s successful strategy: to accumulate an audience so large that media services would build Facebook scrobbling into their products, rather than counting on users to install a plug-in.

Apple will sell hardware and apps no matter what happens, and could still join Facebook Music when iCloud launches later this year. For, a ten-year headstart will not be enough to stave off the growing Facebook juggernaut.

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  1. facebook won’t kill for the same reason that facebook thinks it will:
    “it scrobbles what people do there automatically”
    in fact, facebook would like every action by every person to be broadcast to every other person. this may be my inner luddite speaking, but i think facebook is digging its own grave with this approach.

  2. You could be right. The over-tracking and over-posting might eventually lead to more friend “ignores,” app authorisation removals and other reactions thwarting the whole concept on Facebook.
    Precipitation is not speed, haste is not quick thinking. Myspace are learning this the hard way.

  3. There is no comparison btweenthe two. Last.FM has been an independent platform refusing to join many ‘mainstream’ platforms and I’m OK about it since my private data aren’t sold without my approval. Facebook is a ‘wannabe’ mixing whatever comes for numbers and stats. And money. Last.FM offers only what’s necessary for music lovers including a variety of user-based options like tagging and scrobbling as well with music compatibility feature. So no, Facebook will not kill Last.FM. The only music fans can be found on Last.FM.

  4. THIS IS STUPID. Spotify has the potential to take over Last.FM. BUT Last.FM has had a loyal user base since it began. This started way before Myspace and it’s still existent. They hold their ground.

  5. Not at all alike. Facebook Music doesn’t “scrobble” the music you own. It doesn’t just ignore iTunes, but it ignores every program that plays YOUR music. Even if you play your own files in Spotify, they don’t show on Facebook.
    Would you rather you show me your movie collection or your Netflix queue?

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