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Facebook unveils music sharing tools, ‘timeline’ for profile

    Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg shows Timeline on a smartphone during the f/8 conference in San Francisco, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg unveiled new ways for members to use the social network to share music, movies, TV shows, news and activities such as cooking and exercising.

Zuckerberg, speaking at the F8 developers conference in San Francisco today, said the features will include partners such as Spotify Inc., Hulu LLC and Rdio Inc. The service will let users see the history of songs played and listen together, he said.

"Being able to click on someone’s music and play it is a great experience," Zuckerberg said. "Knowing that you helped a friend discover something new and that they liked your taste in music and that you have that in common is awesome."

Facebook, owner of the most popular social-networking service, is beefing up its features to entice users to spend more time on the site. It’s chasing Apple Inc. and Google Inc., which also offer video and music services. The additions may make Facebook more of a destination for entertainment, said Michael Gartenberg, an analyst at Gartner Inc.

"They’re looking to expand this beyond the social network into a core platform tying together all of user experiences," Gartenberg said. "It’s now about your music, your movies and what you’re reading. It’s the ability to share more information and to do it in a streamlined manner and to make sure that people are spending more time on Facebook."

Timeline Feature

Zuckerberg introduced a new version of Profile pages that will let users display images and highlight which posts are important while integrating the new applications. The Timeline can show photos, past songs that have been played and locations, he said. Timeline will work on personal computers as well as mobile devices, he said.

Palo Alto, California-based Facebook is aiming to prevent Web surfers from flocking to competing social networks including Google+, which had about 29 million users at the end of July. The updates are likely to keep users and business partners loyal, said Sean Corcoran, analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

"These changes not only help trump rival Google, but will open up new opportunities for marketers with new kinds of customer experiences, long term engagement, advertising, and customer intelligence," Corcoran said in an e-mailed statement.

Facebook also is incorporating new applications that will display content from providers such as News Corp., Gannett Co.’s USA Today and Yahoo! Inc.

In the Loop

The new applications will let users display activities and preferences in media such as music, TV shows and movies. Sharing these updates will be fast and easy, said Vijay Ravindran, chief digital officer at newspaper publisher Washington Post Co., which is offering a social reading application using the new tools.

"Once they’ve opted into the application, they don’t have to push buttons to tell people" what articles they are reading in the newspaper, Ravindran said. "As they are reading, their friends are able to see things they are reading."

The other partners for the new applications include Netflix Inc. for sharing videos. Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO, said on the stage at F8 that the service won’t be initially available in the U.S. because of privacy laws.

Media companies partnering with Facebook may soon find themselves in competition with the social site, said Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst with EMarketer Inc. in Seattle.

"There is going to be increased competition for the media companies who want people to come to their own websites to view video or read news or watch movies, download music," Williamson said. "It is kind of a double-edge sword."

The so-called lifestyle applications will let people share information about activities such as jogging or cooking. Nike Inc. and Foodspotting are also partners.

Zuckerberg also announced a new way for users to signal they "like" something on the Web. The company is adding buttons to the site to let users show they have "reviewed" or "watched" something, for example.

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