Facebook's favorite music service, iLike, has officially launched its developer platform. The company first hinted at this several months ago and CNET News reported last week that it was nearing its debut. With the platform, approved developers will be able to access the iLike API and work it into their own sites.
"We've always adopted a strategy of syndication, of going where the consumers are instead of trying to bring them to us," CEO Ali Partovi told CNET News on Tuesday. Indeed, iLike launched first an iTunes plugin and then a Facebook application to spread its product around. Partovi said that it was "natural" for iLike to go for a developer platform strategy after becoming so successful as a platform app itself.
But there's an interesting twist to iLike's platform: it's specifically focused on making iLike playlists available and openly collaborative. That's evident in the list of launch partners: the forthcoming Connected Weddings application on Facebook, for example, will let wedding guests add to a suggested song playlist; the Flixster movies application will use iLike's API to let members build movie soundtracks to accompany the film's page in the Flixster directory; the set of TV-fan apps built by Watercooler will let fans also construct the soundtrack that played in the background in any episode of a given TV show. Other partners include Classtop.com, the Social Gaming Network's Free Gifts application, Slide's FunSpace, Jambool, Mesmo.com, and Zimride's Carpools application.
The partners don't end with social applications, either: IAC's Evite will be using iLike's API for a "playlist" tab on each invitation, so that guests can build a party soundtrack, and both TypePad and Google have built embeddable blog widgets to incorporate music.
Playlists are hot, and not just because teen quasi-heartthrob Michael Cera is about to star in a movie about them. The forthcoming MySpace Music heavily features playlist creation, and start-up Muxtape caught on as a hipster sensation before being pulled under mysterious circumstances that likely involved the RIAA. Several other social music services also offer playlist features--Imeem has been doing it for years.
iLike's playlists, as with the rest of the music on the site, have full-length streaming songs available in collaboration with subscription service Rhapsody. That means that you can listen to 25 songs for free before needing to sign up for a Rhapsody account (if you don't, you're restricted to 30-second samples). Imeem and MySpace Music, on the other hand, offer fewer restrictions on free full-length playback.
It's not perfect, mostly because the music is restricted to what's available in iLike's library. While testing out the app I could only access one of the two albums by one of my favorite bands, the Fratellis, and I'm sure there are plenty more instances of missing albums and artists.
But music fans, not to mention iLike's partners, have reason to be psyched: this is a legitimately cool feature. And the struggling Rhapsody, which has been unable to really eat into iTunes' market share, could get a handful of new subscribers out of it: you know, when tipsy party guests wonder why song No. 26 on their Evite playlist won't play, and are more than willing to cough up a subscription fee to keep the beat going.