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And I'm Michele Norris. Facebook took a leap today toward making itself into what it hopes will be the world's social center for entertainment and media. As NPR's Laura Sydell reports, it's adding features that allow you to see what movies and TV shows your friends are watching, what music they're listening to, what news they're reading, all without ever leaving Facebook.
LAURA SYDELL: You could say Mark Zuckerberg dressed down for Facebook's annual f8 developer's conference in San Francisco. He wasn't wearing his infamous hoodie. He took the stage in jeans and a T-shirt. He introduced a much anticipated music sharing feature that he says will allow friends to see what songs their friends are listening to on the cloud-based streaming service Spotify.
MARK ZUCKERBERG: It's amazing how much music you can discover through your friends. It's really cool. You just see it flow by on the side of your screen or on your news feed if there is an interesting pattern. And you discover a lot of new stuff this way.
SYDELL: Zuckerberg says, even more importantly, you will be able to listen along with them if you subscribe to their feed.
ZUCKERBERG: Let's take a look. Which song should we play? I like Jay-Z. Listen with me. Here we go.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SYDELL: It won't just be music. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, came on stage to introduce a feature on which his company is collaborating with Facebook. Hastings said a friend kept wanting him to watch "Breaking Bad," but he hadn't gotten around to it. Then he saw a notice on Facebook that his friend was watching it. Using the prototype feature, he went straight to Netflix without having to leave the Facebook page.
REED HASTINGS: So I thought, oh, that would be so cool. I click on "Breaking Bad," and I watched it last night, and I realized, oh, my God, there it is right in front of me.
SYDELL: The online TV site Hulu is also partnering with Facebook on a similar feature. News organizations like Dow Jones will make it possible for you to see what your friends are reading and read along with them and chat in real time. Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin thinks this is a great opportunity for content makers.
TIM BAJARIN: You're now talking about an audience of, you know, 800 million users. I mean, that's just staggering. An audience like that is, in essence, just a huge new opportunity.
SYDELL: Eight hundred million is the estimated number of users on Facebook. But it may not be that easy to get their attention, says Nancy Baym, a professor of communications studies at the University of Kansas. She notes that people will be seeing what their friends are doing on a recently rolled out feature called a ticker that scrolls down the side of the Facebook page.
NANCY BAYM: Mine is going by pretty rapidly, which makes me think that a lot of it is going to get lost. But I'm going to be seeing that so-and-so clicked like on this and (unintelligible) are clicking that. And, you know, once every 100 things a song will come by, and I may or may not be looking at that little box at that particular moment.
SYDELL: Sharing stuff on a social networking site or a music streaming site isn't all that new. What's different about what Facebook announced today is that these collaborations with content providers will keep you on the Facebook page for a very long time, enabling the company to collect more information about you and send you more targeted ads. They'll know what you eat, what you read, what you watch. But even that might not be quite so new. Baym says it reminds her a bit of a company in the early 1990s.
BAYM: Facebook is trying to recreate AOL of 1993 and be the only place you need to go on the Internet. You know, AOL at that time was a one-stop shop. If you were an AOL subscriber, you could use AOL and you could use the rest of the Internet, and all of your interaction and all of your discussion was happening within the aol.com URL.
SYDELL: Of course, we all know that AOL hasn't exactly been the success story that Facebook has. At the developers conference, Zuckerberg announced that for the first time, half a billion people were logged into Facebook at the same time. Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.