Facebook debuts streaming-focused ‘music stories’

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It’s been a while since the world’s largest social network gave any attention to music, but today it’s making another attempt.

Facebook introduced a new post format today called “music stories” that allows its users to listen to 30-second previews of songs their friends share from Apple Music or Spotify. People who like what they hear will also be able to add the song to their streaming libraries or purchase the track via iTunes.

“We hope by making this experience better, artists will share more, friends will share and engage more, and music will become a better part of the Facebook experience overall,” Facebook director of product Michael Cerda said in a blog post. The feature is currently limited to Facebook’s iPhone app.

These new music stories are limited in their scope. The songs will be streamed via the service from which they were shared. And at least for now, all interactions will be limited to those two services. This means someone who likes a song shared from Spotify is screwed if they prefer Apple Music and vice versa.

There are also many other streaming services — Deezer, Rdio, Pandora, Slacker, 8Tracks, Tidal, and probably a dozen others I can’t remember — that aren’t supported with this feature. I suspect that won’t bother most Facebook users, the majority of whom probably use Spotify or Apple Music, but it’s still likely to irk some.

The feature is reminiscent of Twitter’s #Music service, which tapped Rdio and Spotify to allow its usersto listen to music shared by their networks. That service wasn’t long for this world: Twitter reportedly consideredpulling the plug on it six months after its debut, and itwas shut down in April 2014.

Facebook’s music stories are probably longer for this world. The company hasn’t yet built an entire service around streaming music — it’s just made it easier for people to listen to the songs their friends already share. That’s a far lower commitment to the category than a standalone service like #Music was.

That said, it will be interesting to see how this affects streaming music services that aren’t supported by the new format. How many music stories will Rdio or Tidal users have to see before they sign up for Apple Music? How many songs will Deezer subscribers listen to before jumping ship to Spotify?

If music really is as social as Facebook imagines — and the company is often right about what people are sharing to its network, thanks to the vast amount of data it collects and parses every day — this could make a big difference to people whose friends and family all use a different streaming music service.

Or perhaps it will lumber about without making much difference to most people. If #Music taught us anything, it’s that even though music is a social experience, it’s not necessarily a social networking experience. There’s a difference — Facebook’s about to find out exactly how much that matters.