Allfacebook.com is reporting a rumor that Facebook will take on Apple's dominant iTunes by introducing its own music store. Few details are provided, save that they are actively looking to hire someone to head the project and discussions with studios have been ongoing. Music applications such as iLike are popular on the social network, and digital music is a natural fit with the site's original college-kid demographic. But could Facebook really pull this off? At this point, we don't really know what a Facebook music store would be. We do know, however, what it's not.
Amazon.com has set the example of a Web-based store, unencumbered by annoying digital-rights-management software. By eschewing DRM, Amazon's downloads play well with any music gadget, including iPods. Would Facebook follow this model — or, like its photos, keep users' content locked into its website interface, playing music, say, on Facebook user profiles? The latter, however, would likely spark a user rebellion, if only because it might remind them too much of raucous MySpace profiles, which start blaring music the moment you load the page.
An obvious fear: Facebook's music store might draw users away from popular third-party Facebook applications like iLike and iMeem. But Facebook could instead design its store to work seamlessly with them, giving them access to an on-site store to close a sale instead of sending users off to iTunes or other stores, as they now must do.
One last option: Facebook might agree with Microsoft, the advertising partner with which it's negotiating the potential sale of a stake in the company, that subscriptions are the future of music.
Whatever Facebook decides on, one thing is sure: The site ensures a captive user base. If the Valley is swooning over Facebook's advertising potential, imagine the reaction when they add an e-commerce revenue stream.
What we do know is Facebook will not offer unrestricted file sharing. How do we know that? They've tried that before. Capitalizing on music sharing's popularity amongst its former core audience of college students, Facebook experimented with a peer-to-peer application called Wirehog in 2004. That legally questionable application has quietly faded into obscurity since Mark Zuckerberg opted for Wall Street and Valley acceptance and wealth over popularity with the college kids. Wise move. By following that path, he's ended up as even more of a rock star.