Spotify Quietly Starts Rolling Out The Discover Tab In Its Web App, First In The UK And Nordics

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Back in December 2012, music streaming service Spotify provided an update on how it was going to double down on social recommendations to increase music listening on its platform by launching two new features, Follow and Discover. While the Follow feature, aimed at friends, started to get rolled out in March and April, it turns out that Spotify has also been rolling out the Discover feature.

Spotify actually announced the news in a very short post some two weeks ago on one of its community forums, just in time to coincide with the launch of another music discovery app, on Twitter. On a thread originally started in December when the features were first announced, Spotify community manager Rorey Jones wrote earlier this month:

“We know you’ve all been eager to see the discover features rolled out so we just wanted to let you know we’ve begun rolling out the brand new Discover tab to a very small percentage to folks in the UK and Nordic countries on the desktop application of Spotify. We’ll be rolling it out to more customers in the coming weeks.”

We are reaching out to Spotify for more details about Discover and where it might roll out next. Update: Spotify confirmed the rollout has and said that it would continue to expand it, like the Follow beta, but declined to say where next: “We’ve started to let a small number of users try out a beta version of our new Discover page which we announced in December. We’ll continue to add more and more users in the coming weeks as we gear up for a wider rollout.”

Spotify also lists documentation for the feature on its developer site.

We have two screenshots of how the Discover feature looks, one from a reader and another posted in that community forum, with both from its desktop browser app accessed via http://play.spotify.com/discover:

spotify discover

and…

spotify discover 2These look similar to the preview that Spotify offered us of the Discover feature in December.

Screen Shot 2013-04-29 at 01.28.14

Here’s what we can see about how it works so far. While Follow, as Josh wrote in March, will help users adopt Twitter-style followings to pick up recommendations and playlists from friends,  Discover will be another way to learn about new music, and spend more time in Spotify.

This time, however, the focus is on third-party apps, which Spotify will now be able to highlight and promote to users — providing a service to the app developers, and hopefully increasing time spent on Spotify in the process. In effect, what Spotify does is like Twitter, except that all algorithms and features lead back to its own platform and its own music catalog.

“Discover,” it seems, will be replacing the “What’s New” tab, with a more interactive, Pinterest-style montage of new releases, trending playlists, trending songs, music trending in your area, songs directly in the stream, with options to save music to existing playlists, save new playlists, and to follow playlists.

What seems to be the case is that while Discover continues on a limited rollout, Spotify is still tweaking it.

One app maker, Share My Playlists, is working on a new feature for the Discover tab that it has yet to launch: playlist reviews within the Discover tab.

“The idea is to offer an extra layer of curation and discovery for users: we will hand select the best of our playlists and write a review for them,” noted founder Kieron Donoghue. “These reviews will be surfaced in Discover if the content of the playlist we have reviewed is deemed to be of interest to the user by Spotify.” A mock-up of how that will look is here:

SMPreviews

According to one Spotify app developer we contacted, Discover has a two-fold purpose. Yes, it’s there to increase music listening, which is important for Spotify’s business model around advertising, as well as to attract more users for subscription services, and more engagement potentially for other paid services that it launches down the line. But it’s also a way to help apps get discovered, something which has been an issue up to now for some of them.

“One of the reasons why Spotify launched the Discover tab is to make the Spotify apps more visible to users. A lot of Spotify’s users don’t even know apps are there,” he said. “So by making Discover the default ‘homepage’ for all Spotify’s users and surfacing relevant content from the apps, Spotify hopes that more people will use [the apps] and of course stay in Spotify longer, increasing engagement and usage.” Users do not need to be signed up for these apps for them to get recommended.

Interestingly, more than one developer TechCrunch talked to didn’t have a firm idea of how, exactly, Discover worked. At what point does one app get priority over another in Spotify’s recommendation engine, for example? “It’s a good question,” one developer replied. “No one really knows. I think it’s very manual right now.”

Another emphasized the use of a recommendation engine based on your own listening history. “I think Spotify simply selects whatever content it deems to be most appropriate to you, based on your listening habits. It will have content from all partners and whichever is most relevant, you will see. I guess that’s the fairest way, too.”