Michael Grotticelli /
10.06.2011 03:05 PM
Facebook upgrade builds tighter integration with TV

The association between social media and television has tightened. Facebook unveiled new features that attempt to make television viewing and other media consumption an integral part of its popular social media service.

Introduced during Facebook's annual f8 developers' conference in San Francisco by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, the social media service offered tie-ins with Hulu and Spotify in an attempt to merge media consumption into the site.

For Facebook, a deeper integration of television, movies, music and other media into its service makes it more likely that users will spend more time on its site, enabling the company to generate more advertising dollars.

Facebook now faces new competition from Google, which in June launched a rival social networking service, Google+.

A new Facebook feature is Timeline, which lets users filter photos, keep a diary of activities and maintain "complete control" of privacy settings. Timeline also centers on apps, including one from Hulu that allows Facebook users to watch TV shows together directly within Facebook's website. It was called the "important next step to help you tell the story of your life."

The Washington Post unveiled its Social Reader, which lets people read and share stories from the newspaper within Facebook.

Facebook users will have new ways to flag content beyond the now familiar "like" button and will be able to indicate what types of television programs and movies they have watched or news articles they just read with new buttons such as "Read," "Watched" or "Listened."

Netflix CEO and Facebook board member Reed Hastings spoke at the conference as well, comparing the experience of discovering new TV shows and movies on Facebook to Netflix's own recommendation algorithm.

"If you've ever clicked on a YouTube video because you saw it in your Facebook News feed, you can imagine how you might click on a Netflix video as well (if you have the time to watch a longer video)," said Hastings.

Social media could bring basic changes to media consumption. "Facebook is positioning itself as not just your social graph online, but your life online," said Forrester Research analyst Sean Corcoran. "These changes not only help trump rival Google but will open up new opportunities. But concerns around privacy and immaturity in how to do these things effectively will make it a slow go."

Music is another application that Facebook has targeted. Users can know what their friends are listening to online from services like Spotify and Rhapsody. Rhapsody took the wraps off a new free trial for Facebook users that provides unlimited access to its catalog of 13 million songs.

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