January 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Developer Cries Foul at ‘Anti-Competitive’ Facebook/Spotify Partnership

On Thursday, Facebook announced its breakthrough real-time group music listening feature, which rolls out first for Spotify, with other services to follow at some point in the future.

Today, Cole Flournoy, the developer of another real-time group listening app, LetsListen, claims that the cozy relationship between Facebook and Spotify is too cozy — in fact, he says, it’s downright anti-competitive.

He writes,

Facebook’s brand new “Listen with me” feature that’s been getting so much attention – LetsListen already has it, and it’s had it for a long time. So why haven’t you heard about it? Because Facebook hasn’t allowed you to see it [his emphasis].

He goes on to allege that “Facebook has only allowed certain companies with special insider deals to integrate with ticker feed,” which is its right. Facebook can do whatever it wants with its real-time feed, which shows Facebook users what their friends are listening to, saying, reading, watching, and so on.

LetsListen founder Cole Flournoy says Facebook unfairly favors Spotify.

Now that Facebook lets you listen to music at the same time as your friends as you chat about it (sort of like but not exactly like Turntable.fm), Flournoy says Facebook has gone too far in favoring its favorite partner. Investor Sean Parker has stakes in both companies, and has reportedly argued with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg about Spotify switching to a Facebook log-in.

According to Flournoy, in return for Spotify requiring its new users to use Facebook to authenticate their identities (which also lets Facebook scrobble their Spotify plays), Facebook essentially granted Spotify most-favored nation status, increasing Spotify’s popularity considerably while preventing LetsListen and others from launching this nifty real-time-listening feature, until Spotify did so first.

As proof that LetsListen is already capable of allowing users to join up via Facebook to listen to the same song at the same time, Flournoy posted this video of the feature working, but only if the user has a developer’s account on Facebook:

YouTube Preview Image

Again, Facebook can do whatever it wants here, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a free country, like they say. Maybe Facebook thinks Spotify’s the best place to roll this feature out first, and Flournoy’s LetsListen is admittedly a small startup. That’s not going to stop Flournoy from trying, though:

Zuck if you are out there, let us in. We’re a small bootstrapped startup in the ‘working out of the apartment phase,’ but we’re scrappy and we think we have integrated with the ticker feed in a better way than any other music apps out there.

  • Jamie

    I vote for letslisten. Small companies becoming successful is what this country is all about- not playing favorites. I have used letslisten, it is very user friendly and really fun. Let us all support the “little guy” and shame on facebook. Facebook should let us decide which set-up to use. I support letslisten!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25525532 KathyandTalos Almeda

    Letslisten. All the way!

  • mike

    Umm… this is the OPPOSITE of what it means to be “anti-competitive.” Facebook+Spotify are now competing with LetsListen. If LetsListen can’t differentiate themselves or build a better product, it doesn’t mean Facebook is being unfair – it just means they’re beating you.

  • Guest

    does Cole Flournoy want some cheese for that whine? 

  • http://www.RonnieDay.com/ Ronnie Day

    While LetsListen is busy complaining to anyone who will listen, Spotify is out there making the next big thing happen…

  • http://www.facebook.com/coleflournoy Cole Flournoy

    Interesting comment given the fact that LetsListen did actually make this feature happen well before Spotify – only we’ve been prevented from showing it (the video proof is above). You can read my original blog post here to see exactly what I said: http://coleflournoy.com/facebook-and-spotifys-anti-competitive-inside

  • http://www.facebook.com/coleflournoy Cole Flournoy

    The whole point of this article
    was that we did build this new differentiating feature, and we built it before
    the competition did – but Facebook didn’t allow us to show it (and still
    haven’t let us yet.).  See my original
    post here: http://coleflournoy.com/facebook-and-spotifys-anti-competitive-inside

  • http://www.RonnieDay.com/ Ronnie Day

    Keep up the good work, Cole…  

    I didn’t mean to insult you, and I hope that you’ll do whatever it takes to book meetings with Facebook staff in the future.  Arguing and complaining probably isn’t going to help you build that network, though.

  • http://www.soundtracker.fm Daniele Calabrese

    This is the nature of competition. Soundtracker.fm is the service that brought for the first time music by location and play music with friends and anybody nearby in realtime to market on mobile and web in 2009!!! We are very happy that the we are finally getting there

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/HDOXMH3KDCIQ2RZ5DOEBIXPJ6Q Kelland

    I wrote a article similar to this one this past week called “The Sean Parker Effect ,” http://www.sosoactive.com/the-sean-parker-effect/.

     I agree with Cole, however competition has never been fare. If you have a great product that differentiates from the masses of useless services and a means to bring into to market you will do well without Facebook’s approval.