Facebook to transform into an entertainment hub

Facebook has unveiled sweeping changes to its website — including partnerships with major music and film companies — in a bid to transform the world’s biggest social network into a key entertainment hub.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, on Thursday announced new partnerships with Spotify, Netflix, the Guardian and other media companies as he said that 800-million people worldwide now use the social network.

“The last five years of social networking have been about getting people signed up,” Zuckerberg told Facebook’s f8 conference in San Francisco. “Until recently people weren’t sure how long the phenomenon would last. Now social networks are a ubiquitous tool used by billions of people around the world to stay connected every day.”

One billion users, and counting
Facebook has in recent months recently ramped up its attempts to attract and keep users on the site in the wake of competition from Twitter and a new rival in Google. Facebook is expected to hit the one billion user mark within weeks, having doubled the number of active users since February 2010.

As part of the changes announced on Thursday, Facebook users will be able to automatically share activity such as viewing, listening and reading in a live “ticker” stream, once they have opted in to the feature. The new stream will be separate from the existing Facebook news feed, although popular items — such as the most frequently played songs among friends — will appear in the column.

“We are making it so you can connect to anything you want. Now you don’t have to like a book, you can just read a book,” Zuckerberg said. “You don’t have to like a movie; you can just watch a movie.”

Facebook unveiled sweeping changes to users’ profile pages, including an online scrapbook, dubbed Timeline, which Zuckerberg said will “help you tell the story of your life”.

Dressed in a plain grey T-shirt, jeans and white trainers, the 27-year-old billionaire said Timeline would allow readers to document important moments — such as birth, graduation and marriage – while maintaining “complete control” of privacy settings.

Destination Facebook
Unlike Twitter and Google+, which are heavily focused on exchanging messages with friends, Facebook has become an online destination where people can record their own history. Facebook, which attracted a record 500-million people in just 24 hours, now allows users to watch films, listen to music and read newspapers without leaving the website.

Rio Caraeff, chief executive of the online music video site Vevo, which is to be offered from inside Facebook’s website, said: “Today’s announcement is a big step forward in Vevo’s mission to bring more music to more fans in more places. A deeper integration with Facebook will help Vevo grow its scale and reach to new heights, while better targeting our connected, socially-savvy audience.”

While Facebook is keen for its users to stay on the site for as long as possible, Zuckerberg has consistently emphasised that the site is a “distribution platform” to other media companies.

The social network has moved to strengthen its ties with media partners in recent months as it moves closer to its hotly-anticipated initial public offering. Facebook was recently valued at $66.5-billion on secondary markets. Its global revenues are expected to reach $4.3-billion in 2011, up from $2-billion in 2010, according to the research firm eMarketer. – guardian.co.uk

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