USA Today: Facebook plans huge makeover, music and video upgrades


By Jon Swartz, USA TODAY

SAN FRANCISCO – Facebook is turning up the volume — in a big way — in its high-pitched battle with Google+.

The social-networking giant is undergoing a massive site makeover that brings music services and mobile advances along with some big steps in next-generation video sharing. The features are expected to be unveiled by Facebook on Thursday at its F8 developers conference, USA TODAY has learned.

Along with the site overhaul and redesign, the company will likely do a major update to its iPhone app and launch an iPad app soon, according to sources close to the company who were briefed on the plans but not authorized to speak on the record.

Facebook’s experiments in video sharing are expected to emerge in the coming weeks and could likely shake up the battle over new features that is being waged between Facebook and Google+. “Facebook is reclaiming its status as an innovator, a pace setter,” says Greg Sterling, an independent analyst who closely follows social media. “These are big, sexy, splashy features.”

Facebook and the music services all declined to comment.

The avalanche of new services underscores a sense of urgency at Facebook after months of relative silence since Google+ launched in late June.

Since then, Facebook has seemingly played catch-up with new features that mirror what was already available on Google+, such as smart lists and online video chat.

Google+ has drawn more than 10 million users with dazzling photos and videos. And it has ambitious goals: Dozens of new features are expected over the next year.

The new features are intended to leverage 7-year-old Facebook’s history with millions of consumers by bringing media services to them without requiring them to leave their Facebook profile.

Free-music services Spotify, MOG, Rdio and several others will be available from within Facebook. Music video site Vevo is also rumored to be part of the announcement, say two sources with direct knowledge of the announcement.

“It is a very significant push for online music,” says Dick Wingate, general manager for East Coast business development at digital-entertainment consultant TAG Strategic.

Online music services have struggled to get paying subscribers and have accumulated only a few million members for free and paid services in the U.S.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has recently stressed the importance of Facebook users, 750 million and counting, spending more time on the site, deepening their engagement with the content. That’s a key attraction for advertisers.

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Posted by Ted • Tuesday, September 20, 2011 .