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One of Facebook's biggest assets is the open platform it has built which enables developers to build apps that Facebook users can install and use while logged in to the social network.

Today, that platform not only helps Facebook generate billions in revenue, it has served as the foundation for other billion-dollar businesses, like social gaming giant Zynga.

So it's no surprise that another prominent consumer internet upstart, Spotify, is looking to Facebook and launching its own platform.

Yesterday, the popular streaming music website announced Spotify Apps, which are integrated directly into the Spotify experience and feature functionality and content from third parties.

Spotify Apps are built on the company's new platform, which allows developers to build the apps using a JavaScript API. Companies already using the API to build apps include publishers like Rolling Stone and Billboard, as well as digital upstarts like Last.fm and TuneWiki.

So can Spotify's platform be for music what Facebook's platform became for social gaming?

Although a Spotify platform has been expected, some aren't impressed with what was actually delivered. GigaOm's Janko Roettgers, for instance, rattles off a list of disappointments, which include the fact that to access the platform, developers need to pass muster with Spotify, as well as the lack of support for apps outside of the Spotify desktop client.

The latter could be a big issue as Spotify usage outside of the desktop client grows.

Disappointments notwithstanding, being able to build apps that function within Spotify is certainly going to be interesting to some developers and the company has a lot to gain by letting this parties build out features that it probably wouldn't have the desire or bandwidth to build in-house.

But unlike Facebook, Spotify's value proposition to developers will at least initially lack a financial component. In the past, the company has said it's working on a model that will allow developers to charge for their apps and display ads, but that's not in place now and it's not clear that this would apply to apps built with the new API.

Which highlights perhaps the most interesting point about Spotify's new platform. Much has been made about how little artists make from streaming services like Spotify, and some major artists are opting out of streaming entirely as a result.

If Spotify ever builds monetization features for its developers, it raises the curious possibility that some developers could find Spotify more profitable and/or worthwhile a platform than the artists whose music drives the site's popularity in the first place. If that came to be the case, Spotify's new platform could actually be the source of further tension with the music industry.

With this in mind, it seems likely that Spotify, despite its initial efforts, will not become the Facebook of music. That, of course, doesn't mean it can't and won't be successful, but if it's going to lure developers, it will somehow have to figure out how to build a monetizable platform while at the same time making sure developers don't become the envy of recording artists.

Patricio Robles

Published 1 December, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Naomi Wilson

Some may say that Facebook have missed their opportunity to take advantage of this market. Brands like Spotify and Last.fm have taken this market very seriously and invested in user experience resulting in them having large market shares in on line music streaming.

over 3 years ago

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